On Nov. 5, 2005, veteran director/animator/producer/composer Derek Lamb passed away in Washington. His wife Tracie Smart was at his side. In honor of his incredibly influential career, Animation World Network has collected the thoughts and memories of the animation community as a tribute to his legacy.
Derek lost his battle with cancer, but over the years he won the admiration of millions who saw his work for the National Film Board of Canada, Sesame Street and others producers. He was admired as an exceptional animation writer and as a director with a keen sense for timing comedy. He was an excellent teacher at Harvard (1966-70, 1986-87 and 1990-91), at McGill University in Montreal and at the National Institute of Design in India. He was called a great person by those who were lucky enough to know him.
I called Jeff Hale who worked with Derek on several projects over the years. He called Derek one of the greatest animation writers in the business, along with George Dunning and Stan Hayward. I was told Derek was born in County Kent in England and he knew nothing about animation when he came to Canada. When he saw a Norman McLaren screening in Montreal in 1958 he became hooked. Jeff says, He somehow conned his way into a job with the Film Board as a writer.
When Jeff joined the NFB he worked with Derek on a series of clips (public service announcements). When Derek was working on Kaj Pindals I Know An Old Lady That Swallowed a Fly (Derek got story and design credits, 1964) Jeff was having trouble with the script of The Great Toy Robbery. He says, I found a hole in the story and showed it to Derek. That was one of several occasions when he realized how brilliant Derek could be as a writer.
Derek left the Film Board in 1964 for a job with Hallas and Batchelor in London. In London he wrote, designed and/or directed several works for them. Meanwhile, Jeff joined Cameron Guess in San Francisco. Guess had worked at the NFB from the late 1950s to 1963. He left when he came into a large inheritance. He moved to San Francisco, opened Cameron Guess and Assoc. and convinced Hale to join him. Later Derek Lamb and animator Barrie Nelson joined the firm.
Guess had worked with Jeff Hale on The Great Toy Robbery (Derek got writing and design credits on that film). Guess produced The Well (1965) and The Shepherd (1967, Oscar nomination, 1970). Hale says he directed The Shepherd and Lamb wrote it and did, marvelous, unique backgrounds using cutouts. On Christmas Eve, just before the film was completed, Guess invited Derek and Jeff out for drinks. After an enjoyable drink, Cam said youre both fired, and he meant it. Jeff says they were fired so Guess could take full credit for the film. And he did.
Lamb went off to Harvard to teach animation (1966-70). Then he moved to NYC where he worked for Sesame Street. Guess left the animation business and moved to Florida. Hale opened his own studio, Imagination Inc., in San Francisco.
Lamb and Hale worked together again on The Last Cartoon Man (1973, winner of the Best Scenario Award at Zagreb). Hale says that Dereks script ideas and his few rough drawings were so clear that he didnt need a storyboard. They also thought up an outrageous piece on religion, but we were advised not to make it.
In 1975, Lamb accepted the position of director of the National Film Board of Canadas English animation department (there is also a French division). He won Oscars for producing Bead Game (1977) with Ishu Patel and Every Child (1979. Derek was also given writing credit) with Eugene Fedorenko.
Derek also did a few projects during this period that were not produced by the NFB. The best known was the wonderful opening title sequence for the PBS series, Mystery Theater (1980). PBS still uses his opening based on the style of Edward Gorey.
Some of the works produced by others while he was head of department are exceptional. Janet Perlman, who later became his wife and business partner, created The Tender Tale of Cinderella Penguin (1981, Oscar nomination), Why Me (1976) and Lady Fishbournes Complete Guide to Better Table Manners (1976). [Perlman and Lamb eventually divorced, he married Tracie Smart, but remained partners with Perlman.]
Derek left the NFB in 1982. His credits since leaving the NFB include Skyward (1984, the first stop-motion work produced for the IMAX System); a series of 40 Sports Cartoons made for TV (1986, sponsored by WWF-TV, Cologne, animators included Kaj Pindal, Jeff Hale and Zlatko Grgic), Karate Kids (1990, produced and directed for the NFB and Street Kids International) and several projects for Unicef. He also wrote a graphic novel with Janet Perlman called Penguins Behind Bars. Lamb and Perlman turned it into a half-hour TV special for Cartoon Network.
