THE ANIMATRIX

Sheridan College

Here I am at the animation desk, first summer at Sheridan, working on my four-legged walk-across. I did a cougar, which I found out later was the toughest animal to do. I spent HOURS at the Toronto zoo obsessively studying the cougar there.
Here I am at the animation desk, first summer at Sheridan, working on my four-legged walk-across. I did a cougar, which I found out later was the toughest animal to do. I spent HOURS at the Toronto zoo obsessively studying the cougar there.
My Peeps
My Peeps

Animators Are My Peeps

This hub is about my life in animation. (Historical figures' names are in capital letters. Disney fans, please scroll to the bottom to see that work.)

From the time I began animation school in Canada, I realized that other animators were "my peeps," people who "got" me, people with whom I'm still in touch to this day. To paraphrase Charlie the Dog from Chuck Jones' cartoon Often an Orphan, we are fifty percent draftsmen, fifty percent actor, fifty percent child, fifty percent geek, but mostly we're all looney.

I attended a diploma program at Sheridan College's International Summer School of Animation. There I met ZLATKO GRGIC, a well-known animator from Zagreb, Yugoslavia. That's him in the black-and-white photo, back row, far right. Later I was taught by ZACK SCHWARTZ, one of the guys who started UPA, and CHUCK JONES once came for a weekend visit.



Zack, Zlatko, and Kaj Pindal

That's Zack Schwatrz on the left...
That's Zack Schwatrz on the left...

Chuck Jones

The Great Animation Director visits Sheridan
The Great Animation Director visits Sheridan

The Sheridan Program

The program at Sheridan was set up like this: first quarter we animated a bouncing ball, waving flag, two-legged walk across, two legged walk cycle, and a four legged walk across. Second quarter we did a sound sync exercise where we were provided with sound effects and had to match our animation to them, then a lip sync exercise where we made a small film of characters talking. We had to cast our own actors and record them in the recording studio there at the school, with the help of an on-staff sound engineer.

Third quarter we were to make a completed short film. (Images from that to come later!) Of course, it was all hand-drawn on paper and shot on film.

Because it was a summer diploma program, most of the students were older and already had their BAs. This created a slightly more disciplined atmosphere than there had been at my undergraduate college.

The Early Eighties

The first place I ever worked was a studio called Carter/Mendez and later Tom Carter Productions. I'll tell you more about that later. The job at Carter lasted only a few months, and then, and I got by for a couple of years by working freelance at various commercial studios, along with having to work at the mall. It was during this time that I briefly worked at Richard Williams' Studio and was fortunate enough to sit in on ART BABBIT'S animation classes there.

Art was one of the early Disney animators who helped define that classical style of animation, taking character animation from silly rubber-hose characters to characters who had solid anatomy, had a character background, and seemed to think. Art also led the 1941 animators strike, creating the first animator's union.

A little while later, I was hired as Production Assistant at the new Film Roman studio. We did Garfield specials. I was later promoted to Assistant Animator, and then left there to work at Filmation. Clips from those projects can be viewed below.

Art Babbitt

Art taught us how to animate walks using stick figures, short on style and pencil mileage, so that we could focus on getting the movement right.
Art taught us how to animate walks using stick figures, short on style and pencil mileage, so that we could focus on getting the movement right.

Credits to "Garfield's Halloween Adventure"

My Big Fat Garfield Screen Credit


My first screen credit was for Garfield in the Rough where Garfield, Jon and Odie go camping. I was the Production Assistant, which meant I did administrative duties, ran errands, made coffee and copies, answered phones, etc. The company was new so I learned all about how to set up an animation studio and I learned all about the traditional production pipeline. The studio was headed by Phil Roman who had worked with Chuck Jones, Ralph Bakshi, and Bill Melendez. Bill Littlejohn, Lloyd Vaughn and Bob Carlson were animators on the project.

