Animator Sally Cruikshank's eye-opening, mind-bending shorts earned her the admiration of cartoon fans and professionals alike, as well as work on features and television and even inclusion in the National Film Registry. Her best efforts, like "Quasi at the Quackadero" (1975), echoed the garish, anarchic antics of Felix the Cat and Betty Boop in their blend of '20s-style sound and characterizations and underground/New Wave energy. The success of "Quasi" and other efforts led to contributions for "Twilight Zone: The Movie" (1982) and "Sesame Street" (PBS 1969- ), as well as guaranteed immortality for "Quasi" when it was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation. Though perhaps not well as known as many of her animation peers, Sally Cruikshank's work stood out from the vast array of cartoon shorts, features and series by the sheer, unfettered creativity of her best efforts.
Born Sarah Cruikshank in Chatham, New Jersey in June 1949, Sally Cruikshank was one of three children of Ernest and Rose Cruikshank. She studied art at Smith College, where she studied under sculptor and painter Elliot Offner, who submitted slides of her pencil-and-clay-on paper drawings to a screening committee, which resulted in a scholarship to the Yale Summer Art School. While there, she began adapting her work to animation, and upon her return to Smith, arranged a special studies class in animation. Her first animated short, a three-minute, 16mm short called "Ducky," which featured an early version of her most iconic character, an eccentric duck named Quasi. Encouraged by the response to "Ducky," Cruikshank enrolled at the San Francisco Art Institute, where she continued to develop her duck character with the 1971 short "Fun on Mars," which was followed by "Chow Fun" (1972), a short funded by a $400 grant from PBS.
While working for Snazelle Films, a commercial-film producer based in San Francisco, Cruikshank created what was her most enduring work: "Quasi at the Quackadero" (1975), a 10-minute, 35mm short that followed her duck hero, Quasi, through the titular establishment, a kaleidoscopic funhouse that granted glimpses of the past and future. Drawing heavily on the surreal, kitchen-sink style of the Fleischer Brothers and featuring a Roaring '20s jazz score by legendary artist Robert Crumb's band, the Cheap Suit Serenaders, "Quackadero" was a hit on the film festival circuit, and allowed Cruikshank to make more expansive projects, including the eight-minute, $14,000 "Make Me Psychic" and "Face Like a Frog" (1987), which featured music by Oingo Boingo. Cruikshank also contributed animated sequences to several major motion pictures, including a nightmarish television cartoon in "Twilight Zone: The Movie" (1982) an animated gag in the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker comedy "Top Secret!" (1984), and the credit sequence for the trio's next film, "Ruthless People" (1986). Cruikshank also created several short animated inserts for "Sesame Street" (PBS 1969- ) during this era. In 1994, "Quasi at the Quackadero" was one of the few post-1960 animated shorts included in The 50 Greatest Cartoons: As Selected by 1,000 Animation Professionals, and was selected in 2009 for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.