A recent project that Jeff Hale told me about was Dereks Emmy-winning Peep and the Big Wide World, a series made for Discover Kids (Discovery Channel). Derek was the exec producer and Kaj Pindal was the creative producer. Hale says Peep is a baby chicken that Kaj created years ago. When he proposed a Peep film at the NFB there was no interest in the project. The award-winning series teaches science to pre-school kids.
Jeff said that when he and Derek were in India in 1999, he still had a great sense of humor. Derek came up with a humorous song about the British leaving India. They pitched an Indian company the idea of turning it into a very funny animated short, but the project remains unproduced.
You may have seen Derek recently in an Oscar-winning film. He had a featured part in Chris Landreths Ryan (1994).
I got to know Lamb when he was working in NYC. He gave me one of my first animation jobs, a 1975 Sesame Street spot (The Angry Goat) that suggested to children that it is sometimes okay to express anger. He designed and directed it. I animated it and learned a hell of a lot working with him, especially his professional and meticulous approach to the staging of the action. I remember he always talked about the theater of the piece meaning the best way to present the imagery and the content of the film to the audience for maximum impact.
We worked in his sunny two-bedroom apartment on NYs upper west side near Lincoln Center. When Derek was about to move to Canada to take the NFB job, he told me the apartment was available. I got it and my partner and I have lived there for 30 years.
There isnt a day that Im not reminded of Derek and his impact on my professional and personal life. He was a fine and creative gentleman, and very encouraging and inspiring to newcomers.
I was a former student of his from Harvard. Derek was my animation teacher at Harvard long ago, and later one of my producers at the Film Board in Montreal. What was significant about Dereks teaching was his energy and enthusiasm, which made things happen. He wasnt a teacher in the ordinary sense of the word, imparting information or know how or being a role model. He created an environment that buzzed. He made it exciting to be active and try out new things. This was true when he was a producer at the National Film Board of Canada as well. And it was true when you just went out to have a coffee with him... somewhere I have a collection of napkins with Dereks drawings, ideas flying about whatever we were discussing, usually in the form of a funny comment and drawing. He created a good environment to be your best self.
Oscar-winning animation director
Derek was my boss for almost five years, in the seventies. He ran the NFB animation studio in Montreal during a period of huge productivity and artistic heights. He was a strange sort of boss; he had too much fun, and, as a consequence, so did the rest of us. He loved anecdotes, jokes and outright pranks. On one occasion he left a memo, where he knew I would see it. It approved my transfer to cold, faraway Edmonton. I stewed for hours before I ran into him. He was chuckling fiendishly, and I knew Id been had.
Derek and I ran into each other intermittently over the years. We were both people who could laugh uproariously and when we were together we usually did. Ill miss him a lot.
Derek was a master storyteller. He was a writer who thought visually he could draw as well as write, and so his talents were ideal for animation. He knew instinctively how to tell a story and play out the humor to best effect. He also had a keen eye for talent, and gathered the best people around him, getting them to produce their best work. And so, on a professional level, not only was it a privilege to work with Derek, but it was also a privilege to work with all the talented people he brought around him.
Derek could address some of the most difficult issues in our world with humor and clarity. In his work with Street Kids International and with Unicef, he addressed the problem of AIDS and substance abuse in street children around the world. I dont think this work of his was fully appreciated or understood in North America. Almost all animation is made for the richest children in the world, and here he was making films for the poorest children in the world.
A week before he died I spoke with him. He was still enthusiastic about various film and music projects despite being very weak. Janet later wrote that Dereks wife Tracie Smart was at his side when he died and that a memorial in Montreal is being planned. He was 69.
Co-creator of Bob & Margaret
When I was just 17, Derek invited me to work at the NFB in Montreal where I met so many fantastic artists who shaped and influenced my career forever. For me, Dereks stewardship of the NFBs illustrious animation department was the most fertile and most exciting in its history. He was a true creative producer in the best sense. A real inspiring person with a passion for creativity and artistry and, above all else, great storytelling.
