Films by Bruce and Katharine Cornwell

This page will host information about the films of Bruce and Katharine Cornwell, producers of dozens of animated educational films in the 1960s and 1970s. While that content is being gathered, this will also serve also the primary remembrance site for them.

Click here for a 1959 Madison, Wisconsin Capital Times article about their work.

Katharine Marie Saremal Cornwell
January 31, 1920 - March 4, 2013
Bruce Haynes Cornwell
March 22, 1923 - January 26, 2012

Katharine Saremal was born in Portland, Oregon to a Canadian mother and Estonian father. He was a general contractor who built many of the bridges and tunnels along the Columbia River Highway, and designed the family home in Milwaukie, Oregon where Kay grew up with her sisters Hazel and Dorothy.

She graduated from Reed College in 1940, then joined the U.S. Army, preparing daily intelligence summaries in Washington, D.C. during World War II.

After the war, Kay sailed to Europe on the Normandie and lived in Salzburg and Vienna before returning to the States to earn an MA in English Literature at Columbia University.

Bruce Cornwell was born in Rockford, Illinois, where he spent boyhood evenings listening to his crystal set radio. After graduating from high school he enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served as an electronic technician's mate. He spent the World War II years setting up radio transmitters on Pacific islands just behind the advancing front.

Bruce stayed on in Japan after the war, and traveled to China before returning home to the midwest. He attended the University of Wisconsin at Madison where he earned a degree in geography. His work at WHA-TV first introduced him to the craft of film animation.

Bruce and Kay met by chance at a church in Madison one Sunday morning. They were married in April of 1956 and made their home in a nineteenth century stone house in Prairie du Sac, on the Wisconsin River, where they raised two sons, Eric and Scott. Bruce and his father, Augustus Booker Cornwell, designed and built an adjoining carriage house which included a garage on the ground level and an animation studio upstairs.

From the late 1950s until the mid 1980s the Cornwells produced dozens of short films on topics in mathematics, geometry, calculus and physics, pioneering the use of computer graphics in educational films. The Academic Film Archive web site has a short biography and filmography of their work, and offers two of their films for online viewing. Some of their other films can be found at

In 1968 the family relocated to Brooklyn Heights and continued producing films there. To augment their income from filmmaking, Bruce and Kay both took on full-time jobs.

In the late 1970s, with her sons safely off to college, Kay joined the accounting firm Peat Marwick as a compensation analyst, a position she held for many years as the company changed names several times, finally becoming KPMG.

After retiring from KPMG, she began volunteering at one of her favorite New York institutions, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. As a tour guide she introduced untold numbers of schoolchildren and adults to the wonders of the Garden. She was the main trainer of tour guides when she finally retired again in the late 1990s.

Katharine passed away at home on March 4, 2013.

Bruce taught at the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, The New School, and The School of Visual Arts. He applied his programming and cartographic knowledge in positions with the NYC Department of City Planning and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

When their church installed a new hybrid electronic/pipe organ, Bruce's skills in electronics and mechanical engineering earned him the position of organ curator for the church, despite the fact that he was the only non-musical member of his own family.

Bruce passed away at home on January 26, 2012.

They are survived by their sons, and grandson Leon Campos, who now live in California, Iowa and Vermont.