Here's my very SECOND screen credit, from Garfield's Halloween Adventure . I think it still airs on TV every Halloween, and you can find clips from it on YouTube. I love this little Garfield pirate song: "Sixty men all lost at sea, all of 'em drunk except for me...".

BTW, here is my favorite site about Garfield: http://garfieldminusgarfield.net/


So Bad It's Good: '80's Pinocchio Movie

"Pinocchio & Emperor" Screen Credit

This is my third screen credit for a rather bad movie called "Pinocchio and the Emperor of the Night." How NOT to make a movie. Yikes. Nevertheless, I like to give props to Lou Scheimer of Filmation for keeping so many animators employed for so many years. Scan these credits for well-known animators like Mark Dindal, Randy Fullmer, and Bruce Smith.

"Emperor of the Night" voiced by James Earle Jones

The Somewhat Cool Villain and Cheesy Story Twist

 

...OK, I did work on The Emperor, who was kinda cool and voiced by none other than Darth Vader himself, James Earle Jones. But later in this clip is the most contrived story bit EVER. Pinocchio uses his "when I lie my nose grows" powers for good...*cringe*...

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfelles

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfelles

This was my fourth screen credit (as "Lee Crowe Sperling"; I was married at the time...) and my second feature with Filmation. OK, it's also kinda funky looking but as I recall had a little better story than the Pinocchio sequel that we did there. I worked mostly on Snow herself with Philo Barnhardt and Bronnie Barry. It was a fun place to work!

Check out some of the voice talent: Ed Asner, Phyllis Diller, Dom Deluise, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Carole Channing, Malcom McDowell, and Jonathon Harris as Sunflower. ("Oh Will, the pain, the pain...")

Also DAVE HILBERMAN worked on the storyboards. This is a guy who helped start UPA and had trouble getting work after the communist witch hunts of the '50s.

I did not meet any of these famous people but had a good time with the animation crew. Lifelong friendships were formed.

Disney World's Animation Studio Tour

Back To Neverland!

This very special project was made in 1988, just after the closing of Filmation.

Great project, great company (BRC), great artists, great director (Jerry Rees). I was the key assistant on Captain Hook and worked with Bruce Smith and Mark Kausler. Hopefully Disney will let it stay on Youtube for a while. Here's some trivia: Bruce is the animator in the live action part of the film that says to Robin "OK, lets go." He created Proud Family and recently animated the Shadow Man in The Princess and the Frog.

BRC is a fabulous company in Burbank, CA, that specializes in setting up theme park attractions, and subcontracted this project from Disney. Disney liked our work so much that they hired most of us on The Little Mermaid.

Finally Hired at Disney

...So as a result of working on Back To Neverland, I finally got my dream job at Disney to work on The Little Mermaid. Over the years I had submitted my portfolio to Disney five times before being hired there. I got to work, not on Ariel, mind you, but on her father King Triton. What can I say, I love big bellowing long-haired angry men. In cartoons, not in real life.

Andreas Deja was the principle animator. This clip is what they call "fan-dub ready"; it's the only way Disney will allow stuff on YouTube lately -- so Ariel's voice is missing. Who cares; it's missing for a big chunk of the movie too (no offense, Jody B.; I'm actually a huge fan...). This is the sequence where I have the most work.

Nazis in The Little Mermaid??? Yes, it's true. OK; actors who had other roles as Nazis. Kenneth Mars, the voice of Triton, also played Franz Liebkind, the writer of "Springtime for Hitler" in the original version of Mel Brooks' The Producers, as well as Wilhelm Friedrich Kemp (a Nazi-like guy if not a genuine Nazi) in Young Frankenstein. Ben Wright ("Grimsby") also played "Herr Zeller", that Nazi from The Sound of Music who tries to make Captain Von Trapp serve the third reich.

King Triton from "The LIttle Mermaid"

Comments 23 comments

Al Waller 6 years ago

Hi Lee,

I knew you had worked for some of the big studios in animation, but I didn't realize how many great animators you were connected to. The stories are great. You need to keep blogging about this stuff. You've got personal insight into one of the most important eras in animation. The pictures and videos make it a lot of fun.