We stayed in touch periodically over the years. Derek gave us valued feedback on our short film, Bobs Birthday. He suggested that my partner, Alison, should do the voice of Margaret and that was one of those little nubs of advice that meant so much.
Im sure there are so many out there who would attest to his inspiration and his influence. I count myself amongst them, but most importantly, I remember Derek as one of the nicest people you could want to know and I can still hear his gentle laugh in my head when I think of him.
Derek was the guiding spirit behind so many of the greatest works produced at the NFB, he pioneered the animation program at Harvard which brought forth Caroline Leaf and Eli Noyes, and he continued to work, himself, on the kinds of films that opened the developing world to animation. Even with all this behind him, I found him always modest and gracious to young beginning animators. This good man will be greatly missed.
UC Berkeley and author of Walt in Wonderland
I was very saddened to hear the news about Derek. I met him when he came to Harvard to teach in the late 1960s. I never knew him well, but even from afar, he was an unforgettable fellow. He was the first professional animator I ever met, and he set the standard for patience, kindness, and sheer creative intelligence.
I knew him as a colleague of my parents and from a few meetings in Paris where I lived for most of my adult life. He was someone that I felt a real connection with. In fact we had dinner together the night my daughter was born and he was one of the first people to visit me in hospital.
The reason he was in Paris was because he was writing a treatment for my father for a film on Emile Cohl. We met up with Pierre Cortet Cohl, and spent time looking at Cohls old haunts. Sadly the project never got made, but so many others did. I will never forget him.
Visual effects artist
My Dad was a huge inspiration to my career as an artist. He was constantly working on new ideas and enjoyed telling stories. He would always tell a funny story to friends and it was fun to hear them over and over, they never got tiring.
He never compromised when it came to creating art. Sometimes we would go to a copy place on St. Catherine Street in Montreal and have some of my drawings from sketchbooks blown up quite large. Hed spend a long time inspecting the copy, and if the copier smudged the art a tiny bit, hed have it redone; he wanted the artwork to be perfect.
As a kid, I remember him taking me to the NFB offices. I was so impressed that my Dad worked there, pictures and drawings all over his office. He would get me set up with pens and paper so I could draw, and sometimes he would set up a monitor so my brother and I could see cartoons that the NFB had created.
Emile Cohls grandson
I would just like to say how I have been sadly affected when I have learnt the death of Derek Lamb and, some days later, of Wendy Jackson, and maybe, more than others, as I struggle myself against cancer since the beginning of this year. Although it is more difficult for me to tell it in English than in French, Im going to try and express my pain clearly.
I had met Derek Lamb many years ago, when John Halas, with whom he had much worked in the past, requested him to prepare a storyboard for a documentary feature about my grandfather, Emile Cohl. For this purpose, Derek came to Paris where I live and we visited together different places still existing where Emile Cohl had lived and worked. Our collaboration was very agreeable and I have kept a pleasant memory of it. The storyboard was perfect, but unhappily, the project could never be brought to a successful conclusion, due to the lack of interest from French co-producers; in addition, John Halas died some months later.
Some years ago, I had been invited by the film archives of the Harvard University, in order to make a speech on Emile Cohl and present a program of his films. I immediately informed Derek Lamb. As he lived very close the University and had taught there some years before, he insisted to come and introduce me before my speech. He explained how we met the first time and his words were full of warmth and kindness. At night, he invited me in a nice restaurant where we spent a very good time with his wife Tracie Smart and some of his friends. The day after, he took me to his home and showed me, among other things, his collection of flipbooks, but was very modest on his own works.
I offer my most sincere condolences to the family of Derek Lamb.
Director/animator, OOH Inc.
I first met Derek Lamb in 1979 when he was the executive producer at the National Film Board of Canada in Montreal. I was a U.S. citizen that had been awakened to the possibilities of alternative animation through the great works of the NFBC. In the U.S., it was Disney that dominated the animation world despite all the great work of UPA, Hanna-Barbera and countless other production companies. As an animation student at the Rochester Institute of Technology my eyes were being opened and I wanted to participate in this new form of animation that was being celebrated and practiced in Canada.
