Eric Larson (September 3, 1905 – October 25, 1988)

Animator Eric Larson is known first of all for the fact, that he devoted a decent part of his long career at Disney to teaching young talented artists. Without him, we wouldn’t have known many prominent persons: Tim Burton, John Lasseter, Andreas Deja, Don Bluth, Glen Keen, etc.


Despite Eric Larson didn’t direct his own cartoons or animate well-known scenes, as other representatives of the famous ‘Disney's Great Nine’ did, Larson’s heritage turned out to be the most influential and tangible. Many talented animators owe their professional success Larson’s Training Program. Perhaps, his name is not the first one, when it comes to the greatest Disney’s animators, but he is the first person, who eventually influenced the development of animation art the most.


Eric Larson became an animator in 1937, when he worked together with Milt Kahl and James Algar on the scenes with animals for the gnomes’ song “Whistle While You Work” in “Snow White”.


Animators Fred Moore and Bill Tytla influenced his professional growth a lot. Every day they shared their experience and knowledge of this young art direction with Eric.


In 1942, he became a top animator at the studio.


Here is a list of his works:

  1. “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”: the animation of animals and some scenes for the “Whistle When You Work” song.  

  2. “Pinocchio”: the animation of Figaro and Cleo (all Figaro’s scenes, as well as the moment, when Figaro licks Cleo and she floats into her aquarium castle), puppets dancing the can-can, a Russian girl puppet.

  3. “Pastoral Symphony” (“Fantasia”): the animation of centaurs and pegasuses.

  4. “Dumbo”: the animation of baby animals at the beginning of the cartoon.

  5. “Bambi”: the animation of Bambi and Owl.

  6. “Three Caballeros”: the animation of the Aracuan Bird.

  7. “Make Mine Music”: the animation of bird Sasha.

  8. “Cinderella”: the animation of Cinderella and the Prince.

  9. “Alice in Wonderland”: the animation of the Caterpillar, Alice, Dinah, the Cheshire Cat, the Queen of Hearts

  10. “Peter Pan”: the animation in the scene of flight to Netland.

  11. “Lady and the Tramp”: the animation of Peg and the puppies in the shelter.

  12. “101 Dalmatians”: the animation of Pongo, Perdita, the puppies, Colonel and Sergeant Tibbs.

  13. “The Jungle Book”: the animation of the vultures and some wolves.

  14. “Robin Hood”: the animation of Little John and the vultures.

  15. “The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh”: the animation of Kanga and Roo.

  16. “The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad”: Mr. Tod’s animation.

  17. “The Aristocats”: the animation of Roquefort the Mouse and Scat Cat.

  18. “Mary Poppins”: the animation of animals at the farm.

  19. “Thee Fox and the Hound”: the animation of adult Todd (during the production of this movie, Eric worked as an animator and a consultant as well).

By the beginning of the 1970s, it became obvious, that the Disney era was declining. The founder died in 1966, the oldest animators were supposed to retire soon, and some employees switched to competitors, because they disagreed with the new course of the company.


In 1973, Eric Larson announced the expansion of the Disney program of looking for talented animators and their teaching. He also was preparing to become a tutor for the future generations of animators. Despite the fact, that at that time Disney’s animated movies were given the cold shoulder, Larson was adamant. Thanks to this program, he found and taught dozens of talented and promising animators. There are only some examples: Brad Bird, who directed “The Incredibles”, Joe Ranft (a screenwriter and animator of Disney and Pixar’s cartoons; Appeared in “Coraline” as a loader), Henry Selick (the director of “The Nightmare Before Christmas” and “Coraline”), Ron Clements (the director of “The Little Mermaid”, “Aladdin”, “Princess and the Frog” together with John Masker), John Masker, Chris Buck (the director of “Tarzan” and “Surf's Up”), Gary Goldman (who worked with Don Bluth on “The Land Before Time” and “Anastasia”), Mark Henn (Disney’s top animator), Dan Haskett (created the design of Belle, Ariel, adult Todd), Bill Kroyer (the animation of Garfield and Scooby Doo), Barney Mattinson (Disney’s top animator), Tad Stones (who wrote the scripts and directed the following series: “Chip and Dale”, “Darkwing Duck”, “Aladdin”, “Gummi Bears”) and many others.


Andreas Deja, a former Disney animator, who worked on Jafar, Scar, Gaston and many other famous characters, described Larson as “the best animation tutor among all the representatives of the Great Nine Old Men. Nobody was as interested to pass the Disney heritage as he was”. For example, compared with hard and harsh Milt Kahl, Larson’s temper was far softer. But this feature didn’t prevent him from being a demanding and patient educator.


Andreas told: “Eric Larson taught us to look around and notice even the slightest details. Then they would be helpful in our work”.


The greatest dignity of wise Eric Larson as an animator was, without a doubt, his great sincerity, which was a rare feature of people. Despite he wasn’t an outstanding artist, something heartwarming can be felt in his works. He created not ordinary characters, but animated personalities. You love his characters, because Eric was hard at his work and focused on it like no one else.


To understand his characters and create fantastic animation, Larson not only played the scenes, but also imagined them in his head. Everything that he drew and animated, he first clearly saw in his mind. After imagining the scene, he analyzed the characters, their feelings and personalities.


“There are only two things that limit animation. One is the ability to imagine and the other is to draw what you imagine. The first thing animation has to have is a change in shape.”


“All an artist has is sincerity”.


Eric Larson died on October 25, 1988, at the age of 83. Prince Eric in the cartoon “The Little Mermaid” received his name in memory of Eric Larson.

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