The Urban Archeologist – An Animated Find

Greg finds an unsung animator of the 50's & 60's


Do you know your neighbors? How many of us walk to the mailbox, walk our dogs and only nod or wave to the people on our street? What would we find if we engaged them in conversation? Why don't we?

I visited an estate sale near Candlewood Lake in Danbury a few weeks back and, as always, I didn't know what to expect. The tri-level home was nearly empty except for furniture and some bookshelves with odd books leaning askew to act as bookends for what was left. I explored the 3 floors and noticed the number of guests that could be accommodated from the number of bedrooms tucked on each floor.

In the basement, behind another bedroom was an office. It looked as though it had been tossed like a crime scene, with papers strewn over the desk, boxes over turned and an open safe half under the 60's style desk. But, among the havoc, I could tell someone was an artist, or a designer, and the tools of their trade were faint but recognizable. I probed the drawer of a small paint-stained chest that was full of drawing implements and then realized these may not be for sale. They were too tidy, too valuable. To confirm, I got someone manning the make shift cashier's table to see and sure enough my find was out of reach.

Not finding anything usable for my own passion for sketching, or blogging, I gave one last look and noticed 3 video tapes on the floor near the desk. These were of a format once familiar to commercial/industrial video production houses in 70's and 80's - 3/4” videotape (or U-matic). The labels explained vaguely what they were: The work reel of an animator named Robert Tinfo.

I found out that the sale was being run by some family members to prepare the home for sale. Their father, Robert Tinfo, has spent most of his professional life as an animator working for various firms. He had moved from his office in the city to this home by the lake, but he didn't stop animating and his home become a makeshift studio sporting, at one point, an animation stand that spanned the 1st and 2nd floors.

The tapes were transferred to video and in that process revealed an amazing talent. Robert Tinfo created animations for many different businesses and if you grew up in the 70's or earlier, there's a good chance you saw his work. His style was distinctive, colorful and whimsical  (One son told me he was behind the animated the NBC peacock). Sadly, there is no biography on Robert Tinfo. My internet searches reveal a vague reference to a company he worked for in the late 50's and early 60's. Some of the sample clips may have come from that era, but there is no title information and most of it leaves me guessing.

The samples I have are amazing, and prove that there are people around us doing things that merit recognition, or at least more than just a nod hello at the mailbox.

If you want to see more of Robert Tinfo's animation click on this link to go to the blog. Once there maybe you can join me in searching for more about this interesting and unsung talent from the entertainment industry.

Greg Van Antwerp is a Brookfield resident and blogger, who can be found on the weekends in search of a good “dig” or a good story.  You can read more about his adventures by visiting his blog: www.videomartyr.blogspot.com  


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