Dorse Lanpher (1935-2011)

Veteran effects animator Dorse Lanpher passed away this past Friday (12/16). His presence will be sorely missed.

I first met Dorse in the period after the Disney rebellion, during the making of The Secret Of Nimh (the United Artists publicity photo above is from 1981) and though I can’t say I knew him well on a personal level, he was always a friendly face to run into a various animation events. I just had a nice conversation with him at last month’s CTN Expo.

Lanpher was one of the industry’s best, having honed his craft at Disney on Sleeping Beauty and 101 Dalmatians. He left the studio during production of The Sword In The Stone to work on industrial films. He directed a handful of religious TV specials in the 1970s (Christmas Is, Easter Is, etc.) then returned to Disney to do effects animation on The Rescuers, Pete’s Dragon and The Black Hole. Joining the Bluth renegades he contributed to Nimh, American Tail, Dragon’s Lair and Space Ace. Lanpher rejoined the Disney fold with Roger Rabbit, then toiled on every significant Disney animated feature, from The Little Mermaid (1989) all the way through to Home on The Range (2004). Last year Lanpher self-published a memoir called Flyin’ Chunks and Other Things to Duck: Memoirs of a Life Spent Doodling for Dollars. The book, and his blog, are well worth reading.

His artist granddaughter, Holly Conrad, sent in this tribute:

“Dorse Lanpher was my hero. He made my artistic career possible with his encouragement and talent, he was like a father to me and his only complaint was that I couldn’t get more famous than him (that would never happen, Grandpa). His animation will live on and so will all that he taught me, even how to play the ukulele. He was proud of me enough to write about me on his blog and in his book and I’m never going to forget to live my life as art, as he always wanted and encouraged me to. And neither should any of us. He lives on in his art and in his words.

He liked like Cherry Pie from Marie Callender’s and Greyhounds. I recommend we all have one in his name, and in the name of those amazing effects that were animated by hand by so many talented artists, my grandpa included, and may they inspire generations of creative people with their magic. They inspired me.”


  • http://www.alexanderrannie.com Alexander Rannie

    Thanks, Dorse, for making animation more memorable with your art and the studios more enjoyable with your presence.

  • Fraser MacLean

    This is very sad news. I first had the pleasure of meeting and working alongside Dorse in 1987 when he and Dave Bossert came over to London to swell the ranks of Chris Knott’s Special Effects Department on “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”. At that early stage I knew about as little as it was possible to know about the history of Special Effects Animation – but the moment Dorse’s name was mentioned, Effects Animator Kevin Davies began enthusing and exclaiming about the idea that we would have such a Titan of hand-drawn effects in our midst. For me the main buzz in having Dorse sitting and working at the very next desk to me was that he was such good fun to be around and always in a good mood, never anything other than helpful. 10 years later – when I wound up working as Artistic Coordinator on “Tarzan” at Disney Feature in Burbank, the afternoon “red line” CAPS and Art Direction sessions that were held in Ann Tucker’s office would often be interrupted by the unrestrained comedy noises emanating from the open door of Dorse’s office – which was right next to Ann’s. He was such a pleasure to be around – and so modest and unassuming, considering the scale and the uniqueness of his talent. He’ll be sorely missed – my sympathies to all his family and friends.

  • Pedro Nakama

    This is very sad. Dorse did some really good FX animation for the visual effects division of Disney on a lot of their features including The Black Hole. He also trained a bunch of up and coming FX animators in the 80′s.

  • http://MrFun'sBlog Floyd Norman

    We both had much in common. Everything from our age to beginning our careers at Disney the same year. We both went into the military the same time and began our own companies the same time. Naturally, the two of us returned to Disney to wrap up our careers. Circle of life, eh?

    You managed to get out before I did, Dorse. However, like the old days, we’ll be working together again soon.

  • Tony Bancroft

    I too, was fortunante to work with Dorse. He was a great guy and a huge talent that helped so many young artists in this industry. Dorse, you will be remembered and missed.

