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Animator Frank Terry (1939-2014)

by Jerry Beck
February 18, 2014 3:50 AM
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Word has reached us that longtime animation industry veteran director Frank Terry has passed away. 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 Terry was the dean of the character animation program at the California Institute of the Arts for 11 years, 1996-2007. During his tenure there, numerous great short films were created and many students emerged from his class and entered the animation industry.

Terry received his BFA from the Chouinard Art Institute (1961-64) and focused on advertising commercial production, animated documentaries, titles and entertainment specials. His IMDB credits include The Beatles cartoons in the sixties and ABC’s 1982 special Stanley The Ugly Duckling.

Frank Terry first joined CalArts as a key member of the full-time animation faculty while simultaneously heading up his own production company, Terry X2. He spent many years producing animated TV commercials for such clients as  Keebler, Raid, Allstate, Kellogg, Green Giant, Neiman Marcus, American Express, Procter and Gamble, Mattel, Pillsbury and Quaker Oats. Terry had been a recipient of Gold and Bronze Awards from International TV and Film Festival in New York, as well as a recipient of the New York Art Directors Club Award for Best Animation.

Animator Mark Kausler writes:

"Frank Terry gave me my first full time job in the business, back in 1970, at Spungbuggy Works. Frank was partners in the business with Herb Stott. Did you know that Harold Mack, who animated for George Moreno on the Bubble and Squeek series in England, was Frank's mentor and idol? I think that Frank worked and animated in Mack's native country, either Norway or Sweden, can't remember now. I know that Frank would want Harold Mack's name mentioned, he really idolized Mack.

"Frank gave Marv Newland one of his early jobs at Spungbuggy, too. That's where they met and became friends. Frank and I didn't speak much after he fired me in 1972 for asking for a raise. Frank made several independent shorts, one of which consisted of filmed flip books. Frank was a master of the flip book, he took legal pads, cut them up into small books and animated straight ahead in them with a fountain pen! He helped me loosen up my animation when I was working for him, we used to do one commercial a week at Spungbuggy.

"Frank directed a classic spot for Tootsie Roll pops that was done in a 1930s style featuring an inside view of a mouth and teeth biting a Tootsie pop, the tongue tries to protect the candy (Paul Winchell's voice) saying, "No! You'll bite it!" 

He will be missed by many animation professionals working today. Here is his sequence from the classic Marv Newland short, Anijam (1984): 

Frank Terry
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More: Frank Terry


  • Mark Robman | March 10, 2014 9:20 PMReply

    I wandered into the Spungbuggy Works one day in 1969, a few scant months after my graduation from what is now CSUN (and their rather lame Graphic Design program), having been sent there by one Roger Chouinard; he said, "talk to Frank Terry, maybe he can help you"....all I had to show were a small stack of animation cells that I had inked and painted myself and I had no idea if they were any good. I climbed the rather steep stairs from the street and just as I got to the top a very busy-looking red-haired man was walking by so I said, "hello, I'm looking for Frank Terry" and he turned and stopped and said, "that's nice, so am I ", and walked away.-----that was my introduction to the owner of Spungbuggy, Herb Stott. But not long after, a rather compactly built, sandy-haired man (wearing what I eventually would learn was all he wore--Levis and a white dress type shirt, sometimes accompanied with a dark blue cable-knit cardigan sweater) with a pencil stuck behind his ear, and an unlit cigarette dangling from his lips came out of an office and said hello and took me back into his office, looked at my feeble attempts at something I thought might show the range of my talent and said, "it looks like you traced the images on these cells; not bad: can you use a Rapidograph?---we need someone for MAYBE 6 or 7 days, but that'll be about it. You'll trace the front and someone else'll paint 'em"............long story/ short, I stayed for seven years and he tried, God rest his soul, to teach me the biz, but I just wasn't as passionate about the work as I thought I'd be after all those years sitting in front of that desk with the hole in the middle and the light shining through it; I had discovered that being in front of the camera was what appealed to me, so I left to go be in commercials. He wished me well and told me that if THAT was my passion ( which it had become, being an actor), I should grab on and take it all the way.
    We lost touch, but I would hear about him at Cal Arts and all the wonderful work he was doing and know that he was doing what he loved. I'm truly sorry that I didn't get a chance to see him in person one more time so that I could say, "hi 'ya, Boss"!

