Friday, August 31, 2012

Eric Larson

Drawing by John Musker

The previous post kept me thinking more about Eric Larson.
He was the first Disney artist I wrote to, and we even met in Hamburg, Germany, where Eric and his girlfriend Hazel had a stopover during a Northern European Cruise. 
My English was pretty bad at the time, and during my conversation with Eric 
I understood  maybe half of what he was telling me.
It was pretty darn frustrating. Words of wisdom lost in translation!
I remember Eric being somewhat shocked, when we (Hans Bacher was also there for the visit) told him that we travelled by car for over six hours to see him. He almost felt bad for having invited us, and said he had no idea that we lived that far. We just told him how thrilled we were to meet him.
This is the letter Eric sent me ahead of his vacation. Imagine, not only an invitation to meet a wise old man from Disney, but then his words of encouragement at the end of the letter.
I remember, that was a very good day indeed!!

Here Eric is surrounded by animation trainees, who all started the program before I did. Behind Eric is Lorna Pomeroy, then Heidi Guedel, Bill Kroyer, Dan Haskett sitting on the floor, Emily Jiuliano, Henry Selick and unknown.

In this shot you see Eric with trainees, who started at Disney soon after I did.
They are Bill Frake, Kathy Zielinski and Matt O'Callaghan. I loved these old Moviolas.

Hans Bacher took this photo during a dinner that included his late wife Hanne, me, and Eric with Hazel. We dined in a local restaurant in Pasadena during our first trip to LA.
What is Eric saying that made the waiter cringe?

One weekend, after I had started at Disney, a few of us surprised Eric at his home in Flintridge to wish him a Happy Birthday.
Behind Eric is Dolly Baker, me, Don Paul, Sue Frankenberger, Ted Kiersey and Carol Holman Grosvenor.

So what are the things I remember most when I think of Eric's teaching?
He always stressed observation because it allows you to put your own experiences into your work.
Entertainment was another big word. "We don't just move things around, we are here to entertain an audience" he said.
Eric talked a lot about Walt's philosophy and his high standards. Walt would never talk down to an audience, he always raised people up to where he was. In other words, he always gave them more than what they expected.
And it was very clear to him that being a Disney animator was the best job in the world.
No argument there.

This is the last character Eric supervised before moving into teaching.
It is Roquefort from The Aristocats. I always loved the quirky, real-mouse-timing in his acting and movements.


  1. Good to be around inspiring people no ?
    I love your blog, i like reading about the efforts put in behind the Disney animations that made up most of my childhood.

    Oh and Roquefort still is one of my favorite characters :D

  2. there are so many good memories from these 'old' days, makes you really feel old. I remember we had to call him, ( when we came after our meeting in hamburg and the following invitation to the disney studio in march 1979 ) to arrange a visit time with him in the studio. it was scary, we both were hanging on the phone trying to decipher what eric said. our english knowledge was not too good and eric did not pronounce everything the best way. then in the studio in his room we were very nervous, you were not sitting too well in the kem webber designed chair that made noises whenever you moved. at one point eric blew up - stop wiggling. man! it was not allowed by death penalty to take pictures in the studio, not even to bring in a camera. but I did, and when eric left the room shortly I took some pictures in his room. the camera, an old voigtlander 35mm had an extremely loud shutter, what nearly caused you to get a heart failure. I am so glad I have all these pictures and memories. we were crazy and obsessed. and it was good that way.

    1. Hans, thanks so much for adding to the post with your funny write up.
      Nothing but fantastic animated memories. Not just Eric Larson.
      Dick Williams, John Halas, Frank & Ollie, the list goes on.
      You are right, that loud Voigtlander shutter could have ended my career right then and there !!

  3. I love your posts about your experiences not just like an animator, but like a big fan of the animators and the Disney Studio. I talked to you last year and I think I had the same filling that you had while you were talking to Eric. I'm sad that I could't visit the studio that time. One of the amazing things of internet is too see that Hans was reading your blog and complete your story with more information and we can enjoy this too. Thank You.

  4. Hello Andreas! May we see the photocopies of your work that you sent to Eric Larson?

  5. Great drawing by John Musker, that is spot on!
    What a lovely post about your memories and so nice to see a photo of Hanne, even if it is just with her back to camera.
    Hans showed me the drawings that you sent to Disney that time, when I was at the MadTParty. I remember thinking how expressive they were, full of life. You've always had it in your bones, Andreas.

  6. Your experience with Eric Larson is inspiring. Thank you for sharing that.

  7. So much warm, fuzzy inspiration! ';) And yes, may we see more of your work?

  8. Love it. That letter from him is a visual treasure.

  9. Andreas,you are that Eric today and i see myself in your place! love you,you saved my life many times! :)

  10. Do you miss working at Disney now that you have left Andreas?

  11. I love your and Hans' stories shared here; they remind me of my experience with legends in my own field. It's great to see that you animation greats had similar beginnings! (Und ich komme auch aus dem Rheinland…)

  12. hab gerade deine seite entdeckt,zumdem das herculesbild was du mir 1997 in dinslaken gezeichnet hattest.meld dich mal, grüsse aus dinslaken

  13. Eric will always be my"favorite" of the Nine Old Men" because he was such a gentle and generous mentor. I recognize the caricature of mine but don't remember drawing it. Do you have the original? It may have been the rough I did for a button they did celebrating Eric's anniversary. The unknown person in your photo with Lornaand Dan Haskett and Henry and Kroyer is Rebecca "Myrt" Canfield, who used to dress up as Alice Cooper. She was from Kansas and had been in the military. These photos of Eric are wonderful.

    1. You did this drawing of Eric years ago during a meeting.
      Do you want it back?
      Wished I had taken more photos back then. Hans Bacher has the best photo/video archive.

  14. No I don't want it back. I'm amazed you kept it. Someday I'll have to twist Hans's arm to see his treasure trove of photos.

  15. I remember Eric came down to San Diego with some other animators back in the early 80's. I believe they were doing a recruiting tour hitting many colleges. My Dad took me down to see the presentation.I was 12 or 13 at the time.I remember him talking about what a great job animation was, and how Disney was the best place to work. I remember asking him how old I had to be to work there...he laughed,and said to look him up after I had gone to college and had learned how to "really draw". unfortunately, he was gone just a few years later. Thanks for sharing!!

  16. hi john, you don't have to twist my arm for that...

  17. Amazing Letter. Such a great man from that writing and the stories. Thanks for sharing the his tip.

  18. Eric Larson was a gentle and generous man. Yet, I always found him somewhat intimidating. Maybe it was the white hair or the shirt and tie. Going to his office was like being summoned by the school principal. On occasion, he could be stern. After all, the man was a legend.

  19. My grandparents lived across the street from Eric Larson in Flintridge and I had the privilege of spending Thanksgiving together with the three of them in 1985. He was very nice and happy to talk to this youngster about his work. I remember him showing us an impressive bronze sculpture of himself surrounded by Disney characters, probably presented to him at retirement.

  20. Andreas:
    Oh, days of yore. I somehow stumbled on this photo of us with Eric. I'm so glad someone was taking pictures in those days. In my case, I'd forgotten about all that hair! Oh please god, grow it back! Add something here if you can. That's beautiful Noni Petrovitz sitting next to me. For posterity. Loved that Eric.

  21. What an enjoyable story (post) and what an amazing letter to have received as you were getting started! I enjoy reading about newer animators and the "Nine Old Men," but posts like this where you are able to bridge that past and the present are such a treat. Thank you!

  22. I'm a big fan of rodents and specially of Eric Larsons Roquerfort! Thanks for this post! :)
    And thanks for sharing this memories with us! :)