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.