Lee Crowe profile image

Lee Crowe 6 years ago Author

Thanks, Al!


quayzarr 6 years ago

Very very cool! Don't forget to write about "Rover Dangerfield" and how you met Jabba (sort of). : )


Lee Crowe profile image

Lee Crowe 6 years ago Author

Might this be Jabba...? :)


ezpikins profile image

ezpikins 6 years ago from Texas

Nice career! I'm glad to see it is possible to make a living at this. I'm a 3D Game Artist but as of yet still unemployed and a bit pessimistic about there being any entry level positions out there. I animate as well but my main skill lies in making 3D characters or assets. Anyhow I enjoyed reading your article. *cheers*


CGmagia profile image

CGmagia 6 years ago from India

wow Awesome , :] hmm , i am doing diploma in 3d advance diploma , hmm it is time to submit Final showreel , i have decided to published my short animated movies on you tube or other website may be someday i become you tube partner , and also Freelance stuffs ,as i want to do everything in making films :] >>>>>Rahul Thube


Lee 6 years ago

Hey new poster guys! I am all about the traditional stuff and notice that my successful 3D colleagues have a lot of foundation in 2D, so start drawing -- maybe even try doing a 2D film...? And check out my other hub...


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 6 years ago from North Carolina

Very well put together and interesting hub. It's amazing work and you have much talent, that is obvious. Good for you. Congratulations. Your hub has been nominated for the hubnugget weekly contest. Good luck!


Lee 6 years ago

Awesome! Thanks!


ripplemaker profile image

ripplemaker 6 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

My friend's dream is to be an artist in Disney ... but she knew it's difficult now with all the computer animation now. LOL So she continues to draw for our kids in school. I loved reading about your work and your experiences. Congratulations on your Hubnuggets nomination. Be sure to check your email for the official announcement. To know more about the Hubnuggets, read this: http://learningcenter.hubpages.com/hubnuggets/


Kenny Wordsmith profile image

Kenny Wordsmith 6 years ago from Chennai

There's a table like that at home!

My son is an animator, and most of the names you put up there are like legend to him. Must fast forward this hub to him right away!

Thank you Lee!


Jeff Ermoian 6 years ago

I hope you will join me and Al Waller at the Animation Educators Network group that I started on LinkedIn. The group would benefit from your participation.


Lee 6 years ago

Sure will!


Terry Legan 6 years ago

Wow Ms. Lee, its always great to hear your stories. I am glad we have someone with great experience teaching us!


Lee Crowe profile image

Lee Crowe 6 years ago Author

Thanks Terry!


JaRabia Linen 6 years ago

So, when I saw the Snow White clip I got all excited because I actually own a VHS copy of that movie!!! It's exciting to know that my teacher worked on it!!!


cleveland johnson 6 years ago

this is amazing i am so speechless who would of thought i would have an animator for a teacher i am on cloud nine Mrs. Crowe you rock


Lee 6 years ago

Thanks guys!


Nileya Nettles 6 years ago

awesome work. inspired!. the clips are amazing. proud to say i was a student of mrs crowe! wow!


Kosmo profile image

Kosmo 6 years ago from California

What an interesting career you've had! I can't believe all of the animators with whom you've worked. Although I've never worked as an animator, I've been interested in cartoon animation, especially as it relates to "Tom and Jerry," about which I wrote a hub and the "Ren and Stimpy Show." I'm also a buff for the old school animation and special effects, particularly Ray Harryhausen's stop motion wizardry. Keep writing about this. Later!


Lee 6 years ago

Cool! thanks Cosmo!


Nicholas Hall 6 years ago

Professor Crowe,

Let me pick my jaw up off the floor. All I can say is WOW! What an impressive carrer. I look forward to learning as much as possible from you. Thank you for sharing.


Lee Crowe 6 years ago

Thanks for your kind comments, Nicholas!

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