My film teachers, Erik Timmerman and Martin Reynolds, had arranged a meeting for me and three other students to tour the Film Board. Rochester wasnt too far from Montreal and, even though we spoke English and the Quebecois were feeling their French identity and potential independence, we felt that a trip to the NFB was worth any hassle we might experience as English-speakers in Montreal.
When we entered the hallowed halls of the Film Board, we were introduced to so many wonderful artists including Carolyn Leaf, Ishu Patel and Derek Lamb. We entered the office of Norman McClaren, my personal animation hero. I remembered that the office appeared to be more of a museum than a working space. I was so overwhelmed by the access to this wonderful animation hot spot that I dont recall individual conversations. Being a visual person, I do recall seeing Carolyn Leafs animation stand and finding out that she had a technician help her set everything up and she had no deadlines. I wont forget the beautifully under lit work of Ishu Patel and viewing the vibrant work in the film, Walkin by Ryan Larkin. I dont recall seeing much of Derek during that visit and as I think back Im sure he was off behind the scenes running the English division of this Canadian animation utopia.
That first visit was so euphoric for me that I was determined to return to Montreal later on and really talk with people and see if I could offer myself as a slave in this great place. In 1979, I finished R.I.T. and my student film partner, Malcolm Spaull, and I won a Student Academy Award for a stop-motion film based on Lewis Carrolls The Walrus and the Carpenter. I thought that this would be my ticket to getting into the Film Board once again.
This time I arranged a meeting for myself in Montreal. I was greeted at the front desk of the NFB by a young smiling, bright and lanky man, who turned out to be Derek Lamb. He was an absolute gentleman and gracious host who led me around the Film Board and allowed me time to hang out with Co Hoedeman as he was finishing Sandcastle. Derek met me for lunch at the Film Board commissary and we sat with a gaggle of animators.
At one point, Derek poked me and asked me, in a whisper, if I recognized the man across from me at the table. He then introduced me to Norman McClaren. I was blown away and a bit embarrassed for not recognizing my idol. I knew McClaren by his work not his visage. McClaren looked at my work and complimented me on the variety and design and said that he was not doing much animation anymore. He looked in poor health, but I was still in awe.
Being the lovely host that Derek was, he excused us from the table and took me to a screening room where I was able to pick and choose anything I wanted to see. Later that afternoon Derek bid me farewell and that was the last I saw of him for 25 years. As a U.S. citizen, it was extremely difficult to land work at the nationally funded Canadian Film Board, so I remained a fan and not an employee.
I did join the professional animation field and have worked in the U.S., England and even Canada in the last 25 years. As a professional, I am always aware of the industry that I work in and I have gotten to realize that it is a fairly small world. Having worked with, and gotten to know, people like Peter Lord, Joan Gratz, John Lasseter, Nick Park, Henry Selick and many. many more I found that Dereks name would crop up here and there. When I was working at Olive Jar Studios in the mid to late 90s I met Janet Perlman who was partners with Derek for many years. I knew that Derek was often in the Cambridge area, but I never really had the chance to follow through and see him again.
Then, two years, ago I decided to return to school in Boston and earn an MFA. I had entered a low-residency program at the Art Institute of Boston at Lesley University. They have a mentor program, which basically means each MFA student finds someone in their discipline that can teach them and guide them forward in their studies. Since I was a 25-year professional, there werent many people who would take me on as a student.
During one of my residencies in Boston I went to a party and ran into an old friend and colleague, Flip Johnson. Flip recommended that I get a hold of Derek Lamb. I was developing a story for my animated film for my studies and Flips recommendation was perfect. I had forgotten that Derek lived in the Boston area (Cambridge) and had taught at Harvard for many years. I also knew that he would not remember me from 25 years earlier, so I thought it would be a long-shot. After procuring Dereks e-mail from a friend of Flip, I dropped Derek a note explaining who I was. I received no answer, but after being in the commercial industry for so many years I knew that meant nothing. I then managed to get Dereks number. I left several messages but still got no response.
