Thursday, July 11, 2013

Eric Larson, Animator & Mentor

Eric Larson's animation training program, which started in the mid 1970s, was groundbreaking and very important. I was so lucky to have benefited from Eric's one on one mentoring. He was the most patient teacher I have ever known. Even when you knew that what you were showing to Eric was REALLY bad stuff, he always saw something positive in your work that encouraged you to keep going. He would often flip a trainee's scene, and most likely he pointed out that there was too much going on in the animation, too many ideas. What is your statement here, what are you trying to communicate? After a brief discussion Eric would pull out drawings that weren't necessary, and he simplified and clarified your whole scene. It was magical to see him do this. Eric also drew over poses and strengthened them, so by the time you were done with your session you left Eric's office with something that WORKED.
This photo above was taken in the early 1980s in a screenting room of the original animation building. In the back are Ron Clements and John Musker, and there is also animation assistant Sue Frankenburger.

Many of today's influential animation artists went through Eric's training program, including Tim Burton, Brad Bird, Ron and John, Mark Henn, Andy Gaskill and Glen Keane, just to name a few.

I love many characters Eric animated over the years. Figaro from Pinocchio, the flying horses in Fantasia, the Owl in Bambi, Sasha from Peter and the Wolf, Little Toot, Joe and Jenny from Once Upon a Wintertime, Roquefort from The Aristocats among many other assignments. 
But I think that Eric did some of his best work for Lady & the Tramp. He animated the first half of the sequence with the beaver at the zoo. Milt Kahl did the second half.
These drawings might not be a stunning as Milt's, but Eric's acting is top notch. The effort the beaver puts into trying to move a big log into the water is so entertaining and believable.
Whoever wrote on the made up model sheet that these are Milt's drawings is wrong.

Eric's shining moment in the film is his animation of Peg. I swear, Milt Kahl told me that he believes it's the best stuff in the picture.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. There's something about the animation of Peg that always grabs you as the viewer. You really can't take your eyes off of it, it's so good!

    I didn't realize the first half of the beaver scene was Eric Larson at the helm. I always thought it was all Milt Kahl.

  3. I can believe, that Eric was great mentor and techer. Seen some videos where Eric is, also on your blog, he´s so calm and clear when explaining things.

  4. Andreas,
    I would like to talk to you about help with a project, but I can't find any contact info online. I've been working with David Nethery over at AAU. Please let me know how I can get in touch with you. Thanks!

    1. Justin, do you mind leaving your email here?
      Otherwise, I believe David has my email address.

  5. Hi Andreas,
    I am a student of animation and I have been following your blog for some time now. I really appreciate that you have put all of these images up so that those of us on the outside can learn from them. I was wondering if by some chance, I could get in contact with you to talk about animation. Its almost as though you are already my mentor by posting on this blog and talking in depth about what goes into making a great animation. I have learned so much from this blog. Thank you for all you have done.

    - Ed Pokoj

    1. Hi Ed,
      I guess the easiest way to get in touch would be if you leave me your email. If that's ok with you I'll contact you.


    2. Hi Andreas,
      My email is
      I have a vimeo account where I post my work, just so you can get an understanding of where I am as far as animation goes.

      I look forward to hearing from you,
      Ed Pokoj

  6. Dear Mr. Deja
    Do you happen to know how many students were involved in the training program, approximately? Just curious about the numbers.
    Thank you!

    1. I don't know the exact number, but probably well under 100 over the years.

  7. Also, I was wondering if Gopher from Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree was also animated by Larson or Kahl. He is a very similar character to the beaver in Lady and the Tramp.

    1. I think the gopher was animated by John Lounsbery.
      You're right, very similar to the beaver down to the voice.

  8. Hey Andreas,

    I was wondering, are you currently mentoring people one on one like Eric did? Because I think it is very important that you pass on what you have learned over the years so it won't be forgotten.