Friday, October 23, 2009


If you've not heard of James Simon, well, today is the day. Now you have. Simon, a graduate of New York's renowned High School of Art and Design and the prestigious School of Visual Arts, would later be dubbed "the Black Walt Disney" by observers of his artistic talents, pioneering efforts within the arts and his groundbreaking body of work. He and his company, Wantu Animation (Wantu is Swahili for beautiful), was a powerful presence within the animation industry starting in the 1960's. His work appeared on the TV screen and into your life, most likely (if you're reading this and you're over 30), when you were watching childhoo classics Sesame Street and the Electric Company or the show Vegetable Soup. Simon founded Wantu Animation with Sesame Street being its first client after a stint at Paramount pictures as an assistant animator on the now classic Spiderman cartoon series. The company was founded with $250.00, borrowed.

But if you're reading this, you know that this is a place of not just art and design, but of music as well. And you should know that James Simon's work rode full steam ahead into the intersection of music and art in 1971. What he did and added to the communications convesation (if you will) has stayed, warmly, comfortingly in the hearts and minds of several Black generations of music and dance lovers who came of age, up and out of the troubled decades of late 20th century Black America. Wantu was tapped, by "the Don", legendary Soul Train TV show creator and Producer Don Cornelious, to create the distinctive and memorable opening animated title sequence for the show. The animation features a smokin', colorful, funky train- the "Soul Train"- bopping forward confidently along the "tracks", floating amongst the stars in outer space. The train. It took anyone, watching it pull into their "station", perhaps hoping for an hour's worth of refuge from "the struggle" and everyday hustle that was reality for most Black folk, along for a ride through "the hippest trip in America".

You can buy your funky funky ticket for your trip here.

Enjoy the ride!


  1. GREAT POST!!! I remember being a kid and watching Vegetable Soup, Sesame Street; and of course Soul Train on Saturday mornings! I was always blown away by these particularly stylized animation sequences. Great job diggin' this dude's work up!

  2. Kaseem: What's up man? Thanks for coming through and laying down words. Yeah. James Simon, deep stuff man with him and his work, right. I'd never hear him myself but always wondered who created that Soul Train opening sequence and animation. I was happy to find out that it was a Black man who did the work. And I say the because it's great to know that back then during that time there were some Blacks in the arts who were able to get a foot up in the place and do something of quality.

  3. Hi! Great post. I tried to look up what music he uses in Copy Cat, but couldn't find any information. Do you accidently who the artist or what the music is called there? I would appreciate it.