At one point I decided that there was not going to be a response so I opted for a different mentor. Quite literally, moments before I was about to call an alternative, my phone rings and its Derek. We spoke and he said he wasnt quite sure what he could do for me but he was willing to listen. I asked if I could come see him and show him my project. I live in western Massachusetts and it was a two-hour drive to Boston. We agreed to meet on a Saturday and I mentioned that I needed to bring my 13-year-old-son, Ty, because my wife was working Saturday. That was no problem and so we renewed our acquaintance.
Derek lived in a congested but charming part of Cambridge, that was surrounded by buildings owned and operated by Harvard University. Although, Derek was not working at Harvard at the time, a semi-academic atmosphere surrounded him. When Ty and I entered Dereks house I recognized him immediately. He looked a little older and a bit more frail but he was as warm and generous as the first time we met. He invited us in to his living room and I recalled our previous meeting 25 years earlier. He did not remember me, after all he had encounter hundreds of animators as was apparent from the pictures on his walls. I didnt recognize many of the people but he was always surrounded by small groups of smiling people.
Derek draped his large lean frame on the couch with some sort of healthy exotic looking liquid concoction in front of him and readied himself for my story. After explaining my situation to Derek and showing him my studies for my film we settled in for a little conversation. He loved the look of my film and was concerned about how my story was going to unfold. I knew I had made the right decision coming to visit Derek. He was going to be able to give me the right kind of genuine input to my story without being overbearing.
He showed Ty and me a project that he was working on for a kids series called Peep and the Big Wide World that he was overseeing with Kai Pindal, the Canadian animator and creator. Peep was awarded an Emmy this past spring for Outstanding Childrens Animated Program. I was impressed with the simplicity and elegance of the design and story. Derek recognized and helped nurture good talent and understood the value of simple human stories that can teach. He also told us about the films he had made over the years with child authors from around the world. Derek had worked for several childrens organizations like Street Kids International and Unicef and had traveled to various parts of Asia to help teach kids about hygiene and aids prevention.
He wanted kids to make films of their own that spoke to their own piers in their own culture. He was able to use animation as a beneficial tool for society, which gave great depth to his work in this field. Derek had a love for India and had been there numerous times to work at places like the National Institute of Design, which is based in Ahmedabad. Derek had been working on a short called, The Last British Colonel in India. He laughed about the small Indian boy who approached him on a beach one day. It was extremely hot and Derek didnt have his bathing suit. The young boy approached Derek and offered him a bathing for sale. Derek wasnt so sure about this purchase on the beach but he acquiesced once the boy offered him a lifetime guarantee for the bathing suit.
We talked about the colors of India, the culture of children and adults, films we loved including the works of Len Lye, his own Every Child, and a whole range of topics that had little and everything to do with animation and life in general. Dereks wife, Tracie, was in the next room and was anxious to free Derek so they could go to Groton for an outing. We looked at our watches and realized that we had burned through a few hours and all of us, including my son, were totally engaged. I apologized to Tracie for dominating Dereks Saturday morning and Ty and I went on our way back to the Berkshires.
On a subsequent visit with Ty to Dereks home, we settled on our couch as Derek took my script to read in the kitchen. He handed us a film that he had just received from an animator named Chris Landreth. Derek stepped out as we sat in awe of this amazing creation. We were speechless as Derek returned with his thoughts and my script. After our praise of this film based on the Canadian animator, Ryan Larkin, Derek gave us a little backstory. Naturally, Derek knew Ryan very well because he had been the director of the Film Board during Larkins tenure.
The interview of Derek in the film revealed Dereks concern for Ryan and Chris Landreth wanted Dereks reaction before the final release of the film. Ryan was a natural talent, an intuitive artist and not necessarily an intellectual, explained Derek. He had a way of expressing body motion that was simply unique and spot-on. But Ryan decided to go his own way leaving the fold of the Canadian Film Board. Derek was hard pressed to understand this decision and felt a certain sadness regarding the matter.