  • Libby Simon | February 23, 2014 2:10 PMReply

    I worked with Frank many times throughout my 30 years in the business – Spungbuggy, Filmfair, Terry X2. But, what I most remember most of Frank are the times when Marv Newland visited Los Angeles from Vancouver. I was fortunate enough to be included in those visits, with trips to Frank’s studio in Pasadena, and dinners with Marv, Frank and Nelleke. Evenings filled with laughter, drawing, and love of life. The world will miss Frank, and I'm so honored to have know him.

  • Edward Juan | February 19, 2014 8:19 PMReply

    Frank was my teacher and department chair from 2003-2007.
    I remember in my third year I was short of few thousand dollar to pay for the tuition in the coming year. He sat down with me and told me he will cover it by adding it to my scholarship. No question asked, just smiled and told me to keep making good films and pay it forward. I will never forget your motivational spirit and kindness. Thank you so much Frank! And I'm proud you ended your career at Calarts with my graduation. *wink!

  • Owen Pulver | February 19, 2014 2:41 PMReply

    It is true, the world will never know "how many licks..." but most of the world will never know the true greatness of Frank's incredible genius fully. (Lest we forget, Raid and Clairol!) I will always remember the honor I was given sharing his creative genius with the world.
    Rest In Peace Francis.

    Nell, my heart aches for your loss but please enjoy the #1 joint legacy the two of you lovingly created. Your FAMILY.

  • JuttaPickle | February 18, 2014 10:37 PMReply

    I am so sympathy about RIP Animator educator frank terry .

  • Marv Newland | February 18, 2014 8:04 PMReply

    Frank Terry hired me in 1969 to create a poster for the animation studio, Spungbuggy Works in Los Angeles. This led to him giving me my first job in the animation business, for which I was unqualified and unschooled, a certifiably ignorant rube. Frank gave animation lessons in ten to fifteen minute long bursts, drawing feverishly on yellow paged legal pads with a Mont Blanc Meisterstuck pen. Beautiful, loose drawings, instructive, funny, passionate and full of life. He later compiled many of these drawings into a flipbook style movie titled, MIRRORS, which was screened at Annecy and probably other animation festivals. After Frank's legal pad sessions it was back to work and at the end of the day hand layouts to Bob Carlson, Rudy Zamora, or some other ex-Disney animator twice as old and three times as talented as me. The staff in those days at Spungbuggy, all hired by Frank, included: Mark Kausler, Brad Landreth, Gary Katona, Ranger Bob Zamboni, with appearances by: Corny Cole, Roger Chounaird, Bill Kroyer and many other such luminaries. Frank had a nose for talented people and knew how to educate, frustrate and inspire all of them. After moving to Canada I worked briefly in Holland at Toonder Studios. There I met animator/director Harold Mack, who claimed to have met me at some mystical, earlier date. "Either we have met previously, or you know someone well whom I have met". The link turned out to be Frank Terry, who worked with Harold in Holland in the 1960s. Frank also met and married his beautiful and sophisticated wife Nelleke in Holland. Harold told me many tales including one of a car crash into an Amsterdam canal and Frank diving in to rescue the driver. Frank has maintained a strong correspondence over the years, many illustrated letters including a 23 page letter with a complete and original diagram of how to make a plein air, animated documentary. Frank and Nelleke have been longtime friends, I made a point of meeting with them whenever I was in Los Angeles. On more than one occasion they flew from Los Angeles to Vancouver showing up unexpectedly for parties at the International Rocketship animation studio. Frank's influence, generosity and humour touch on every aspect of my personal and animation life. My dear friend and mentor Frank Terry left us far too early in life, this goes for the people who loved him and for those of you who were pissed off by him.

