The Spirit of Detroit Animation


The Spirit of Detroit comes alive in animated short from the Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum

This year marks the sixtieth anniversary of perhaps the city of Detroit’s most iconic landmark, The Spirit of Detroit sculpture. Created by the late Marshall Fredericks (1908-1998), the giant green bronze sculpture was dedicated in 1958 in front of the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center in downtown Detroit where it remains today.

As part of its yearlong celebration of the sculpture, the Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum commissioned motion graphics designer, Bill Holland, to create an animated short film depicting the Spirit coming to life for a visit to the museum that bears his creator’s name.

In the film, the Spirit stands up after sitting at the foot of Woodward Avenue for 60 years, walking north on Woodward through Royal Oak, Birmingham and Bloomfield Hills, where Marshall Fredericks worked and lived for all his adult life. He then continues his journey to the Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum on the campus of Saginaw Valley State University. The film ends with the Spirit returning to Woodward at the end of the day and assuming his sitting position.

In creating the short, motion graphics designer Bill Holland went for a representational interpretation of the sculptures and locations, since his own work tends to be stylized. As part of his research for the film, Holland visited the Spirit, taking photographs from every possible angle, noticing how the sun hit certain parts of the figure.

Creating a representation of the sculpture that was realistic in size proved to be a significant challenge for Holland. “When I measured the scale of the original sculpture, I realized the legs were far longer than the torso, so I had to create two master versions of the sculpture, one sitting and the other standing.” The resulting 2-D cut-out animation brings the Spirit and the world he inhabits to life.

“This animation pushed my ability to translate reality into design, said Holland. “It has been a dream to be able to render the landscapes of my childhood as moving illustrations. I am grateful to the Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum for extending this opportunity.”

The Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum is dedicated to celebrating the artistic legacy of Marshall M. Fredericks through collecting, preserving, presenting, and interpreting his life’s work. It is located on the campus of Saginaw Valley State University, 7400 Bay Road.  Museum hours are Monday through Saturday, noon to 5 p.m.  Admission is free.  For more information, visit the museum’s website at or call (989) 964-7125.

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