  • Rusty Mills

    I worked with Dorse on An American Tail and have always told him he made my scenes look better. he was not only an amazing talent but one of the most friendly and likeable human beings I’ve ever known.
    I’ll miss our conversations Dorse.
    -Rusty

  • http://www.gagneint.com Michel Gagne

    I worked with Dorse while at Bluth and kept in touch through the years. Dorse was a cool guy and a great effects animator. I’m very sad to hear of his passing.

  • Jorgen Klubien

    He left us just a little too soon and too suddenly. Perhaps that’s the best way to bow out, without much fanfare or forewarning. Dorse struck me as a no nonsense’s kind of man… his devotion to Bluth at the time we worked on American Tail together, was complete, although for me somewhat misplaced… but he was in my mind always one real old school professional Disney artist of the first kind!

  • http://hand-drawn-animation.blogspot.com David Nethery

    Greyhound, check. ✔

    Cherry Pie , check. ✔

    (raised glass) Here’s to you, Dorse. Aloha and RIP.

    I can’t add much more to what’s been said above and the outpouring of grief and affection for Dorse posted all over Facebook where I first read this sad news. Dorse was a major talent and mentored so many other great effects animators. As Tony said, he will be missed and remembered.

  • Barry Cook

    We loved you Dorse. Blessed to have known you.

  • http://www.tomsito.com Tom Sito

    It’s hard to put into a few words what Dorse meant to us all. Dorse was a direct link to the golden age effects animators like Jack Buckley and Josh Meador. When I was updating Halas & Whitakers TIMING FOR ANIMATION, he gave me great notes about how you injected personality into the motion of effects- angry fire, laughing water. He was a great effects animator, but he was also a great person.

    A consummate professional, he made waves when he left Disney with the Bluth Group in 1979. Then he made waves when he returned to Disney for Who Framed Roger Rabbit in 1987.

    Dorse was politically opinionated, and we’d all have great arguments. But they never effected our respect for one another or our friendship. He effected a gruff tough facade, but he was a gentle soul below the surface.

    Aloha Dorse, Until we meet again.

  • Shannon Tindle

    I’m so glad I was able to meet and spend time with Dorse. One night, I had the great fortune of being invited out for a Jack Sheldon jazz night with Dorse, my father-in-law Dave Brain, John Tucker and Mitch Rochon. Dorse really wanted some chocolate cake, so I agreed to foot the bill and split a slice with him. Every time I’d see Dorse after that, he’d shake my hand and tell me he owed me a slice of cake. I saw him last Saturday night at a Christmas party, and once again, he shook my hand and swore to get me some chocolate cake.

    I’ll have a slice in your honor pal. You will be sorely missed:)

  • Don Hahn

    Hard to put into words how much Dorse meant to me. To all of us who knew him. Miss him very much and we’ll never see the likes of him again.

  • David Swiss

    He will be deeply missed. RIP Dorse.

  • http://www.bigdaddyanimation.com Lenord Robinson

    Dorse was one of our industry’s finest artists and will be missed greatly. Seems we just spoke recently. It’s hard to believe he’s gone. Thanks Dorse for inspiring us with you great gift. God be with you and your family.

  • http://one1more2time3.wordpress.com hans bacher

    that makes me very sad. I liked dorse a lot, he was honest and said what he meant, – rare. and he was and is an animation legend, one of the best effects animators I ever worked with.

  • Thad Weinlein

    I spent many years working with Dorse both here and in Ireland. He was a consummate Philosopher, Artist, Poet, Professional and Friend; twisted brilliant and always inspiring. A stunning loss of an amazing talent always willing to help work through a production problem, raise the bar artistically or instruct others. Dorse was one of a kind; it seems surreal to be writing of his passing. Rest in peace; you will be remembered and missed.

  • http://totald.blogspot.com/ DarlieB

    A brilliant, individualist, a one of a kind person ( people say that but Dorse really was).. Always a surprise and impossible not to love.