Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Farewell Frank Terry

Frank ran the Character Animation course at CalArts
 Animator and teacher Frank Terry has died. According to his family:
"....(Frank) passed away on Tuesday, February 11th in the morning.  It was sudden in the sense that his diagnosis of pulmonary fibrosis only came 2 1/2 months ago and he had a precipitous decline from Friday, February 7 until he passed on Tuesday".

Frank ran the animation program at the California Institute of the Arts for many years, including the years 1996-1998 when I taught evening classes there in character animation, driving up the 5 freeway two nights a week to give lectures at the very strange but very creative place that is CalArts.

CalArts was then and remains now one of the very best animation schools in the world. Frank ran a great course. Part cheerleader, part teacher, part administrator, he was kind and generous and always open with his staff. "Come and teach at CalArts" he said when we first spoke. "Your commute will be terrible" (up the 5 freeway in rush hour from LA), "and the pay is lousy. Hell it won't even pay the gas. But you'll love it". He was exaggerating about the pay, but not by much.  His honesty was straightforward in an industry not always known for it. And I did love it. It was where I learned to teach animation, mostly by learning from my own mistakes but also by learning from the exceptionally talented group of artists and teachers around me.

Frank recruited me through Mike Nguyen, one of my then colleagues at Warner Bros, who gave some of the most inspiring lectures in animation I have ever heard. We drove up together, and Mike would tell me what he had planned for that evening. Often I would simply cancel my own class and take my students over to hear what Mike had to say. The other teacher recruited by Frank was Dan Boulos, and between the three of us we pretty much were the character animation faculty for a few years, at least for the night shift anyway. I was always impressed by the dedication of the students at CalArts, prepared to attend classes from 7 until 10pm when most students in the UK would be in the pub.

Frank had just the right temperament to run a University course. He was tolerant, loved to teach, and I only once saw him lose his temper - when an IT problem had brought down the computer network for the umpteenth time. Frank was a traditional animator - computers were never his thing.

But his legacy survives in the excellent course that he helped to build and which remains to this day one of the best in the world.


PS You can read more about Frank and his contribution to the medium of animation at

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