AHOF Mourns the Loss of One of Its Dearest Friends, Greatest Supporter, and International Animation Master.
It is with our deepest sadness that we announce the passing of our dear friend Larry Lauria. Without Larry, The Animation Hall of Fame would not exist! First let us tell you a bit about Larry's amazing beginnings with animation, and his wonderful world-wide career.
Larry always loved drawing and shortly after being discharged after the Vietnam War he returned to California where he was originally from. He applied to Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California to explore a career in animation. And did he explore it! He was extremely fortunate to be taught by some of the greats of animation and his instructors were among the best in the world—Chuck Jones, Ward Kimball and Ben Washam, whom he also became friends with. After a time he started out not only working with them on their own projects but also was absorbed into the growing community of Animation in the LA area.
He assisted with and became friends with Steve Bosustow, Friz Freleng, Bill Melendez, Bill Justice, Walt Kelly, Bill Littlejohn, John and Faith Hubley, and Walter Lantz. His easygoing personality and high work ethic and wonderful wit garnered him many friends and admirers in the trade. Also, during this period of his life he met and eventually married his wife Patricia. Patricia was a statistician for the government and shortly after they were married her position was transferred to the Washington D.C. area and they relocated to Alexandria, Virginia.
A short period of time after relocating, Larry opened his own studio The Animation House in Alexandria, Virginia where it thrived and was very successful. He won many awards and accolades for his work from his commercials both on the local and national television level, to his work on Star Trek: The Motion Picture, to creating his own film Ruppert's Olympic Feet for the 1984 Olympics Animation Festival.
Patricia and Larry, even though they both were pursuing careers, managed to have twin daughters Kristen and Allison come into their life; and then shortly followed by their only son Matt.
Also during this time Larry founded ASIFA Washington and was a member of the Animation Collectors Club of Washington. However, one of his greatest gifts was as a teacher. In Washington, D.C. you could find him on Saturday mornings at The Animation Station in The Capitol Children's Museum (Which later was refurbished by Chuck Jones and Warner Brothers Studios because of Larry), or the American Film Institute at the Kennedy Center, or the Corcoran School of Art. Usually on Sunday's it was watching or listening to the Washington Redskin's football games.
During this time, 1988, is when AHOF's Executive Vice President and co-founder Nancy Miles first met Larry. "I as well as Larry was invited to the Smithsonian celebration of Mickey Mouse's birthday by The Walt Disney Company and Michael Eisner. Larry being the local professional animator and me being the only animation art collector. We had heard about each other but had never met even though we lived in the same area. They put us at a long table along with Eisner, Roy Disney, Sharon Disney, and Dwight Bowers the curator. We were probably the only non-press people there. I had smuggled in an animation cel for Eisner to sign; not knowing Sharon and Roy were to be there, too."
"Eisner was too new to have had much influence on any animation so I chose a cel of Scrooge McDuck from the then current TV series Ducktails. Larry loved my Ducktails cel and wanted to see my collection. I was thankful to be sitting across from him as he had a sharpie and I forgot a pen (I did not want to use the collectible ball point one they gave me) so I was able to get it signed by all. I was amazed that Larry had met my mentor animator Phil Duncan and knew all the then greats."
"A lifelong friendship started there. We supported one another's animation efforts. I even helped with Larry and Patricia's kids one day while painting (magic markers) some cels with him for a commercial he was creating."
In 1991, Larry had heard through the grapevine of an opening for the Disney Animation Program in Dun Loaghaire, Ireland as an instructor. They decided to shed their urban lifestyle, sell their house, and take the position. Nancy recounts: "When he decided to take the position in Ireland in '91 they all stayed with me after their house was sold for a week until they flew off."
As it turned out once he arrived he was not only to be the only instructor, but was to run the entire Disney program. Eventually the program was discontinued, but Larry decided to stay in Ireland because of the burgeoning animation push going on there. He eventually took over the Classical Animation Program at the Ballyfermount University in Dublin, which produced animators for Gary Goldman, Don Bluth, and John Pomeroy's animation company Sullivan Bluth Studios. He also worked closely with Jimmy Murakami's studio Murakami-Wolf Studios, and with Cartoon Ireland, and the Dublin Business Innovation Center.
Larry and Patricia had decided that they wanted the children to go to High School back in the United States. They returned with Larry being asked to work once again for the Walt Disney Company by Roy Disney himself. He helped form The Disney Academy and the Disney Interactive Magic Artist software and curriculum in California. Eventually he opened and designed the curriculum and was responsible for The Walt Disney Institute Animation Division in Orlando, Florida, also designing and overseeing the animation curriculum in Disney Quest. This lasted for several years before the new hierarchy at Disney decided to close The Walt Disney Institute.
One thing led to another and Larry taught animation and drawing over a period of years at several colleges and universities such as Sheridan College in Canada, Principia College in Illinois, and then the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia.
In 1999, he was invited to give a presentation at the Savannah Film Festival and then became a visiting professor at SCAD before eventually accepting a permanent teaching position with the school.
