The animation community has suffered the loss of many key figures through the first three months of 2016, including the screenwriter of Big Hero 6, the animation director of The Yellow Submarine, and the longtime head of the National Film Board of Canada.
We pay our respects to these members of our community, as well as others who have passed away through March of this year.
Giuseppe Laganà, 71, July 28, 1944 – January 3, 2016
Animator on the Italian features West and Soda (1965), Vip mio fratello superuomo (1968), and Allegro non troppo (1976). Also worked with Bruno Bozzetto on the Signor Rossi series. Directed shows through his studio The Animation Band including Lupo Alberto, Farhat: Prince of the Desert, and Last of the Mohicans.
Bob Balser, 88, March 25, 1927 – January 4, 2016
Animation director of The Yellow Submarine. Directed the “Den” sequence of Heavy Metal and sequence director of the made-for-TV animated version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Producer and animation supervisor of many series through his own production company, Pegbar Productions, in Barcelona, including The Jackson 5 and The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show. Below is a short, El Sombrero, that Balser directed in 1964:
Frank Armitage, 91, August 5, 1924 – January 4, 2016
Background and layout artist at Disney on Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp, Sleeping Beauty, 101 Dalmatians, Mary Poppins, and The Jungle Book.
Production illustrator on Fox’s Fantastic Voyage (1966), Disney Imagineer on many projects including Wonders of Life Pavilion (EPCOT) and murals for Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Armitage established a second prolific career as a medical illustrator.
Pat Harrington, Jr., 86, August 13, 1929-January 6, 2016
Actor who voiced both the Inspector and his sidekick Deux Deux in DePatie-Freleng’s 1960s theatrical animation series.
Andy Lesniak, age unknown, d. January 16, 2016
VFX artist and CG supervisor whose credits include Titanic, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, Battleship, The Amazing Spider-Man, Iron Man 3, Man of Steel, The Wolf of Wall Street, 300: Rise of an Empire, and Divergent.
Bob Inman, 88, 1927 – February 2016
Background painter at UPA, Bob Clampett’s Snowball Productions, MGM, Jay Ward, Hanna-Barbera, Bosustow & Associates, Quartet, Filmfair and many other commercial studios. Projects included Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol, Gay Purr-ee, The Phantom Tollbooth How the Grinch Stole Christmas, George of the Jungle, The Pogo Birthday Special, and Tom & Jerry shorts. Learn more about him here.
Joe Alaskey, 63, April 17, 1952 – February 3, 2016
Voice actor who voiced Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Sylvester, Tweety, and other Warner Bros. characters. He also voiced Plucky Duck on Tiny Toon Adventures.
Daniel Gerson, 49, August 1, 1966 – February 6, 2016
Co-screenwriter of Monsters, Inc., Monsters University and Big Hero 6. Contributed story material to Chicken Little, Cars, Meet the Robinsons, Open Season, Inside Out, and Up.
So sad the world has lost Dan Gerson. An amazing friend, writer & mentor with a big heart & kind soul. Miss you, Dan pic.twitter.com/dmNyPUlOBm
Filmmaker at the National Film Board of Canada and head of its animation unit. Worked on over 200+ NFB productions, mostly as director, producer, or executive producer. Directed the first NFB production to be nominated for an Academy Award for best animated short, The Romance of Transportation in Canada (1952), also the winner of a Short Film Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and a special BAFTA Award. His dialogue-less 1954 Corral was named best documentary at the Venice Film Festival. Read about more of his films and accomplishments here.
Zdeněk Smetana, 90, June 26, 1925 – February 25, 2016
Animator and director on over 400 animation projects, including shorts like The Umbrella and The Water of Life. He animated on the Tom and Jerry shorts directed by Gene Deitch.
Dan McLaughlin, 83, d. March 15, 2016
Filmmaker, educator, and head of the UCLA Animation Workshop from 1970-2007. McLaughlin was an early promoter of computer animation, introducing computer animation classes to UCLA in 1968 and interactive animation classes in 1988. Graduates of UCLA’s program include Shane Acker (9), David Silverman (The Simpsons), Gil Kenan (Monster House) and top VFX artists including Bob Abel, Con Pederson, and Hoyt Yeatman. Read his obituary here.
Terry Brain, 60, 1956 – March 25, 2016
Animator, co-creator of the British animated series Trap Door and Stoppit and Tidyup. Animator at Aardman on Shaun the Sheep Movie, The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, Chicken Run, and Creature Comforts TV series. (pictured at top of this article, right)
Igor Khait, 52, d. March 28, 2016
Production manager/producer. Worked at Amblin Entertainment, Disney, Spumco, and most recnetly, co-producer of Illumination’s upcoming Sing. Other credits: co-producer of Gnomeo & Juliet, story department co-producer on The Lego Movie, producer of Everyone’s Hero, producer of Disney’s Leroy and Stitch, co-producer of Brother Bear and production manager of Atlantis, the Lost Empire. He also worked on Quest for Camelot and Bebe’s Kids.