Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Tee Collins

EDITOR'S NOTE: Thank you to Dr. Barbara Collins-Brooks, daughter of Tee Collins and one of our dedicated listeners, for this "Little Known Black History Fact."

Harlem native Tee Collins was the first African-American animator to establish his own studio in New York. He was best known for his creation of the character Wanda the Witch on "Sesame Street." It was the story of a witch with a pet weasel who washed her wirey wig on Wednesday. His new animation would play on the first episode of "Sesame Street" in 1969 and would carry over into the book, “All About Sesame Street.” The favored skit would be followed by words from comedian Carol Burnett.

Collins would receive two international broadcasting awards for his work. Other skits he introduced included Nancy the Nannygoat and X is for Xylophone, though he once jokingly said, "It was hard to come up with a happy word for X."

Collins' skills with animation took him to "Sesame Street," but he originally got his start animating the Piel's Beer commercials, starring Bert and Harry Piel, in the early 1960s. He would also produce animated films in Puerto Rico, Nigeria and the Dominican Republic.

By the 1990s, Collins was still making history with his skill. His animation of "The Songhai Princess," written by Dr. Edward Robinson, introduced the first animated black princess ever on video. It was a story about Princess Nzinga, the daughter of a 15th-century Songhai Emperor, who is kidnapped from her palace by the Wicked Witch of the Mountains and rescued by her hero.

"The Songhai Princess" sold 20,000 copies and won four national awards in animation. The movie was most recently featured at the Dusable Museum of African-American History in Chicago.

Collins taught as a freelance professor for 11 years at the University of Central Florida before his death.

By: Erica Taylor, The Tom Joyner Morning Show


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