On a quiet Sunday to escape a barrage of football games on TV, I went through my phone sites that were bookmarked to thin down the list. I clicked on Animation World Network and was surprised to see a sketch from my former co-worker, Larry Lauria. The article, dated December 3, 2014 was titled "In tribute to my good friend Larry Lauria." I read on, pleased that Larry was getting some much deserved attention. By the second sentence a numb realization dawned on me. The author was referring to Larry in the past tense. Larry, my friend and colleague had died. How had I missed this? Am I so self absorbed in creating sketches, that I would loose sight of friends leaving this world? Of all the billions of articles online, how had I come across this one article? I couldn't be real. Just a few months ago, Larry had taken part in a group that did a sketch every day and shared those sketches online. Larry was always open to embracing a new creative challenge. I went to his Facebook page in disbelief and found other loving tributes.
The sketch above, shows Larry in a typical pose as he hunched over a drawing in class. He would teach students by example, often having fun animating a scene to see how far he could push the assignment. He loved showing students how to construct characters using simple shapes. When he found out about my sketch a day work ethic, he quickly embraced cafe drawings into his daily routine. He loved to go to coffee shops where he could relax to sketch and do thumbnails for scenes he was going to work on. While teaching the traditional animation class at Full Sail, he managed to storyboard and animate an entire Salty Dog animated short. His dedication and excitement to the medium of animation was contagious.
Larry and his family traveled to Dublin Ireland where he became the Course Coordinator and an Instructor at
the European School of Animation, one of the top
three animation programs in the world. He had students create an animated film that transcended the differences between North and south Ireland. The film was a crowning achievement. Lauria went on to become the head of animation at the Disney Institute in Orlando, FL. As Disney began lay offs, Larry was saddened to have to let go the talented people he had hired. It was one of the most difficult things he had to do.
On the last day of each months animation class, Larry would often call up animation veterans to give the students a behind the scenes view of the productions they worked on. Larry was never shy about asking advice from animation veterans. When he moved to California he looked in a phone book to find Ward Kimball one of Disney's revered nine old men. In the nervous moment when he introduced himself, Larry stammered, "Hi, this is Ward Kimbal." Ward responded, "No, I'm Ward Kimball." The blunder resulted in laughter on both ends of the line. Ward invited Larry over to his studio and Larry was able to ask any question he wanted of the animation legend.
Larry always said that all of his career moves were tempered by his family's needs. He was blessed that his wife and family always wanted to be a part of the adventure. Larry's son Matt has found success working as an actor in Hollywood films and stage productions. Larry loved to share the air times of any program like Parenthood, that his son was starring in. It made sense that his son would be inspired to follow in his father's footsteps to embrace the entertainment industry. Larry was just as enthusiastic when he introduced me to his daughter at an outdoor concert in Winter Garden.
Larry founded an animation studio in Washington DC because there weren't any studios there. When he moved to Orlando he realized there wasn't an animation festival there. Rather than accept those limits, he felt the need to found an animated festival. When students expressed an interest in having a traditional animation club, Larry talked to school administrators about getting the club started. Larry instilled in me an excitement about getting a chance to experience large animation festivals like the one in Annecy France. He truly loved the medium of animation and he shared that love. He left a mark on every student and he has inspired me to want to be a better artist. Though I find his passing hard to accept, I'll always miss his humor and excitement about a medium in which anything is possible.