Cheryl Cabrera, one of the Animation Hall of Fame's Board of Director's first saw Larry Lauria at his presentation during the 2000 Savannah Film Festival when she was in graduate school at the Savannah College of Art and Design. When teaching character animation a few years later in 2002, Larry showed up in her office one day to discuss ways of collaborating in their teaching. He was genuinely impressed with the work coming out of her classes, and told her that it was rare to find a 3D animation teacher like her. "I remember how valid and respected he made me feel. I was eager to work with him, since I had respected and admired his work. He was so down to earth. We really had a connection in the fact that we wanted our students to excel in class and beyond."
"Our friendship extended beyond the classroom. Larry and his wife Tricia came to my housewarming, leaving with some of my artwork. I was giving away work to everyone who came as a way of clearing out some space. He was impressed with some charcoal drawings of James Dean and Madonna that I had done in college, and he thought his son, Matt would love them. Later, after Larry left SCAD, he continued to call occasionally to see how things were going. After I accepted a position at the University of Central Florida, we would regularly chat on my long commute. He gave me a great drawing of me as a UCF Knight (their mascot), which hangs in my office. He was always drawing for his friends and students. We are so blessed to have a piece of his art and a piece of him. That was Larry; always giving, inspiring, and sharing what he knew."
Hal Miles, CEO and co-founder of the Animation Hall of Fame met and became very good friends with Larry when he first came to SCAD. "I remember first meeting Larry when I gave a lecture on my career and animation in general. The lecture was in this wonderful setting, a little turn of the 20th century house that SCAD had purchased and made into the traditional animation teaching facility. Larry was so nice after the lecture and we talked for a long time and realized that we both knew and worked with a lot of the same people. We kept in touch from time to time after that point, until a year later I was asked to come back to SCAD as an animation special project supervisor and eventually animation and visual effects professor. Larry and I picked up where we left off; and a few days after I was there helped me in finding a permanent apartment to live in at the same complex that he and Patricia were living at on Wilmington Island just outside of Savannah proper."
"On one occasion after I became settled in just in passing I told Larry about my original animation collection and how much I loved collecting and preserving this wonderful art form. I showed him my collection at the time and he thought it was really great. He then told me about an animation art collector friend of his who lived in Virginia, Nancy McClellan, and who has just moved to Wilmington Island as well. When one collector finds out about another collector that they weren't aware of it's always a special day."
Nancy recounts; "Larry was known as a matchmaker having introduced people interested in animation to their future spouses. Larry introduced Hal and I to each other and we initially struck up a friendship. The next year we were married."
Larry was very instrumental in helping create initially the Savannah International Animation Festival and then one year later the Animation Hall Of Fame. He was the first lecturer at the first festival and created and started our Doodle Board featured every year. He also helped in advising us on our festival poster and flyer designs and even designed and created our 2011 poster and flyer.
After many years at SCAD, Larry decided to leave the day-to-day classroom teaching for a while and pursue many of the wonderful animated story ideas that he had and so he created his Island Animation Studio. During the same time, he founded The Toon Institute where he taught classes online. He also would journey around to many of the wonderful areas on Wilmington and Tybee Island sketching and painting in watercolors its beauty. With a huge love of traveling, Larry and Patricia would hop on a plane at a moment's notice. France was their favorite destination and they would visit Annecy for the annual animation festival occasionally.
Eventually, when Patricia decided to pursue a new career Larry and she ended up in Orlando, Florida once again. While still working on his own projects and instructing on line he took a teaching position at Full Sail University teaching the fundamentals with 2D animation. He absolutely loved teaching the fundamentals.
In Larry's own words, "After three fun-filled years in Orlando, it's time to do something new - something more substantial. When we first came to Orlando, this time, it was not for working with Disney but rather this time I followed my wife on her career move."
"I took a job at Full Sail University in East Winter Park, Florida, to teach the fundamentals with 2D animation. It was one of three different animation jobs I had been offered that day."
"I love to teach the fundamentals. I am really good at it and enjoy seeing the light come on for the students. For most courses, doing the fundamentals in 2D animation is the quickest and best way for students to learn the basics. It is TRUTH time. No hardware or software or other gizmos for the students to learn- just paper and pencil and a little elbow grease. Now there's the TRUTH in spades."
"This September, I celebrated my 38th year in the industry, I look back without regret except for the premiere of ANIMAGIC in Belfast. I should have been there for the students and the premiere of the film we worked so hard on... Unfortunately, my new job at the Disney Institute would not allow me to participate...other than that no regrets.
Fast forward back to the present..."
"So, the adventure continues... I know animation will be involved and teaching will be involved... and TRUTH will prevail."
Larry and Patricia left Orlando and relocated once again. Larry continued to work on his animated films and develop new and thought provoking projects. He lectured from time to time and continued to help new talent flourish and thrive.
Larry was working on his latest short at the time of his sudden and unexpected passing.
Nancy Miles; "Larry was what my friend Preston Blair once referred to about my mentor Phil Duncan—An Animator's Animator; and I believe he was America's finest instructor in Classical Animation and its fundamentals."
Hal Miles; "Knowing Larry has been one of the great joys of my life. Without his friendship I never would have met Nancy who is my soul mate and love of my life and we definitely would have never founded the Animation Hall of Fame. You will be missed by all of us, but your influence on the current and new generation of animators and designers will be seen for many years and generations to come."
Larry, you will never be forgotten and we will always miss you.