Animation &Commentary &Independent Animation 22 Jul 2013 04:25 am

A Friend in Lou

- I’ve been thinking a lot about my friend, Lou Scarborough, this past week. So why not write about him? That’s what I’m going to do. Just random thoughts, good and bad, I guess. All just random. I’m sure I’ll have other posts to add to this, eventually.

I met Lou years ago the same way I met a whole core of NY friends and folk.

linccenterBack in 1978, Disney celebrated the 50th anniversary of Mickey Mouse’s creation. History for a lot of us – I mean, here, the celebration not the creation. The MoMA had a retrospective of all 50 years of Mickey cartoons in chronological order. They started with a bunch of silent Alice in Cartoonland followed by Oswald the Rabbit cartoons. They were shown silent. I mean SILENT – no audio, not even an organ. They ended that first program with Steamboat Willie. Now there was the invention of sound. You could hear it, you could feel it, you knew a new era had begun. Soundies.

Up at Lincoln Center, they were showing all the feature films, animated as well as live action films. Things like Pollyanna and Treasure Island as well as Lady and the Tramp and Dumbo.

The best part, though, was around the corner, daily, at the Library of the Performing Arts. Speaker/Guests included Animators: Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston, Woolie Reitherman, Designer: Eric Anderson, and John Culhane moderated a bunch of it. They showed clips of a lot of the feature animated films; they told famous stories for the millionth time, they told stories we hadn’t heard before. (e.g. Reitherman wanted the disco ball and the changing colors as the cats of the Aristocats played jazz in the attic. His was not something others wanted in the film. The director got what he wanted including a lot of reuse animation. Reitherman learned something about Xerography other than inking stories during 101 Dalmatians.

Anyway, to get into this series of programs (I’m sure there were four of them) you’d sit on the ground in the hot sun waiting for the doors to open when they handed out tickets. I was working for John Hubley at the time. A lot of the others: Dan Haskett, Tom Sito, Pat Sito, John Lopez, Kevin Petrilak, Bob Lusk, and, of course, Lou Scarborough, all worked at a place called Tele-Tactics where they were paid horrible wages as animators working on something called The Days of Liberty.

Over time, a lot of those people went to Raggedy Ann in a direct route uptown once that studio opened. I was teh first hired there, so I got to watch the influx as animation began.

raggedy taffy2

Lou went with a whole group directly into the Taffy Pit to clean up and inbetween the elaborate and gutsy drawings of the master, Emery Hawkins. Exhausting work but they were all friends and had a group all their own during Raggedy’s world. A new era of sorts had begun – the taffy pit folk. Ultimately, they all moved out to LA, worked at Disney for a bit and at a bunch of other feature studios for a bit.

- I also remember during the late 70′s and early 80′s that Lou Scarborough was closely involved with Wendy and Richard Pini‘s fantasy characters from Elf Quest.

elfquest3 elfquest
A sample of the Elf Quest art

Along with Dan Haskett and other friends he helped build model sheets and tried desperately to get the comic books animated. I don’t believe much happened with the work, especially after it moved to cgi. In my opinion it lost any magic it had in the 2D cartoon drawings and completely lost everything in the clumsy cgi artwork.

In a way, it seems to me that this art style seriously affected Lou. Though I was certainly not a fan, I did appreciate the hard work all the artists did in putting it together. The whole enterprise, though, seemed like too many other fantasy pieces that were out there.


Lou was one of the last to leave New York City for the West Coast. He did a couple of jobs for me before he left. There were some Sesame Street spots, dances, that he animated. Then there were a couple of episodes of a show called Brain Games done before Sheila Nevins moved in and took over at HBO. I did about 45 minutes of the six half hour shows Sheila produced with Jeff Schon as co-producer. . It was all fun work. Lou animated a centurian and oddly he had the guy move wildly from the forth pose to the fifth. There was an enormous surprise when this character moved, so traditionally drawn, and moved beautifully. The large
babearc worked for the character and found me imitating Lou’s move more than once in future scenes. A peculiar layout that worked so well. I was the only one who noticed it and the only one who worried about it. No problema, it worked.

Lou moved to LA and worked on various business out there. He did a number of MGM musicals for home video. Things like Babes in Toyland, The Quest for Camelot, as well as The Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog.

In the end, Lou ended up without money but still a lot of dreams. Now he’s fighting cancer in a hospital at a young age. Life’s tough, and I’m watching my friend closely. I hope his luck gives him a couple of good breaks.

3 Responses to “A Friend in Lou”

  1. on 24 Jul 2013 at 11:44 pm 1.Thomas Starnes said …

    Dear Mr. Sporn,

    Thank you for posting this info on Lou’s career. I am hoping you will keep readers updated on his situation and also post more info about his life and work (a subject which needs much more attention).

    I was both a colleague and student of Lou’s. We worked together at “Stan Lee Media” during the DotCom bubble (where, among other things, I did assistant work for him on an ill-fated Mighty Mouse reincarnation). We kept in touch long afterwards. We would sit for many hours in various cafes, discussing all things pertaining to cartoons, comics, animation, film, art, etc. I learned much from him, and consider him to be both a friend and a mentor. He showed me much development work for his Megan film and other projects, and he was always pushing me to develop and self publish my personal work (something which takes on renewed urgency under the circumstances).

    Regrettably, I ended up leaving the LA area, and progressively longer intervals of time have passed between our meetings. We were supposed to meet up on my last trip through LA, but schedule conflicts intervened. Now I am kicking myself that I didn’t go further out of my way to visit Lou while we had the chance.

    In case I don’t get the chance to tell him this directly, but I would also like to post here: Lou had a big impact on me. He affected my thinking about design, animation, and storytelling. If you are looking only for stylistic influence, you won’t see his impact on my work (my drawings look absolutely nothing like his), but if you want to know how some of my ideas developed in regards storytelling and staging, I must point to Lou. At a time when I was overly preoccupied with doing things as they were expected to be done in Hollywood animation studios, Lou freed and emboldened me to pursue my own artistic visions.

    Occasionally, I introduced Lou to other young artists who were learning the craft of cartooning and animation, and Lou always had some inspiring advice which got us fired up about drawing. Now that I am teaching, I frequently present some of Lou’s work and ideas (along with Dan Haskett’s) to my students. I hope this additional aspect of Lou’s complex life and career will not be overlooked: he did impact – and will continue to impact – future generations of artists.


    Thomas Starnes. Jr.

  2. on 25 Jul 2013 at 2:45 pm 2.Tom Sito said …

    Thanks Mike for the memories of Lou and the 1970s.

    Those Lincoln Center events for the Disney 50th were a turning point in my career. The experiences, the camraderie, the passion for making quality work made a great impression on me.

    Over the years the memories have softened to a warm glow, but they are still with me.

  3. on 26 Jul 2013 at 4:06 pm 3.Larry Ruppel said …

    One historic note– The Lincoln Center events were held in 1973 as a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Disney Studio, which began in 1923.

    At the time of the retrospective the animation division was finishing “Robin Hood”, which was released in November of that year.

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