  • gary katona | February 18, 2014 9:14 PM

    "the people who loved him and for those of you who were pissed off by him..." are very often the very same people, Marvin. We all know that. Another flashback came in your message - those flipbook films? day Frank announces "I'm buying (an animation camera from Wally Bullock {legendary camera service} was under the auspices of "....don't tell Herb" - (we all owe much respect to Herb Stott for letting us all get by by the skin of teeth for years...) Then we have to install the camera in a room much too small by mis-calculation for it to fit. We finally do so, but with an astronaut-tight space for the operator. We design a miniscale and rather crude 'pegboard' registration system ... (it should also be noted that Frank had the foresight, as we started to push things forward in a creative and technical sense, to hire Ray Thursby, as Production Manager...a Brilliant Man.) Frank saw the strengths, and sensed the promise of others and shared generously. And then he said, "Here ya go "Katrokas"...(my own nickname) and started piling Large Boxes of Flipbooks into the tiny space "...figure it out." I learned to relish these challenges. Much love to you Marvin. Connect.

  • Jennifer (Terry) Anderson | February 18, 2014 6:55 PMReply

    Thank you, Mr. Beck, for a very nice post on my father who passed away on February 11. As Maureen mentioned, he was Director of the Character Animation department at CalArts, not Dean. Also, Harold Mack and Dad worked together in the Netherlands, not Norway or Sweden. I know that he would be pleased to be remembered so highly, thanks again.

  • Gary Katona | February 18, 2014 5:05 PMReply

    Frank was equally a passionate and compassionate man. A complex and generous artist. His thumbnails and sketches were eloquent...simple, yet articulate. He knew to take joy in the creative process and willingly shared it. In our formative years at Spungbuggy, Frank provided a platform to an assorted batch of fledglings just out of school, convincing us that those 'buds' were really wings and then gave us the freedom to test them...he allowed us to play, from which sprang Inspiration, and we were a very Creative House in those days. I remember my first 'directorial' was a complex, multi-in-camera-composite that no one really wanted to mess with...scary, to say the least, and after countless questions (...probably testing his great patience) , he turned to me and bestowed an imaginary badge on my chest - "You're the Director. Make it work." (It won the SF Art Director's Gold). When Frank had the need to take a personal sabbatical and return to his beloved Holland, we were staggered to lose our leader. He called me into his office and said "It's all run it." I was stunned by the responsibility. If you recall the classic film/show "M.A.S.H."...I was Frank's "Radar" and never realized how much I had learned in those years until he threw me in the water and said "Swim. You'll figure it out for yourself." Such a responsibility...such an opportunity. For those of us that had the honor to know and work with the man, there is a great void - I feel it, and I know others do. If I know Frank, he's saying "Keep going - you'll figure it out." And I find myself saying, "Wait! There's more we need to learn..." May You Find Your Rest In Peace, Frank. We remain eternally indebted.

  • Jennifer (Terry) Anderson | February 18, 2014 6:56 PM

    Hi, Uncle Gary... hope you are well!

  • Maureen Furniss | February 18, 2014 12:21 PMReply

    I worked with Frank for a short time when I first came to CalArts. Character Animation is the largest program at CalArts and the one we are best known for. As far as I know, he was not Dean of the School, but rather Director of the Character Animation Program. In that position, he influenced many emerging animators -- I know he was very dedicated to his students. It seems we have lost a lot of great animation figures in recent months. I am sorry to hear of Frank's passing.

  • Mitch Axelrod | February 18, 2014 8:09 AMReply

    Very sad to hear of Frank's passing. He was SUCH a nice man. When he was in Holland working for Cine Centrum, he worked on a few episodes of The Beatles cartoon series. His work is chronicled in my book, "Beatletoons." I'm glad that a small part of Frank's animation history will now be preserved forever. Always pleasant whenever we would be in contact. He will be missed!

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