March 16, 2006

Animated Manhattan: Sundae in New York

Part 3 in an ongoing series looking at New York City in animation.

Sundae in New YorkThe 1983 Academy Award winner for Best Animated Short was a stop-motion claymation film called Sundae in New York directed by Jimmy Picker. It featured a then-mayor Ed Koch character singing “New York, New York” as he makes his way from scenario to scenario throughout the city meeting different people like Frank Sinatra, Rodney Dangerfield, Alfred E. Neuman, Woody Allen, the Statue of Liberty, and more.

Sundae2Starting with a view of the Manhattan skyline, it’s easy to see that there’s not a lot of detail. But it was 1983, and Jimmy Picker didn’t have a huge set to work with. In fact, each shot shows barely anything wider than would be possible to fit on a small tabletop set. The opening, which pans down from the skyline to Central Park, shows more background than in any other scene. In terms of scope, this is clearly no Wallace and Gromit.

Sundae3But the limited set doesn’t detract at all from the short film’s charm. The song is familiar so it hooks you right in. Even someone who isn’t familiar with New York politics will find the Ed Koch character entertaining. And the caricatures of various celebrities and personalities are usually spot on. The scenarios depict different stereotypes from New York life, so while the settings may not be expansive, the characterizations make up for it.

Sundae4I remember back in 1983, Jimmy Picker was on a TV show (I think it might have been the Leonard Nimoy-hosted “Standby… Lights! Camera! Action!” on Nickelodeon, but I may be wrong) and he showed off the various clay characters which he stored in a normal kitchen refrigerator to keep from melting. The fact that it has stuck in my head this long shows how entertained I was by it that I remember it after all these years, diminished only by the fact that I have a sneaking suspicion my memories may have made the whole episode up.

Sundae5So by now you must be wondering how on Earth you can get to see this short film. Well, it was put out on a DVD called The World’s Greatest Animation several years ago, but it’s now out of print. According to, you can purchase a used copy starting at $149.99. And of course you can always try eBay.

Or, you can just head over to YouTube, where it looks like someone has put the movie up for your viewing pleasure.

IMDb Rating: 6.7/10
BCDb Rating: N/A
My Rating: 7.5/10

(My rating is for the film’s depiction of NYC only)


Your memory is correct. Jimmy used to keep his claymation figures in the fridge and not much else. He was a friend of my filmaker boyfriend at that time. I remember visiting his apartment many times to see him work on his tiny set, and the surprise I first felt when I looked in his refrigerator to find some food and found creatures looking back at me!

I’ve been wondering where he is and if he is still doing animation.

Thanks!!! I was searching for this vid, and thanks to your site I was able to find it. Was this shown on SNL at some point? I think I saw it there, but it might just be a false memory.