Ken Kimmelman

Ken Kimmelman is an American filmmaker, animator, and Aesthetic Realism consultant. He is the president of Imagery Film, Ltd. and is known for his films opposing racism and prejudice, including The Heart Knows Better, a public service film for which he received a National Emmy Award[1] and Brushstrokes, produced for the United Nations.[2] Both films were inspired by Aesthetic Realism, the philosophy whose founder, Eli Siegel, identified contempt, "the addition to self through the lessening of something else" as the cause of racism and all human injustice. Kimmelman is also noted for his Poetry film, Hot Afternoons Have Been in Montana,[3] based on the prize-winning poem by Eli Siegel.[4] Historian Howard Zinn said of this film, "It matches, in its visual beauty, the elegance of Siegel's words, and adds the dimension of stunning imagery to an already profound work of art."[5]

Ken Kimmelman
Photo of Ken Kimmelman by Amy Dienes.jpg
Ken Kimmelman in 2012
BornAugust 6, 1940
OccupationFilmmaker, animator, educator
Years activeSince 1958
Known forThe Heart Knows Better & Brushstrokes
Notable work
Hot Afternoons Have Been in Montana

Kimmelman teaches "If It Moves, It Can Move You: Opposites in the Cinema" at the Aesthetic Realism Foundation where film excerpts are shown and discussed. "We study how such opposites as rest and motion, light and dark, continuity and discontinuity, unity and variety—opposites we are trying to make sense of in our lives—are present in the motion picture, from The Great Train Robbery of 1903 to the latest cinematic achievement."[6]

Early life and careerEdit

Ken Kimmelman was born on August 6, 1940 in Crotona Park East Hospital in the Bronx to Bernard Kimmelman and Ida Moskowitz Kimmelman. He grew up in Washington Heights and attended the High School of Industrial Arts (now the High School of Art and Design). In 1958 he began his career in the animation studio of CBS Terrytoons in New Rochelle, NY, working on Mighty Mouse and other cartoons. He soon moved on to TV commercials (including animation for the classic Ajax "White Tornado" ad) and other freelance work.

From 1960 to the present he produced, designed and animated numerous films for the Sesame Workshop television shows Sesame Street, The Electric Company, and 3-2-1 Contact. From 1966-1970, he worked for NBC making promotional films and specials, including Frank Sinatra: A Man and His Music and the Jerry Lewis special. He worked on various TV series, including The Danny Thomas Show, I Spy, The Virginian, Hollywood Squares, The Monkees and Run for Your Life. He was the Director of Animation for the NBC special Damn Yankees. He made motion picture trailers for films, including The Dirty Dozen, From Russia with Love, The Godfather, Parts I & II, Serpico, The Great Gatsby, Star Trek, The Sting, Papillon, Conan the Destroyer, Mommie Dearest, Heaven's Gate, Cotton Club, Scarface, Body Heat, and more.

He designed and produced two short films shown as rear-screen projections representing the dreams and nightmares of the title character in the New York City Opera's production of Alberto Ginastera's Beatrix Cenci at Lincoln Center.[7]

Aesthetic RealismEdit

A pivotal point in Kimmelman's life and career was in 1966, when he began to study Aesthetic Realism with its founder, Eli Siegel, the American poet and philosopher who defined beauty and explained the relation between art and life. His statement, "All beauty is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves" was illustrated in  Kimmelman's first educational film, People Are Trying to Put Opposites Together, a documentary of Siegel teaching an Aesthetic Realism class. It was shown on WNET-TV, Channel 13 in New York City in October, 1968 and again in September, 1969.

Over the years, Kimmelman has written in professional journals and spoken at film festivals about the profound impact Aesthetic Realism has had on his life and work in films.[8] "I learned how to distinguish between true humor and contempt," he wrote.[9] "When animation is successful, it gives form to contempt as a means of opposing it." He explained that art exposes pretense, hypocrisy and cruelty for the purpose of honoring beauty, good sense, respect for reality.[10]

In his own films, Kimmelman uses humor and the beauty of art to tackle social and economic injustice. In 1989, he produced Asimbonanga, a film against apartheid funded by the United Nations.[11] The following year, the UN commissioned Brushstrokes, an animated film against prejudice for people of all ages. The proviso was that it use no language because the film would be shown worldwide, and contain no color that might imply a particular ethnicity. Through an animated green brushstroke acting superior and disdainful of other colors and shapes, the film shows that racism is not only dishonest but ridiculous. Original jazz music and vocals by Major Holley and tap dance rhythms by Jimmy Slyde, bring life and personality to the animated brushstrokes on the screen. Audiences see contempt literally walking the floor, and also see it defeated, as the film concludes, by art, and by reality itself, as sameness and difference together, as one, make for the beauty of this world.[2] Kimmelman uses this film to engage audiences of all ages in examining contempt, bullying, and racism in ourselves. "I think every film, no matter how difficult the subject," he said, "should make for more respect for the world."[1]

