Ever since I was a small child, I’ve been obsessed with animation. Every aspect of it. Who made the greatest animated cartoons in cinematic history, how many Fleischer brothers there were (and what each one did), how to spell and pronounce “Ub Iwerks.” All that stuff. And aside from my work as a writer of variousotherthings, I’m also an animation writer. (In fact, you can see some of my animation writing credits HERE and HERE.)
So I know quite a bit about animation, and I also know a lot about animation history. Pay attention to that last bit, because it’ll be important later.
In addition to all of the above, I’m a public speaker. In fact, for a couple of decades before the pandemic, I used to go all over the world (well, all over the US, as well as a few places in Canada and a couple of countries in Europe) and give lectures at various venues including universities, literary festivals, synagogues, libraries, museums, etc. For the past three years, I’ve been giving lectures virtually, because of the aforementioned pandemic (perhaps you’ve heard of it). Hopefully, now that everything’s opening up again, I’ll start lecturing in person once more. Which would be nice, because I really miss those speaking gigs where I’m actually in the same room as my audience. (What a concept!)
No matter whether I lecture virtually or in person, I usually talk about various pop culture-related topics, often from a Jewish perspective. That’s largely because my lecture career started out with me speaking on subjects like the history of Jews in the film industry and the history of Jews in the animation industry. And that kinda became my thing, for reasons too convoluted to go into here. * Then after my book From Krakow to Krypton: Jews in Comic Books was released in 2008, that was the topic I spoke about the most. I mean, I had written a successful nonfiction book on the history of Jews in the comic book industry. Why wouldn’t that be my most frequently requested lecture topic?
I’ve also done some work for the Union for Reform Judaism (aka “URJ”) over the past couple of decades. For instance, I’ve written several articles for them (both print and online), most of which are about various aspects of pop culture history as well.
At the tail end of 2021, the folks at the URJ hired me to make a video about the history of Jews in the animation industry for their “RJ on the Go” platform. It was called “Drawing the Line: The History of Jews in Animation,” and it was up on their site for about a month, from late December of 2021 to late January of 2022. It’s not up there anymore, but they gave me the link so that it can live permanently on my website. With that in mind, you can check it out here:
* I should clarify that I don’t exclusively talk about these subjects as seen through a Jewish lens, so to speak. Sometimes, in my lectures, I simply talk about film history (in general), or the history of television comedy (in general), or the history of the comic book industry (in general). Other times, I talk about my writing career and how it’s evolved over the years. I’ve even given lectures about specific areas of my writing career, like my career in the video game industry or what it was like working on those three LEGO Star Wars books I wrote for Scholastic. But, at least in certain circles, I am definitely known best for my lectures on the contribution of Jewish folks to various areas of popular culture.
Recently, I was a guest on the Sequential Crush podcast, hosted by author and comics historian Jacque Nodell. We talked about my writing career, my creative influences, and more. I had a fantastic time talking to Jacque, and I hope you enjoy listening to the episode!
Here’s Jacque’s description of the episode, from the Sequential Crush site:
“Join me for the first Sequential Crush podcast interview with writer Arie Kaplan. Arie has written for it all — TV, comics, magazines, and books, and he doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. Arie shares how he broke into pop culture writing, how he made a move from intern to professional, and he divulges his inspirations, faves, and dream projects.”