Monday, October 17, 2011

Eric Larson--Disney's Legendary Animator from Cleveland

Emery County lays claim on Disney Legend Eric Larson, who was an animator for 53 years. He was part of a group of animators hired by Walt  Disney himself, who later referred to the original group of artists as his ''Nine Old Men.''

Click Here for a photo of Eric Larson and some characters he created.

Eric was born in Cleveland, Utah in 1905. His parents are Lars Peter Larson and Alganora (Nora) Oveson Larson. His grandparents were also from Emery County. His Maternal Grandparents are Lars Peter Oveson and Louisa Otterstrom. Paternal Grandparents are Erik Larson and Anna Elizabeth Erikson.

An Internet blog  50 Most Influential Animators tells us:
Eric Larson was born on September 3, 1905 in Cleveland, Utah... He was born into a Mormon family and would continue to be devout and active in the faith all through his life although he didn’t talk much about his beliefs at the studio.  Larson grew up on a ranch and became fascinated by the animals that live there and their personalities. “I was born and raised on a ranch,” he remembered in an interview. “And I always wanted to be a rancher up to the time of my second year in college. It’s still a life I love, would still like to do. (Click on the link at the top to read his whole story.)

Eric attended the University of Utah and majored in journalism. He moved to California and was talked into applying at the Disney Studios. He was hired at the time Mickey Mouse was still evolving. Disneyland and major movies had not even been thought about. When Disney's first feature-length cartoon was created, he was among the major animators. He was responsible for the forest animals which are in most scenes of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which was released in 1937.

In the Disney Family Album, Part 1 Eric talks about how growing up on a farm, and the animals of his childhood influenced his characters in all of his works. Watch the five minute video which tells about how he came up with the animals cleaning the house, etc.

See Disney Family Album 2 you can hear Eric talk about getting the animation of animals to look like real animals by the time the story of Bambi was ready to be told. They studied the bones and the movement of real deer to get the realistic look of all of the animals in Bambi. Eric was the supervising animator for Bambi and created the beloved character of Thumper. That  attention to anatomy carried on with 101 Dalmathions.

Eric Larson

A Partial List from Wikipedia of The Characters Eric Larson Created:  
In the 1970s Eric became the head of Disney's Animation Training Department. Many of the best animators today were trained by Eric. Often used mimes to help train the people for animators. See Disney Family Album Part 3

Eric also helped the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints movie Man's Search for Happiness in 1964 that was narrated  by Richard L. Evans. It was presented at the Mormon Pavillion in the New York World's Fair.

Eric was very, very gentle and he knew timing like nobody’s business,” said animator and dancer Betsy Baytos.  In real life Eric was a very giving, gentle, and unselfish human being who always helped mentor others and for decades was largely responsible for keeping together the sometimes egocentric and hyper aggressive top animators at the studio.  He had no ego and people always felt comfortable asking him for advice and guidance. Larson for the last 16 years of his career worked pretty much exclusively on running the training program at the Disney studio and was very successful at finding talent. (

He retired at the age of 80 because of poor health. "On October 25, 1988 Eric Larson passed away at the age of 83. The prince in The Little Mermaid was named Eric in his memory." (

His death left only four of Disney's "Nine Old Men."  Headlines remarked that another link to the Golden Age was gone.