By Thomas Michalski
Before the videos you’re about to watch (just watched?) landed in my email inbox, I had never heard of Jim Simon. This, in and of itself, was not surprising (there are many things I’ve never heard of), but where things got interesting was trying to learn about the apparently acclaimed animator and finding that the internet doesn’t know that much about him either. The man they once called “the Black Walt Disney” doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page and the collected clips of his original work on YouTube don’t even add up to 7 full minutes, but the scant few items of substance that Google can come up with tell a fascinating story. On one hand, it’s a tale about the challenges of being Black and ambitious in America, but it’s also more universal than that -- a story about humanity’s creative spark, the circumstances that conspire to extinguish it, and how it can be rekindled even after all seems lost.
At a young age Jim Simon’s parents divorced and his mother moved the children from Darlington, South Carolina, where he worked on his uncle’s cotton and tobacco farm, to New York City. While attending junior high, an art teacher noticed his natural talents and encouraged him to attend New York’s High School of Art