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Boyd Kirkland and John Dorman, RIP

John Dorman and Boyd Kirkland
Drawing by John Dorman (left) and still from “Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero” directed, written and produced by Boyd Kirkland

The animation community lost two major talents last weekend–Boyd Kirkland (1950-2011) and John Dorman (1952-2011). Click on their names to read their obits on the Animation Guild Blog.

Kirkland was a director of many classic episodes of the groundbreaking American superhero cartoon Batman: The Animated Series. He also directed X-Men: Evolution and directed, wrote, boarded, and produced at numerous studios since entering the business in 1978. More thoughts about his passing can be found at Comics Continuum.

John Dorman had worked in animation since 1974, primarily as a board artist, designer and art director. At Ruby-Spears, he supervised the development department where he brought on greats like Jack Kirby, Gil Kane, and Doug Wildey. His list of credits range from Ralph Bakshi’s Hey Good Lookin’ to Spumco’s The Ripping Friends to Disney’s Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas.

There are some nice memories of Dorman on Buzz Dixon’s blog including this memorable tale:

While working on the animated Moses film, Prince of Egypt, John was assigned the task of storyboarding the parting of the Red Sea. The Exec in charge had some Strong Ideas how the story should be told, or rather, re-told. Specifically, to make it more “female friendly”, the Exec ordered the scene written with Moses’ wife breaking his staff across her knee & telling him to have faith in himself if he wanted to part the sea.

John was not a very spiritual, much less religious man, but he knew enough about the Bible to know camel dung when he smelled it. Still, a job was a job & John needed the money, so he storyboarded the scene as written…but he also “plused” it a bit.

John turned the storyboard in and the Exec smiled at how well John had interpreted the Exec’s ideas, then noticed something and frowned. “This is all wonderful work,” the Exec said to John, “but who’s this figure here? The one in the cape with the horned helmet and a big hammer?”

“Oh, that’s Thor,” John said. “I figured since you were [m]ucking around with the Bible I might as well throw him in.”

  • The Gee

    Thanks for putting this up.

    I just also wanted to point out that headline in industry news section to the obit for Tony Geiss. He didn’t just write those two features, he also apparently wrote for Sesame Street for years. And as I found out elsewhere, his dad was an animator for Fleischer’s.

    My condolences to those who knew them, and to those who adored them and there works.

  • That’s really sad. One of my inspirations to get involved in animation was Batman: The animated Series.

    • Mine too. I heard about Mr Kirkland’s passing the other day on Twitter and it saddened me. As a Batman enthusiast I still hold up The Animated Series as generally the finest example of Batman ever put to screen and Mr Kirkland had a lot to do with that. He will be missed.

  • Man, so young. Bad, bad luck and a big loss for the business.

  • Two AMAZING board artists..I didn’t know Boyd, but we’d pass around his storyboard samples as the gold standard on an action show he freelanced on and John was incredibly gifted as well, working with him was interesting in so many ways…the stories, the eccentricity and most of all the talent….RIP

  • Christopher Cook

    Boyd Kirkland helped give Batman: The Animated Series the depth and smartness superhero cartoons haven’t had since the Fleischer Superman shorts. His passing is a big loss in the industry.

    • Iritscen

      I looked over a list of episodes of Batman:TAS, and most of the very best episodes are directed by Kirkland. He’ll be greatly missed.

  • Tom Minton

    In addition to being a prolific and experienced creative talent, John Dorman was a near-mythic character with an epic sense of the absurd. He was much more than a storyboard artist or art director, as anyone who worked for him in the early to mid 1980’s can attest. He was especially adept at helping gifted people (even a few legends) once their industry had hung them out to dry. In 1983 he paid a talented young storyboard apprentice named Dan Riba two hundred bucks over weekly union scale just because he knew that beginning wage was not enough to live on. I witnessed examples of John’s boundless energy, craziness and generosity of spirit over and over while working in his Ruby Spears storyboard/development unit. The recently-publicized 1980’s Jack Kirby development paintings now being hawked by Ruby-Spears and the Kroffts were all done under Joe Ruby’s and John’s supervision. Jim Woodring, Duncan Marjoribanks, Kathy Altieri, James Gallego, Tim Burgard, Rick Hoberg, Steve Swaja, Noreen Beasley, Teresa Birch, Brian Burr Chin, Keith Tucker, Thom Enriquez, Kurt Conner, Bob Kline, Dan Riba, Doug Wildey, Gil Kane and Jack Kirby and me (please correct if I’ve forgotten anyone) were all staffers in John’s legendary Los Angeles Bastards crew at one point or another. John defined ‘intense’ and could be tough to please but ultimately took the people he believed in more seriously than he did himself. Through it all, John couldn’t help but speak truth to power, even when it cost him dearly. Those who dealt with John in his decline didn’t experience the real person and judged him harshly. People tended to either love or loathe John but they did not tend to forget him. At his best, he also defined ‘courageous.’

    [Amid, John Dorman was born in 1952. The Local #839 blog date is correct.]

  • It is such a shame to hear this. My condolences to their family and friends.

  • Tom Minton

    Two more names I forgot: David Silverman and Alfredo Alcala, both stalwarts of the Dorman L.A. Bastards unit.

