Monday, January 20, 2014

Hal Sutherland, RIP

From President Emeritus Tom Sito comes word that Hal Sutherland, animator, director and co-founder of Filmation, has died. ...

Mr. Sutherland passed away on January 16 of unknown causes. Born in 1929, he was raised in Massachusetts, and noted in a 2011 interview:

I was born and raised in Cambridge. I lived alone with my grandmother in a corner house. I stayed in the house quite a bit of the time sitting by a large window where there was a stuffed chair, and my grandmother was able to place a board across the arms to fashion a small surface for me draw on.

Thinking back, I remember looking forward to the milkman and the garbage man coming by with their horse drawn wagons. I assume it prompted my later fascination with horses. Once, the garbage man gave me a ride on his wagon horse around the corner, which I remember even today. During the winter months when the world seemed covered with snow, the milkman put “sleigh runners” on his delivery wagon and now and then rode the neighborhood kids around the block. That was quite a thrill for me. A little later on, as I began to age, I took on a job delivering copies of the Saturday Evening Post around the neighborhoods.

I loved sitting under the back porch to glance through the pages and admire the fantastic illustrations in each issue before the actual deliveries. I’m sure a good deal of my inspiration to draw and paint sprang out of those moments ...

[At my first animation job at Disney], I was lucky to find assignments within the studio that exposed me to many facets of the animation world, (things that) most artists who had been there many years ahead of me never viewed. I was fortunate to work on short subjects and features such as Sleeping Beauty, Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp, plus the very last theatrical short with Donald Duck. I spent several years absorbing that precious information and training. This training gave me a view of the technical sides of animation and later, when a very busy Walt Disney’s attention was detracted from the animation world -- to creating Disneyland -- the studio fell out of its production scheduling, forcing many layoffs. I was fortunate to be kept on for a good bit of time after most artists had gone to work at outlying small studios. ...

After Disney, there was Larry Harmon (and Bozo) soon followed by the shoe-string founding of Filmation ... where Hal, Lou Scheimer and Norm Prescott got their first contract by running a Potemkin operation that had no employees, just animation artists pretending to work in a sub-let space on their lunch break. Happily, the ruse worked and a decades-long run followed.

What I've long admired about Mr. Sutherland is he founded a studio, worked like a stevedore for a dozen years, then cashed out and pursued a painting career in the Pacific Northwest. It takes a strong man who knows what he wants from life to do something like that. Most of animation's children (including me), keep busy in the biz until we're dragged off by our heels.

So here's to you, Hal Sutherland, for navigating your life point-to-point, and knowing where you wanted to be through each point of the compass.


Unknown said...

Michael Sporn, too.

Steve Hulett said...

Yes, saw his obit earlier. Just now put it up.

Sutherland was close to my mother's age. Mr. Sporn was close to the age I am. Sobering.

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