Educator and activistEdit

As an educator and activist, Kimmelman speaks about hunger and homelessness in America, the subject of his 1999 film, What Does a Person Deserve? and encourages audiences of all ages to examine where bullying and racism begin in the self. He has produced award-winning educational films for children, including Thomas Comma, the adventure of a lonely comma looking for the right sentence.[12] He received an Emmy for his contributions to Sesame Street, was nominated twice as a director of the animated TV series Doug. He has directed various animated TV series, including Clifford’s Puppy Days, Daria and The Wild Thornberrys[3] and he co-wrote, with Mick Carlon, the screenplay Riding on Duke's Train, an animated feature film about the great Duke Ellington, as seen through the eyes of a nine-year-old boy he befriends. It has won numerous screenplay awards in film festivals.[13]

Kimmelman has taught film and animation at New York University and the School of Visual Arts. He is a consultant on the faculty of the Aesthetic Realism Foundation, where he teaches the film course "If It Moves, It Can Move You: Opposites in the Cinema." He is one of the instructors of "The Critical Inquiry: A Workshop in the Visual Arts" and presents public seminars on subjects including "The Mix-Up in Everyone about Coldness and Warmth" and "Is a Man's Cynicism Weakness or Strength?"[14]

On the subject of ethics and aesthetics, Kimmelman has presented his Poetry film, Hot Afternoons Have Been in Montana at the Modern Language Association's 2011 annual conference in Los Angeles, and at the Manhattan School of Music as part of his lecture, "Aesthetic Realism and the Literary Cinema of Ken Kimmelman."[15]

As an activist, Kimmelman has addressed audiences of all ages about the need to confront bullying and racism.[16] He is a founding member of Housing: A Basic Human Right,[17] and his film, What Does a Person Deserve? deals with homelessness and hunger in America.[18] On this subject he was the keynote speaker for the Community Service Outreach Program at Boston University[19] and spoke at various institutions including Harvard, Vassar, NYU, Pace, and Dickinson College.[15] He spoke on Film—and 'The Art of Enjoying Justice'! at Stanford University, Baruch College, as part of the Human Rights Film Festival at Syracuse University, and also in Israel.[20]

Filmography & screenplaysEdit

Films (Partial list)
Year Title Role Notes Awards
2012 Riding on Duke's Train Co-author with
Mick Carlon
Screenplay for animated feature film about Duke Ellington. Screenplay awards:
Harlem International Film Festival
Socially Relevant International Film Festival
Williamsburg International Film Festival
American Filmmatic Arts Awards
Kids First Film Festival
International Monthly Film Festival
Courage Film Festival
International New York Film Festival
Panel With a Purpose 7
2010 Thomas Comma Director & Animator The adventures of a lonely comma looking for the right sentence. Story by Martha Baird. Grand Festival Animation Award—Berkeley Film Festival
Platinum Remi Award—Worldfest Houston
2005 Hot Afternoons Have Been in Montana   Director Eli Siegel's 1925 award-winning poem, as read by the author, accompanied by archival stills, live-action, special effects.
"Ken Kimmelman's reproduction, on film, of Eli Siegel's magisterial poem, is an extraordinary achievement. It matches, in its visual beauty, the elegance of Siegel's words, and adds the dimension of stunning imagery to an already profound work of art."--Howard Zinn[15]
15 12 min.
Best US Short,-Avignon Film Festival
Grand Festival Award in the Arts-Berkeley Film & Video Festival
Premio Informazione-Tam Tam Digifest, Naples, Italy
Platinum Best-in-Show-Aurora Film Festival
Gold Remi-Worldfest, Houston 39th International Film & Video Festival
Best Experimental Short Film-Big Apple Festival, NY
Best Experimental Short Film, 2005- Long Island Film Festival
Achievement Award for Mixed Form-Putnam Valley Arts Film Festival
Best Editing-Chicago Short Film Festival, IL
1999 What Does a Person Deserve? Director A public service film against homelessness and hunger; Music composed by Edward Green; B&W and Color photo montage; 109 sec.
Silver Cindy Award(1999)
Best PSA for the year 2000-Santa Clarita International Film Festival
United Nations Association Film Festival, Stanford University, CA.
1994 The Heart Knows Better Director & Animator Animated anti-prejudice film based on a statement by Eli Siegel. Shown worldwide on TV, movie theatres, professional sports arenas. 35 mm color, 60 sec.
Emmy Award for Outstanding National Public Service Announcement
Cindy Award
Bronze Award-Charleston International Film Festival
UN High Commission on Human Rights selected for Human Rights Day in Geneva (2001)
1990 Brushstrokes Director & Animator Animated anti-prejudice film produced for the United Nations; Original jazz & vocals by Major Holley; tap dance rhythms by Jimmy Slyde. 35 mm, color, 6-1/2 minutes.
Coe Award for Best Children's Film, ASIFA East Film Festival
Cultural Relations Prize-Pyong Yang Film Festival
1989 Asimbonanga Director Anti-apartheid film funded by the United Nations; photo montage, cell animation & optical effects choreographed to Asimbonanga written by Johnny Clegg, performed by Joan Baez. 35 mm, Color, 6-1/2 minutes
Director's Choice Award-Atlanta Film Festival

