This week’s cover is North Fork artist Don Duga’s vision of Riverhead, its lively downtown, history, sites and all the wonderful things to do there. A legendary animation artist with a knack for creating loosely rendered and lovely drawings, Duga was an integral part of Rankin/Bass Studios, the animators responsible for classic cartoons and stop-motion features, including Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, The Last Unicorn and The Little Drummer Boy.
Along with his work as an artist for Rankin/Bass, Duga storyboarded much-loved characters Mr. Magoo and Underdog and worked on animations for national commercials and children’s educational programs such as Sesame Street, The Electric Company and 3-2-1 Contact. He is also responsible for designing and animating Hostess Foods’ enduring icons Twinkie the Kid, Captain Cupcake, King Ding Dong, Chief Bigwheel and Fruit Pie the Magician.
An animator for over 40 years, Duga lives on the Sound in Riverhead and has long enjoyed local events and activities at the East End Art Council and small art venues, such as the now-closed Eastenders Coffee House and Green Earth Natural Foods Market, where he showed drawings of the Beatles and The Last Unicorn.
Duga continues to create animated films through Polestar Films and Associated Arts, the production company he founded with partner Irra Verbitsky in 1976. Polestar’s films have won multiple awards, including the Carnegie Medal for best children’s film of the year and the ASIFA East Award for their 1995 short Owen, narrated by Sarah Jessica Parker. Duga has taught animation at Manhattan’s School of Visual Arts for more than 30 years, he’s illustrated a children’s book and his paintings are in private collections worldwide. He has no plans to retire, we are happy to report.