Jim Korkis 1950-2023

Jim Korkis (circa 1993) – photo by: John Cawley

Today we celebrate Jim Korkis – who left us last week to teach slang to St. Peter. He produced 612 posts for this blog, Cartoon Research, spanning March 15th 2013 through March 17th, 2023 – exactly ten years – sometimes only weekly, sometimes more than once a week.

When I departed Cartoon Brew to revive/reboot this website, Jim was the first person to contact me about being a part. I immediately took him up on his offer and give him a weekly berth. He never let me down – in fact, he sent me his columns weeks, and months, in advance! I never had to sweat about Fridays – Jim had me covered.

Jim and I go way back. We “met” as two regular contributors to David Mruz’s animation fanzine Mindrot – starting in 1976!

I can’t recall when we met in person – probably at at San Diego Comic Con in the early 1980s – but we became instant friends. When I joined Apatoons in the early 80s with the second mailing – Jim was already there from from the first coalition (where he had submitted TWO zines – thus his contributions were always numbered one-ahead of the actual mailing. Re: his issue #3 was in the second mailing – and so on).

Visiting Jim in Orlando, in 2010.

I moved to LA in 1986 and the company I was employed by started Animation Magazine. Jim was once again an inaugural contributor – and eventually a long-running columnist there. Back then, Jim was the go-to guy for animation information.

And here’s the thing: he was a super-nice guy. Happy, funny, smiling. That’s how I’ll remember him. He was a school teacher, a magician, and an occasional actor.

He was also a FRIEND.

I’m still trying to process the loss. I’ve asked several of our past Cartoon Research contributors to send me their thoughts. You’ll read them below.

Rest in Peace, Jim. You were one of the best.

Jim Korkis, in his own words – as told to Didier Ghez: James (“Jim”) Patrick Korkis was born August 15th, 1950, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He passed away at the age of 72 of stage four colon cancer on July 28th, 2023. He is survived by his two brothers Michael and Chris. Jim was divorced and had no children.

Jim on the pilot for “The Origins Game” (embed below)

When he was five years old his family moved to Glendale, California where Jim grew up attending Edison Elementary School (where one of the teachers was Mrs. Disney, the wife of Walt’s older brother Herbert), Roosevelt Junior High, Hoover High, Glendale Junior College and Occidental College where he graduated with a Bachelor’s degree and Master’s Degree with a major in English and a minor in Theater Arts. After graduation he spent two decades teaching English and Drama at Huntington Middle School in San Marino, California. Jim helped pay his way through college by working at the Los Angeles Zoo as a driver and tour guide.

Jim was known as a comics historian writing a column of comics trivia for Amazing Heroes as well as articles for Comic Book Marketplace, Comics Artist and more. He was a vendor at the San Diego ComicCon for several years with the company he co-owned, Korkis and Cawley’s Cartoon and Comic Company. He wrote introductions of over three dozen Malibu Graphics collections of vintage comic strips and comic books.

Jim was known as an animation historian who wrote long-running columns for Animation Magazine, Animato!, Animania, Comic Journal, and more. For the last ten years he wrote a weekly column for www.cartoonresearch.com. With writing partner John Cawley he co-wrote four books about animation like Cartoon Confidential.

In California, Jim also pursued a career in theater. He appeared in over 100 theatrical productions, starting with Glendale Center Theater. He directed over 100 stage performances. He did some occasional voice over work.

Disney Archivist David R. Smith (left) with Jim

With his brothers, Jim appeared at The Gong Show, The Dating Game and Family Feud. By himself he appeared on Camouflage (where he won a Cadillac) and the pilot The Origins Game (embed below). He appeared on Entertainment Tonight as a Disney historian.

With his brother Mike, Jim developed a comedy magic act as part of a show he wrote and directed at Six Flags Magic Mountain Lucky Louies Roaring ‘20s Revue. They performed at the Variety Arts Theater, Johnathan Clubs, J.C. Penny and more. Jim was a performer in Pelican’s Corner at Magic Mountain and helped design the Halloween Haunted Mountain promotion.

In 1995 he moved to Orlando, Florida to take care of his ailing mom and dad. Jim became identified as a Disney historian and worked as a performer (Merlin in the Sword in the Stone ceremony and Prospector Pat in Frontierland), an animation instructor at The Disney Institute, Guest Relations at Epcot, tour instructor with Disney Adult Discoveries, and coordinator with The Disney Learning Center. He was brought as a special consultant for Disney Cruise Line, Disney Vacation Club, Imagineering and Animation (where he taught different classes for interns) among other departments.

