Last August, animation veteran Kevyn Wallace was driving down the 134 Freeway in Los Angeles, just a half mile from the Walt Disney Feature Animation where he had worked in the layout department on films like Tarzan and Mulan. As he was driving, an L. A. driver’s worst fear was realized–he was hit by a drunk driver. Eyewitness accounts from that evening said that the other driver’s car slid around the freeway and clipped another car. Then, the driver’s car spun around and faced Kevyn’s car straight on.
The high-impact crash punctured Kevyn’s gas tank and his car exploded into flames. A couple of good samaritans stopped on the freeway and attempted to rescue him from his burning vehicle. Unable to free him, they ran back to their own cars to find something to cut the seatbelt with. The witnesses reported that Kevyn, strapped into his seat, screamed for help as he struggled to free himself. Meanwhile, Kevyn’s windshield exploded. He miraculously managed to pull himself out of the car–but not before he had suffered burns over 90% of his body. Kevyn was placed into an induced coma and died a little over a month later at the LAC+USC Burn Center.
It was a life tragically cut short at age 47. Kevyn had worked on dozens of animation projects including The Simpsons Movie, The Land Before Time series, and Bébé’s Kids, but at the time of his death, he had embarked on a new career path. He had returned to his alma mater, Art Center College of Design, to earn a Master’s degree in filmmaking. Animation remained always close to his heart. The class project he was working on was a documentary about African-American animators.
I spoke to one of Kevyn’s sisters, Niva, earlier this week. She told me about her family’s efforts to find justice for Kevyn and bring some closure to the painful event. To their disappointment, the driver who caused the crash hasn’t served any time behind bars and has been freed on bond for the past year. His punishment to date has been to wear an alcohol monitoring bracelet and to turn over his passport. The family is understandably frustrated by the drawn-out legal process, but recognizes that the judicial system will ultimately determine whether the other driver bears any responsibility for the death of Kevyn Wallace.
There’s not much Kevyn’s family can do at this point, but they are making a public plea for support from the animation community. They tell me that one of the most important hearings in the case against the other driver will take place this Monday, August 27th. The defendant may either enter an open plea or choose to continue to a jury trial, which would begin next month. Kevyn’s family is asking his friends, colleagues and fans to show up to the hearing on Monday morning. In the words of his sister, they want to “put a face on Kevyn” and show that he’s more than just a statistic.
Kevyn’s sisters have spent the last year attending all the hearings related to his case. But the court has no sense that Kevyn was part of the much larger animation family, an important contributor to the art form, and a guy who was liked and appreciated by many. Kevyn’s family feels that a courtroom filled with industry professionals could make a positive impact. It would be amazing if the 400 people who showed up at Kevyn’s memorial would show up again, but even a fraction of those people would be a powerful statement of strength and support from our community. If the defendant chooses to enter an open plea, Kevyn’s colleagues will even have a chance on Monday to make statements to the court before the sentencing.
The hearing is scheduled for this Monday, August 27th, at 8:30 AM. The hearings generally take an hour or two, but Kevyn’s family would appreciate anybody who can come, even if they can’t stay for the entire hearing. Here’s where to go:
Los Angeles Criminal Courts Building
210 West Temple Street
11th Floor, Room 114