Paul Robeson Award-Newark Black Film Festival
Gold Star Award-Sacramento Film Festival
Real Choice Award-Humboldt Film Festival
2nd Prize-Concept-ASIFA East Film Festival

1984 Reaganocchio Director & Animator Anti-war film combining animation & photos HBO's Politically Incorrect


1968 People Are Trying to Put Opposites Together Director Documentary of Eli Siegel teaching an Aesthetic Realism class.

16mm, B&W, 21 min.

Televised on WNET-TV, Channel 13, October 14, 1968
Television (Partial list)
Year Title Role Notes Awards
2000 Twinkle Twinkle Director & Animator Animated short included in HBO special, Kids Say the Punniest Things,

hosted by Rosie O'Donnell

Emmy Award for animated short
1992-94 Doug Director/designer/animator Jumbo Pictures Nominated twice for an Emmy as Director
Nominated for an ACE Cable Award
1971-present The Wild Thornberrys

Clifford's Puppy Days

Director/designer/animator Hanna-Barbera's Joke Book various awards
1969-present Contributions to Sesame Workshop Director/designer/animator Animated children's films for "Sesame Street" and "Elmo's World" Emmy Award for contributions to Sesame Street.


  1. ^ a b "Non-Print Indie Film Series: Ken Kimmelman". The New York Public Library.
  2. ^ a b "Brushstrokes Film Description".
  3. ^ a b "Ken Kimmelman". IMDb.
  4. ^ "Hot Afternoons Have Been in Montana - Educational Media Reviews Online (EMRO)".
  5. ^ "Big Sky Film Festival".
  6. ^ "If It Moves, It Can Move You".
  7. ^ Henahan, Donal (March 16, 1973). "In City Opera 'Cenci,' Production Is Star of the Show" – via
  8. ^ Kimmelman, Ken (December, 1968)"Kimmelman, Filmmaker, Finds New Esthetic in Film Art--Making ONE of Opposites" (Making Films in New York, p.24-25.
  9. ^ The National Cartoonists Society Album, (1980 edition) compiled by Charles Green and Mort Walker, p. 79.
  10. ^ Kimmelman, Ken (November, 1985) "Can Contempt Be Animated?" Animatrix: A Journal of the UCLA Animation Workshop pp. 53-58.
  11. ^ "Asimbonanga Film Description".
  12. ^ "Films by Ken Kimmelman, Emmy Award-winning filmmaker". Aesthetic Realism Foundation.
  13. ^ "Ken Kimmelman Film Project Riding on Duke's Train". June 10, 2013.
  14. ^ "Ken Kimmelman, Aesthetic Realism Foundation Faculty. Aesthetic Realism was founded by Eli Siegel". Aesthetic Realism Foundation.
  15. ^ a b c "Aesthetic Realism and the Literary Cinema of Ken Kimmelman".
  16. ^ "Young and Old Learn Answer to Racism".
  17. ^ "Ken Kimmelman".
  18. ^ "UNAFF 99: What Does a Person Deserve?".
  19. ^ "Keynote Speaker Ken Kimmelman at Boston University on Aesthetic Realism and Eli Siegel".
  20. ^ "Syracuse University: Kimmelman Film--and "The Art of Enjoying Justice - Google Search".