About Jim Simon:At a very young age Jim Simon was working hard on his Uncle’s Cotton and Tobacco farm in Darlington, South Carolina. Around that time his parents divorced and his Mother moved him, his brother and his sister to Harlem, New York. There in Harlem he began elementary school. Later, his Mother moved the family again, this time to the projects in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. While attending "Junior High School 22", his life changed forever. His Junior High School art teacher immediately noticed his exceptional artistic talents and advised him to quit his athletic pursuits, (even though he was a top athlete who excelled in baseball, football, track and boxing) and persuaded him to attend “The High School of Art and Design”. While there Jim went on to graduate with honors in “excellence in screen animation” simultaneously garnering “The Julius Epstein Memorial Foundation Art Scholarship” given by the Boy’s Club of New York. Yet another scholarship was presented to him from “THE SCHOOL OF VISUAL ARTS” where he majored in Animation. The scholarships led to his moving into the professional ranks of New York’s professional Animation industry.
After only two years in the business when he had not been given the opportunity to advance to the prestigious and lucrative position of a full-fledged studio animator, Jim started his own Animation studio “WANTU ENTERPRISES”. One year later under the WANTU Banner he had produced, designed, directed and animated his own creations for Sesame Street, The Electric Company, and Vegetable Soup T.V. series. At the International Animated Film Association (ASIFA) East film awards “WANTU Enterprises” walked away with 7 of the 15 professional awards being offered in all the areas of animation. After achieving this astonishing fete he was written up in many newspapers and magazines and appeared in many advertisements, which made note of his several accomplishments, as well as him being owner of the “new, hot-up-and-coming” Black Animation Studio in New York. The Black Broadcasting and Entertainment community dubbed Jim as “The Black Walt Disney of Animation” After all the accolades and accomplishments; however, he still had not been afforded any of the T.V. commercial business, as had the previous ASIFA-East animation award winner from the prior year.
Mr. Simon then made the decision to move his company and family to California, seeking greener pastures to show off his talents in the popular field of children animation T.V. series. The “greener pastures” were hard to come by and Jim found that he had to settle for work as a studio producer, director, designer and animator for the worlds largest studios in order to make ends meet financially for his family. Within a short period of time Jim then found himself mostly working in foreign countries such as, Japan, Korea, China, Taiwan, etc. For the next 10 or so years, he had a powerful and demanding position of Overseas Supervisor and Director for numerous large studios producing children animation productions for American Television Networks. While in Ireland, Jim was key in the establishment of a new animation studio. It was then that he once again felt an inner pull and need upon his soul to develop his own Black concepts, consequently he returned to the U.S. energized to continue his quest to put “WANTU ENTERPRISES” on the map.
He spent years developing with Don Cornelius of Soul Train fame “THE LIL’ SOUL TRAIN and THE SOUL KIDS”, then independent of Mr. Cornelius, under WANTU he developed “SOLOMON AND SHEBA”, “TELL ME WHO I AM”, and “LIL’ MISS LOVE NOTE” (Which was stolen by Mattel Toys and turned into a black doll called “LIL’ MISS MAKEUP”.) He also, at that time, found himself in the last contractual stages of a project called “THE BAZARRO WORLD”, when talks broke down at the last moment with Universal Studios.
After all the ups and downs Jim became despondent and withdrew his talents from the world of animation, never touching a pencil again to create, or to design another cartoon. After a bout with depression, alcoholism, and homelessness, Jim was recently given a set of oil pastels and was challenged to paint the portrait of an 85-year-old black grandson of an ex-slave. Jim painted the portrait with all of his heart and soul. He then, with the same passion, produced a collection of Barack Obama paintings and a host of other personalities, sports figures and family paintings. Many of his oil pastels will be featured in the St. Clair Gallery’s Black History Month exhibit from January 19 thru February 28, 2009. Presently Jim is in the process of developing his cartoon creations into black calendars, books, paintings and greeting cards for 2009, while simultaneously pursuing his new love of producing art in charcoal, oils, watercolor and oil pastels.