Indiana University Libraries Moving Image Archive

Bosustow Family Film Collection

The Bosustow Family Film Collection is a vibrant, expansive, and family focused collection of live action and animated short films produced between the 1940s-1980s by Stephen Bosustow and his two sons, Nick and Tee. Held at the IU Libraries Moving Image Archive (IULMIA), the collection is comprised of sponsored films, classic fables, folk tales, moral lessons, educational films, and so much more. The films produced by the Bosustow family have garnered hundreds of awards across cultural institutions, including thirteen Academy Award nominations and four Oscars, as well as multiple inductions into the National Film Registry! For a detailed account of their award winning films please refer to the Oscar Nominees and Award Winning Films tab.

The early acclaim these films received in the wake of WWII was largely the result of a new animation aesthetic innovated by Stephen Bosustow with his newly founded company, United Productions of America, or simply UPA. Through UPA Bosustow pioneered a cartoon modernism that diverged with the popular animation style of the time, mainly that of Disney's three dimensional naturalism. UPA's style relied on bold colors and abstract visuals that embraced the two-dimensional nature of the frame. Many of their films were also geared towards adults, rather than children, which allowed them the range to grapple with more intellectual and political topics. 

Nick and Tee Bosustow would continue their father's legacy into the 1960s and 70s with further acclaim, particularly with a creative and timely moral fable narrated by Orson Welles, Is It Always Right to Be Right? (1970), that would win the Oscar in the Shorts Subject (Cartoon) category, and a visually stunning production of The Legend of John Henry (1973), famously narrated by Roberta Flack.  

The Bosustow Family Film Collection offers a snapshot of the often overlooked but hugely influential history of animation spearheaded by one multi-generational family. Not only did their early animation style help define American modernism, but their stories grappled with pressing social issues, educated and informed both children and adults, and last but certainly not least, they entertained. While many of the Bosustow's films were screened in theaters, including a pair of feature length animated films, many more received non-theatrical exhibition, ultimately reaching a much broader and diverse audience than any single exhibition format might for.

The diversity of films produced by the Bosustow family reaches across any single genre or format and can't be simply defined or categorized. Some are visually stunning and bursting with kinetic modernism, others are poignant and melancholy, and still others carry universal messages that speak to our shared humanity. Combined they are a uniquely enduring testatment to the power and influence of animation and the short format, as well as the Bosustow family's commitment and dedication to animation as an art form with aesthetic, cultural, and political implications. 

To watch a selection of films from the Bosustow Family Film Collection check out the Watch Films tab. For a full list of films held at IULMIA please see the IULMIA List of Bosustow Family Films tab. If affiliated with Indiana University you may log in to the Media Collections Online website and search for "Bosustow" to view the full list of available films.


Caleb Allison, Archivist Assistant