Guest Curators

We want to say thank you to our outgoing Guest Curator, Joseph Sciorra! If you missed a chance to see his fantastic artifacts, please stop by the Guest Curator Archive Page. You can also examine all of our past Guest Curator’s as well.

Welcome to our Guest Curator, Bill Ellis!

Bill Ellis is a native of Roanoke, Virginia and earned a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Virginia (English) and a Master’s from Ohio State (also English). During his Ph.D. research, he shifted his emphasis of study from medieval literature to folklore, and received his Ph.D. from Ohio State in 1978.  He taught at the Hazleton Campus (mostly various forms of composition) from 1984 to 2009, and continued as an adjunct instructor for Penn State’s World Campus until spring of this year.  He has published three books and co-authored another on the topic of contemporary legend, as well as serving as editor or co-editor for six volumes of The Works of Nathaniel Hawthorne (Ohio State).

He received a Fellow’s Award from the American Folklore Society for best graduate student essay and a Centennial Award for his service to the Folk Narrative Section, which he convened for many years. He was a founding member of the International Society for Contemporary Legend Research, and edited their newsletter, FOAFTale News, from 1989 to 1994. In 2017 ISCLR gave him the Linda Dégh Lifetime Achievement Award for his work on legendry and service to this society. The AFS New Directions Section also honored him by naming their annual award “The Bill Ellis Prize” for a graduate student essay that examines the dynamics of folklore in a previously unstudied medium or topic of communal discourse.

Bill Ellis: A selection of Japanese animation art from “Sensei’s Anime Gallery”

The artifacts shown are examples of animation art from the Japanese tradition now widely known as “anime.”  An offshoot of that country’s graphic novel industry (called “manga,” a term meaning “caricature”), anime dates from the late 1960s, when pioneer Osamu Tezuka began generating series for a native audience using story themes that resonated with Japanese young people.  In the process, the early studios freely used plots from international sources, both European and Asian.  In so doing, many early series were based on familiar Western fairy tales, as well as books by sophisticated authors for young audiences that made heavy folkloristic use of fairy-tale characters and motifs.

As the genre matured, audiences became familiar with fairy tales, and scripts began to use motifs from them in more sophisticated, metanarrative forms.  In addition, native Japanese folklore became adapted in more complex ways, often in ways that contrasted with or blended with options learned from the Western tradition.  This makes anime a rich field for study by folklorists.

Anime, like Western animation, is a completely contrived artform.  Movies and TV shows use real-world sets or locations, and the actors are real humans with lives outside of what you see in the show.  But anime characters are nothing more than sketches or paintings on transparent celluloid sheets (or “cels” in the language of the industry).  The production of a TV episode involves an enormous amount of preliminary drawings, leading to the particular images and backgrounds that are photographed and then displayed serially at a speed (typically 8-to-a-second in anime) at which the human eye interprets them as images in motion.  After an episode is made, all the art, including the cels used to make the footage, are no longer needed.  Many studios destroyed them as so much garbage; some enthusiasts appropriated some as souvenirs; more recently, disposal services hauled the art away, culling out the better items for sale to a growing international market of collectors.

For this reason, anime art has been more widely available, especially through online auction sites, and at prices much more reasonable than classic Disney, Warner Brothers, or Bluth Studios art.  As anthropologist Mary Douglas noted, such art is “autographic” in nature, meaning each item is one-of-a-kind, and gains its value by being a physical image that at one moment in time verifiably passed under the camera (or, more recently, scanner platen) to create the commercial animation.  It thus is not a picture of an anime character or characters, in a real sense it isthat character, caught in a particular moment of action.

So the artifact is triply liminal:  it is two-dimensional, flat and unchanging, but it was used to create an imaginative scene that implies a third dimension of depth and a fourth dimension of motion unfolding in time.  As such, animation art evokes a passionate sense of ownership — if one possesses that particular moment in the anime, no one else in the world can own or even view it except by your leave.  And it serves as a “springboard into fantasy,” generating a real-world doorway into a fantasy word.  (For more on this very complex social dynamic, see my “Love and War and Anime Art,” in Folk Culture in the Digital Age, ed. Trevor J. Blank [Utah State, 2012].)

I’ve chosen ten specific items that have obvious relevance to folklorists, showing moments in shows that adapted fairy tales or literary versions of folk material.  These are part of a larger collection that can be explored online as Sensei’s Anime Gallery,part of a website created to allow fellow collectors to display scans of the art they own, along with descriptive and interpretive comments.  Links are provided to the relevant page in this gallery, and interested visitors can see more art from the series that I have chosen here, as well as glean more information about its creators and larger plot structure.

Follow the links below for more information about each of the images.

“The Princess Meets the Tinder-box Soldier,” from Andersen Monogatari: [The Tales of Hans Christian Andersen], Episode 17 (1971).

“Pippi Carries Her Horse into Villa Villekulla,” a photographic slide of a test cel for Nagakutsushita no Pippi, Sekai ichi tsuyoi onna no ko [Pippi Longstocking, Strongest Girl In The World] (1971).

“The Adventurers Set Forth in Search of the Blue Bird of Happiness,” from Maeterlinck no Aoi Tori: Tyltyl Mytyl no Bōken Ryokō [Maeterlinck’s Blue Bird: Tyltyl and Mytyl’s Adventurous Journey], Opening Animation (1980).

“Nils Holgersson Riding on the Back of Mårten,” from Nirusu no Fushigi na Tabi [The Wonderful Adventures of Nils] (1980-81).

“Bluebeard’s Wife Tries to Wipe the Blood off the Key to the Forbidden Chamber,” from Gurimu Meisaku Gekijō [Grimm Masterpiece Theater], Episode 16 (1988).

“The Prince Vows to Awaken Sleeping Beauty,” from Cardcaptor Sakura, Episode 42 (1999).

“The Storyteller Drosselmeyer Mocks One of His Characters,” from Princess Tutu, Episode 25 (2003).

“Father Trout and Wave Lad Prepare to Battle the Sea Wraiths,” from Gegege no Kitaro 5th Series, Episode 92 (2009).

“The Cherry Tree in Whose Shade the Daybreak Snake Hides,” from Mushishi, Episode 16, cut 156 (2006).

“Holo Strokes Her Beloved Tail,” from Ōkami to Kōshinryō [Spice and Wolf] (2008), Episode 2, cut 239.

If you are a folklorist or a collector of folklore/popular culture artifacts, please consider becoming a Guest Curator. Your objects will be highlighted here on a rotating basis.

All we ask is that the objects be yours, you have a photograph of the objects, and all or most of the information about the object (see the guidelines below, for more details).

Guest Curator Guidelines:

1. Artifacts must fall within the subject of our website (folklore, folk art, popular culture, etc).

2. Artifacts must be a part of your own personal collection.

3. Submissions must be limited to no more than five artifacts.

4. Submissions must contain a photograph of the artifact, as well as the title, purpose, country of origin, culture , materials, and dimensions of the artifact.

5. We also would like your photograph and a brief biography to accompany the collection.

Please contact, and write Guest Curator in the subject line for further information or with any questions. We cannot wait to highlight your collection!