Disney laid off Jim in 2009 along with thousands of others. Jim started writing books about all things Disney and ended up producing over three dozen books. He was a popular guest on podcasts.

Jim’s last words: “There are so many books I wanted to read or re-read, so many movies and television shows I wanted to see or re-see and more many food treats I wanted to enjoy again like See’s chocolates. I know God loves me and this is part of his plan. Be happy and kind to each other. When you think of me, I hope you smile. I loved you all and appreciated your generosity, support and hope.”

Mark Kausler:

Click to Enlarge

We bid farewell to our friend and beloved cartoon historian, Jim Korkis. The last twenty years or so, our contact greatly diminished, but in 1981, my wife Cathy Hill entered Jim’s “Little Miss Madre” Caption Contest and she won first prize! “Little Miss Madre” was a weekly panel cartoon which aspiring cartoonist Jim “sold” to the Sierra Madre News, a local newspaper centered in the little town of Sierra Madre, Ca. Jim had a great sense of humor about himself and Cathy’s caption satirized the gag level of the Miss Madre panel. Jim never took himself too seriously, but instead looked at cartoon history and especially Disney history as subjects worthy of PHD scholarship.

Our favorite book of Jim’s is How To Be A Disney Historian – a unique anthology of scholars’ opinions of the challenge and tasks of writing about a vast subject–with a big corporation watch dogging the process.

I used to see Jim at Comic-Cons and other gatherings with his business partner, John Cawley, Jr. As Korkis and Cawley, they formed a cartoon scholarship lodestone selling cartoon oriented books and dispensing sober and jocular platitudes. Jim was always the “Gooey” half of the partnership and John was the “Prickly” half.

Jim’s personal life was not a smooth path for him, he went through a divorce that took away everything he had, and a hard stint at Disney World in Florida where Jim did magic tricks, character performance and taught guests and cast members alike about Disney History.

Jim produced hundreds of “Animation Anecdotes” columns from the primitive days of “Mindrot” fanzine through to the digital universe of the Cartoon Research website. Jim knew a lot of detailed lore about nearly everyone who had ever worked for the Mouse. We’re going to miss his gigantic catalog of stories both significant and trivial, but I’ll miss his non-stuffy attitude about himself–he loved laughter. So long, old pal.

Jerry Beck, Mark Kausler and Jim Korkis – circa 1994 – introducing a screening.

Steve Stanchfield:

Jim Korkis was, since I was in high school, someone I looked up to. The issues of Mindrot/Animania I’d purchase secondhand at a used book store always featured his ‘Harequin’ column, and I read those short stories he wrote over and over, committing all of them to memory. Over the years I enjoyed correspondence with him – and it was wonderful to see the tradition continue on Cartoon Research of all these fun little stories. Jim was an entertainer in his writing, making history a fun experience with hi dedication to sharing history. I’ll miss him and his wonderful storytelling here most of all.

Greg Ehrbar:

Back in those great days of Walt Disney World lunchtime strolls, Jim Korkis and I would constantly encounter people who read his books, saw his countless lectures, sought his expertise, or were greeting a familiar friend. “You’re like Lucille Ball, Jim,” I would often quip, “And I’m Gary Morton.” Jim would throw back his head and utter his distinctive laugh.

Jim Korkis was a celebrity. He was also an actor, magician, educator, mentor, and all-around mother hen to those who orbited in his vast solar system of enthusiasm and knowledge. Nothing made Jim happier than sharing what he knew, to one person or thousands. He lived for every flicker of understanding that he saw as he imparted a story or fact.

Jim relished gathering others who loved talking about animation and Disney. Jim introduced me to one of my best friends, Michael Lyons when Mike was speaking to a group about Walt Disney’s Alice in Wonderland. The three of us became a trio of chattering historians.

Though he could expound on almost all forms of animation (and entertainment as well), Jim was first and foremost a Disney Historian. For many years, he presented some of the most popular programs at the then-new Disney Institute. He also taught both trainees and veteran Cast Members at Disney University, various company divisions, and at Disney Learning Centers scattered throughout the property. This was in addition to lectures for organizations like

The Walt Disney Family Museum and D23. In short, Jim Korkis became one of the “go-to” people for insight and information.

