Tuesday, August 4, 2009

the drama behind dancing cereal boxes

Follow-up to a post on vintage cereal box illustrations:

An animator for Cap'n Crunch cereal commercials honed her skills at an unlikely institution: Auschwitz. Dina Babbitt (nee Gottlieb) was a teenaged art student who was incarcerated there, and a fellow inmate asked her to decorate the cheerless walls of the children's barracks. She complied, pilfering paint to enliven walls with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and other whimsical creatures. Which brought her to the attention of Josef Mengele. He guaranteed her life if she'd work for him to document his experiments. She agreed⎯if he'd agree to save her mother, too. She spent the rest of the war doing portraits for the Angel of Death who felt that the genetic inferiority of his prisoners wasn't captured well enough by photography.

After the war, she and her mother moved to Paris where she was interviewed for a job as an animator for Warner Bros. Coincidentally, her interviewer had worked on Disney's "Snow White". Soon, they were married and moved to LA where she became an animator working on films, cartoons and commercials. Her favorite project, she said, was Cap'n Crunch cereal because she loved drawing kids.

Babbitt passed away last week  at age 86. Sadly, she spent her last decades trying to retrieve her paintings from the Auschwitz Museum. Museum directors claim that the paintings' historical and educational value supersede the her rights of ownership. In answer to pleas bolstered by a Facebook fan page (!)-- they sent her reproductions; the originals remain on display.

9 comments:

w_page said...

what an incredible story! how stinkin incredible!

The Bug said...

Where Mengele saw imperfection I see a person with a story... I'd like to know their stories.

Teenie said...

Not being captured well enough in photographs... what more could possibly describe the twisted way people were being viewed during the war? It's almost unimaginable. Thank you for sharing this!

Sympathetic Threads said...

What a truly amazing story.

J9 said...

Wow. They wouldn't send her the originals? Something wrong with that. Seriously, she'd have likely willed them back upon her death, so way to go not letting a survivor enjoy herself in her final years.

hwfarber said...

Thank you for this important story. Your blog is always interesting--I'm glad I found it.

Susan Ellis said...

great post...amazing what we can still learn from WW II...and hope to be wiser because of it.

Ad Broad, oldest working writer in advertising said...

@W_page @SympatheticThreads I was amazed, too!

@THe Bug Unfortunately, we never will know the stories behind so many lost lives. But Dina has preserved something unique in each one.

@Teenie Ugh! I was terribly affected by that line too.

@J9 So many agree, there's a facebook fan page!

@Hwfarber You're welcome. Thanks for the read!

@Susan Ellis Those who don't learn from the past are condemned to repeat it ;)

Chris Quach said...

I love reading your posts - stories and incidences that are quirky, funny or simply striking. Thank you.