  • I’m glad you posted something about Boyd Kirkland’s passing. I wasn’t sure if you were since there is hardly any mention of action adventure stuff on this site. I grew up on B:TAS and I probably wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing now if that show didn’t exist.

  • I was sad to hear of Boyd Kirkland’s passing. I always enjoyed his work on the shows i watched growing up. Thankfully that work will always be around to inspire others.

  • Dan Riba

    I wish to express my condolences to Boyd’s family and loved ones.He was a tremendous talent with an extensive knowledge of the animation process. When B:TAS crew was coming together, Boyd’s layout experience was indispensable. After Kevin’s first show was storyboarded, Boyd, while waiting for his first board to be finished, took over the layout department for about a week. He taught the inexperienced artists and re-taught the ones that were used doing layouts for limited-animation.He even did many layouts himself. His layouts were practically key-animation. One scene in particular that stands out is from ON LEATHER WINGS. The scene is on the police station rooftop between Commissioner Gordon and Detective Bullok. The hand gestures, facial acting, and the effects of the wind from the helicopter blades on the characters, were details enhanced by Boyd’s beautiful layouts. The animation industry, as well as the world, will be a poorer place without him.

  • Ronnie del Carmen

    My condolences to Boyd’s family, colleagues and loved ones. His countenance was always of sureness and confidence. His talent as a director for staging and crafting the storytelling of a show was evident from the first time I met him as a trembling-in-my boots newbie to storyboards. A hallowed skill and tradition he already practiced to a master degree. He patiently guided me through the needs of my very first show on Batman: The Animated series, “Nothing to Fear.” I had a lot to learn but he took all that in stride and made an amazing show. I remember him to be a tell-it-like-it-is kind of guy who walks the talk. He also likes sharing and would make tapes of lazer disc only anime and other rare animation for the crews learn from. I am proud to have known him.

  • Louie del Carmen

    First time I met Boyd was as a young turk in the business and some 13 years later he called to offer me a job. The interview spanned several phone conversations and though we never got to work together, I made sure he knew I admired his work of which he said to me: “bah, that’s all in the past, it what do today that matters”. Great words from a great man.

  • Michael Rianda

    That Thor story is hilarious. I’d want to hang out with that guy

  • Martin Bramwell

    Sorry to jump in totally off-topic.

    Would anyone here be able to send an email to Duncan Marjoribanks?

    I only found this blog using a Google alert on his name. We were friends in high school in the late sixties. Ever since I saw him creditted for his work with “The Little Mermaid” I have wanted to send him my sincerest congratulations, and well ¡thanks! too for such delightful entertainment.

    I’d be delighted to hear from him.

    (I assume Amid can see my email address. Hope so.)

  • Ken Boyer

    I worked with Boyd a few years ago on the “Alpha & Omega” feature. He was a very nice guy & talented board artist. Sadly, I only received a union email notification regarding Boyd’s passing. Not John Dorman’s. The union also failed to mention Glenn Schmitz’s passing a few year’s ago. An unmistakable example of shameful politics. I believe neither seemed to be in favorable standing with 839.
    Although Glenn & John could not have been on more opposite ends of the spectrum in many regards, those who remember them still shake their heads in awe and respect of their raw talent.
    I will miss them all & continue to look to my memories of their work to inspire me in pursuit of doing work that is above standard.

  • pin

    Dorman was a man to be loved and feared. RIP Splunge.

  • james madison

    So sad to hear about the passing of great creatives.


  • rj

    Most knew John Dorman as a fantastic creative storyboard artist. Fewer were privledged to know him as a lakerboard icon. His writing often exceeded his drawing talents. Finally to his long awaited rest, it was always known to his friends that he would pass before his time. It was his way of living life with no boundaries, larger than we can understand but can appreciate.

    Randy Johnson

    If anyone knows details of services, please post. It would be a shame to miss it.

  • Brian Chin

    In the great Bastard Central in the sky, John Dorman must be showing up late again, while the likes of Gil Kane and Doug Wildey are cooling their heels in John’s office. And then John rails at the Hungarian restaurant next door and yells at them with a bull-horn. There was always a case of Coors in the office refrigerator to be consumed constantly as we worked. Any new or veteran cartoonist looking for work, John would talk to them personally and look at their portfolios on the spot. There were no production assistants lugging around portfolios, nor were there “storyboard tests” in those days! But John did have “loyalty tests,” though, heh heh.

    • Jim Woodring

      Yes, those were wild days. Out of all the memorable things that were said and done at Bastard Central, Brian Chin got off the two most memorable (to me, anyway) lines. One was a well-deserved rejoinder to one of Doug Wildey’s leathery zingers and one was delivered to John. If you and I were talking in a bar some where I’d repeat them, as I have many many times… but they might be unseemly here and now. Ah, welladay.

  • John’s sister posted the following on my blog:

    Judith Dorman Aquino say:

    All you good people…. I do not have your contact information so please be aware that my brother’s services are to be as follows:

    Services for John Dorman will be held this Saturday Feb 12
    From 2:00pm to 6:00pm

    Pierce Brothers Chapel
    (Corner Victory and Cahuenga)
    10621 Victory Blvd
    CA 91606

    Casual attire please