That’s why it made sense at the time for Jim to be one of the “faces of Disney” when the Resort celebrated “100 Years of Magic” in 2001, the centenary of Walt‘s birth. Jim became an on-camera historian for one of my projects at Disney’s Yellow Shoes Creative Group (the Parks and Resorts in-house ad agency). We filmed it at the fabled Walt Disney Animation Studios Florida, in front of those glass walls where Guests could watch real animation (Mulan, Brother Bear, Beauty and the Beast) in production. Jim spoke effortlessly to the camera in the engaging way we knew so well. His performance was unanimously approved by the advertising and marketing management. Over the next year, the 100 Years of Magic Vacation Planning Video was enjoyed in millions of homes. As of this writing, the YouTube version has been seen by over 200 thousand viewers”. Here’s the LINK.

As you can tell from the video, Jim had a very precise, specific way of speaking. He would emphasize words and phrases to make his points with clarity. Almost automatically, Mike and I realized that we had picked up some of Jim’s nuances in our own presentations. Like many celebrities, his personality lent itself to Mike and me doing our best Korkis impressions and spouting “Korkisisms.” Jim loved it, of course, with that laugh of his.

It will be a while before Mike and I will be able to “Korkisise” again. But if we find it inadvertently happening during a presentation or conversation, visions of Jim chuckling will dance in our heads.

Joe Ranft contributed this cover to the animation fanzine APATOONS in 2000.

Bob Miller:

I knew Jim Korkis not only for his love of animation, and for his vast knowledge of the artform and business, but for his willingness to share it. Among many other venues, he always contributed to APATOONS, the Amateur Press Association devoted to animated carTOONS, representing the finest in animation scholarship. For over 30 years members from the U.S., Canada and Australia exchanged hard-to-find information about cartoons past and present—much of that coming from Jim. He wrote about the group’s legacy HERE.

It was in APATOONS that he learned about my long-term project, The Star Wars Historical Sourcebook. Jim told his publisher at Theme Park Press about it; the publisher contacted me, and his new imprint, Pulp Hero Press, then published Volume One of The Star Wars Historical Sourcebook, plus three volumes of The Animated Voice: Interviews with Voice Actors.

Circumstances forced the publisher and myself to part company, and these books will later see print with another imprint. But I do credit Jim for getting the ball rolling on publishing these works.

Over the years Jim talked about his problems, as one would with friends, but he always seemed to find a silver lining in those grey clouds, ever hopeful, ever upbeat. Now he’s gone. At least his life can still be honored from the many works he has written. Thanks, Jim. May eternal happiness now be yours.

Kamden Spies:

I have been an avid reader of the Cartoon Research blog since it was revised in 2013. I became an even more avid follower in high school. At the end of the year of my sophomore year of high school, I bought a copy of Jim’s book that was a collection of his best Animation Anecdotes.

Even though I had read many of these tidbits before on the blog, reading them in print for the first time was almost like discovering them again for the first time. I was an avid fan of Jim’s column and his writing style.

In high school, I worked in computer repair services on my high school campus. However, there was just one problem when working my sophomore year that summer. I couldn’t put Jim’s book down. Whenever I wasn’t on duty to repair a computer, I was reading Jim’s book. I even skipped lunch a few times just to read it instead of eating with friends who were working with me. I’m a slow reader, so it took a month and a half to read it. And when I finished it, it was disappointing that I didn’t have more anecdotes to read. I think reading Jim’s columns are what ultimately inspired me to write for Cartoon Research.

Michael Lyons:

Jim Korkis was a prolific writer, an in-depth researcher, a talented speaker, and a passionate animation historian. Like a superhero, these were his strengths, but even together, they weren’t his greatest strength.

That would be his superpower as a friend.

I met Jim when we both worked at Walt Disney World and knew him from the magazines we contributed to. From our first meeting, Jim became a friend and significant support, convincing me to do things I never thought I could do, like public speaking, taking on new opportunities, and even writing my own book.

It takes a lot in our busy world to go out of your way and take time for others. Jim was never too busy to do this, reflected in the outpouring of gratitude and appreciation for Jim from so many over the past few days.

Jim had many “Jim-isms,” clever sayings he would call upon occasionally. One of my favorites was, “There’s an old proverb that states: ‘May you always live in interesting times.’’’ To this, Jim would always, jokingly, add, “…and take that however you want.”

Jim made all of our lives interesting in the best possible way and always will, with the rich legacy he leaves behind.

I will truly miss him. He was a super friend.

Jim Korkis
Photo: Scott Thomas – Thanks: Mike Tiefenbacher