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Buzz Potamkin (1945-2012)

Sad news to report. Buzz Potamkin, one of animation’s most beloved producers on both coasts, passed away from pancreatic cancer on Sunday, April 22nd. Potamkin founded Perpetual Motion Pictures in 1968 with two employees. Over the next decade Perpetual became New York City’s largest animation studio. Buzz produced hundreds of TV commercials, including the Hawaiian Punch series. In 1979, his successful production of The Berenstain Bears Christmas Tree led to a series of prime time and daytime cartoons based on the famed children’s books. In 1981, Potamkin produced the famous “I Want My MTV” ad campaign. He founded and ran Southern Star Productions from 1984 to 1991 (series included CBS Storybreak, Peter Pan, Teen Wolf). In 1990 with Roy Disney as executive producer, Potamkin produced the TV Academy’s Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue, the only animated program to be telecast simultaneously on all four major TV networks . Buzz also served with Disney as honorary executive producer for the UNICEF Animation Consortium .

Buzz briefly worked at the Walt Disney Company in 1991 before joining Hanna Barbera as Executive Producer & Head of TV (through 1996) where he championed the World Premiere Shorts (“What A Cartoon“) unit, which led to Dexter’s Laboratory, Johnny Bravo, Cow and Chicken, and The Powerpuff Girls. Among his many projects at H-B, Potamkin was Executive Producer of the Dr. Seuss’ special Dayzie-Head Maysie (1995). After Hanna Barbera, Potamkin served on the board of Visionary Media which produced the cutting edge web series WhirlGirl and produced and directed the direct-to-video film, Buster & Chauncey’s Silent Night (1998), through his own company, Project X. His awards include four Clios, the MTV Video Award, more than 20 ASIFA commendations, the Cannes Gold Lion, the Venice Silver Lion, the Cable Ace, the Peabody, the Scott Newman Award, two New York Festival Gold Medals and three Silver Medals, The Child in Our Time Award from MIFED, two Humanitas and seven Emmy nominations. Potamkin was well known and well-liked in New York and L.A., by artists and network execs alike. His presence on the animation scene will be missed.

  • Hatter

    Aww man, that’s awful! :(

    • Justin

      It sure is! I love “The Berenstain Bears’ Christmas Tree” and the Berenstain Bears daytime show that Buzz did.

  • I had been e-mailing with Buzz through his long illness and was hoping he’d pull through.
    We were discussing projects, and, as he was since I started with him as a gofer in 1970, he was extremely positive and supportive. He claimed I was his longest employee and reveled he’d “found” me. When he left for California in 1983, he entrusted his company to Vinny Cafarelli, Marilyn Kraemer and me. He loved that we had kept his name.
    What I appreciated most about Buzz as a boss, a producer, a consultant was that he was sure about his position in production. He often said that he couldn’t draw– that was up to others, but he was invaluable with every other aspect of creating and putting a production out there.
    It is a terrible loss, and one way too soon, for our business. And I will miss him.

  • My condolences.

  • robert alvarez

    Buzz was a very kind and gentle man. I’m glad I had the opportunity to work with at Hanna Barbera. Thank you Buzz for the good memories.

  • My first encounter with Buzz (he was well entrenched as a legend at the time) was in the form of 4 pages of single spaced notes on a 6 minute piece for Cartoon Network.

    “What a pain in the ass,” I thought.

    Of course, he was largely correct in his assessment.

    As I got to know him a little through the years -an occasional pitch or a meeting here and there -I found that I genuinely liked him and he was a bright, hardworking guy who invested himself in the work.

    Sad news.

  • Buzz Potamkin is the reason I’m in the animation business, and gave me the lessons I needed to survive and thrive. He was an inspirational guy to many. R.I.P.

  • Bobby Ushiro

    That’s terrible, what a big loss to the animation industry. Rest in peace, Buzz.. may we forever remember you for your work in animation.

  • David Sameth

    Buzz gave me my first job as well, and while I have no idea why he trusted a runner to become a producer for Perpetual Motion, I’m eternally grateful to him that he did.

    On second thought, I do know why: he trusted his own judgment. He shared lessons I still use today….and I always think of him when I do. He was a lovely, good man who will be missed.

  • debra j. solomon

    I met Buzz when working on a pilot with Jeff Borkin for Disney in 2004 . Buzz was our producer from that pilot sprang a friendship that nurtured me till his passing… In 2005 Buzz became my “Uncle Buzz” when I my ex walked out and we began our regular lunches where Buzz would talk to me about my finances, finding a
    apartment – lawyers- what you had to pay lawyers, ( egads), and always my work…. Knowing when a difficult problem came up that Buzz was there to offer advice meant so much to me… Slowly over the years I realized that everyone I knew, knew Buzz and that
    my “rock” was a giant in the the industry. Buzz’s accomplishments are staggering, making his generosity and caring spirit all the more amazing.
    Like so many others I miss Buzz so much.

  • bob kurtz

    buzz was one of the good guys. he will be missed.

  • Jed Martinez

    Judging by the photo you’d used, Jerry, is that the storyboard art for one of Buzz’s works, “The Great Ringtail Caper”?

  • Alan Keith

    Sad, sad news. Buzz took me under his wing 20 years ago and taught me about the animation process / business. He inspired me to go beyond the rote, to explore, and to be comfortable with the creative process. He represents one of a treasured few who connected me deeply to a world and a business that I enjoy to this day. I feel a sense of great loss and send my condolences to his family.

  • beamish13

    I think I speak for a generation of Americans when I say that CARTOON ALL-STARS TO THE RESCUE warped me forever.

    • Chris Sobieniak

      Oh there’s something to play on his behalf!

  • James Madison

    Always sad to entries like this.


  • It was an honor to work with Buzz at Visionary Media, and to maintain a friendship with him afterwards. We used each other as an excuse to eat at the Fine and Schapiro deli. He was an amazing individual who had a in-depth knowledge about a wide variety of things. Buzz was one of the good guys.

  • Clint H.

    Always sad to see an animation legend go. RIP Buzz. You shall be missed.

  • Gordon Kent

    Buzz was a truly wonderful guy. I was lucky enough to work with him at Southern Star Productions from it’s beginnings. He gave me opportunities to learn things I never knew I could do and, though he always kept a watchful eye, he left me alone to do my job. This was a great lesson. Buzz trusted his judgment. He hired people he believed could do the job and as long as he felt you were doing it, he never interfered.

    Things were never the same in the LA animation community after he went back to New York. But at least he was still around.

    Now that he is gone, I will still have my memories…

    Be at peace, Buzz…

  • The Gee

    This really is sad news.

    If there is a saving grace it is that he made a great impact on many people and that added to the work he did is a fine legacy.

    My condolences.

  • I met Buzz when he was producing “Buster and Chauncey’s Good Night” for Sony. The film had a green suit out in LA who kept holding things up, so it never got the animation time it deserved. Characters were designed by Dan Haskett, I helped in the cleanup, and the Production Manager was a woman I worked for at Ovation and at Kim and Gifford and whose name escapes me, shame on me. She had very light hair – anyone?
    To return to the subject, Buzz was a great boss, and I had had experiences with some bad ones, so I counted my blessings at the time. I especially feel for Candy and those who knew him so much better. His spirit goes on.