We moved on to my film script. Derek felt that my visuals were striking and he knew that they could carry the film in themselves. He wondered if I wanted to put the pressure of making an amazing film with many levels of understanding or if I wanted to make a film for myself. The former is intimidating and I realized that I didnt want to take on such a responsibility. I wanted the freedom of making a film for myself. If there was something profound that arose then that would be fine, but this was an opportunity to indulge myself. Once this was established, Derek urged me to keep a human element in my film that would lend a warmth that he wasnt sure was there. I assured him that the animation of the components of my film would add a human quality to the film.
His sense of warmth and humanity and clear storytelling guided our conversation. This helped keep me on track. Ultimately, the conversation we were involved in brought these qualities forward and I was able to keep a perspective on my work. I had promised Tracie that we wouldnt take so much of Dereks time this visit so soon we were departing company.
That was the last time I saw Derek. We did correspond by e-mail, but those encounters were not as rich as sitting in the presence of this animation master. Derek knew how to work with people and how to bring the best out of them. His intentions and ideas were highly regarded by many people in the animation industry. Often Derek was the man behind the curtain of the man behind the curtain. Animators are often anonymous, but to work behind such anonymity and have such great influence spoke very highly of this kind, perceptive and talented man. He will be missed but his influence will be felt for a long time and lives on in other animators like myself. Cheers, Derek!
Buzzco Associates Inc.
I saw Dereks work before I met him. As a high school student in the John Lindsays New York as Fun City era, I was exposed to all kinds of free events and one summer night they had an animation screening in Sheep Meadow in Central Park. At this point I had never seen cartoons other than those on TV or before movies (yes)! And I remember being amazed by this event. There was a Czech film about a singing pig and Dereks The Shepherd. Given its venue, this tale of a shepherd in New York got a rousing reception.
Later I went to the first Ottawa Animation Film Festival in 1976 and met Derek through Janet Perlman who was showing Mrs. Fishbournes Guide to Table Manners. From then through the 90s, I sat through many a film festival screening and shared many a meal with Janet and Derek, and could always count on them for their wit and intelligence. I will miss Dereks presence and good sense. I am enclosing the only photo I have of Derek (there are dozens of me and Janet) and we can see why. He was the one always taking the pictures!
Senior animator at Omation
My name is Jamie Dawkins and Im a senior animator at Omation animation studio in southern California. I worked as an animator under Derek Lamb on a project for Street Kids International. Derek was a terrific man to work for. He was a mild mannered gentleman artist who was easy to work with. After over 20 years working as an character animator I can honestly say that bosses like Derek are not all that common. Also it was great knowing that the film was a really cool attempt to educate streetkids all over the world about the dangers of living on the streets. A worthwhile effort compared to a lot of the everyday junkfood for the mind that was being produced in Toronto at the time. His passing is a tremendous loss for the Canadian animation community.
President, Alligator Planet
I first met Derek Lamb at Harvard in 1965. I had just entered the Graduate School of Design across the street from the Carpenter Center, but frequently visited the film and animation department where Derek had just taken up the position of the animation teacher. The Carpenter Center was still only a year or so old and was feeling its way into how to teach media and how to teach animation. In one dark room loomed a huge Oxberry camera with all its dials and glistening controls. Outside in a smaller room, Derek had set up a whole bunch of light tables with Bolexes on poles staring down at them. The Oxberry was intimidating, but the Bolexes were friendly and accessible.
Derek had his students doing all sorts of different exploratory exercises, like animating coins, or animating pieces of paper and light chains on the lightbox that sat under each stand. He would then have students find little pieces of music or sound to sync up to their animations on the several moviolas that were available to anybody interested. It was hands-on filmmaking and animation. Everybody loved it. As well, Derek would show films from the National Film Board of Canada, or films of Robert Breer or Len Lye. Few of us had seen these films before and felt lucky to be not only exposed to the free thinking and experimentation that went into them, but also to be inspired by them to make our own. Animation of this sort was not mainstream, at least in the U.S. He also exposed us to films from Eastern European countries like Czechlovakia, Poland and Russia and showed us there was a wonderful world out there which he encouraged us to become part of.
Through it all was Dereks delight at entertaining with clever stories, wonderful characters and innovative use of sound. His enthusiasm inspired us all. He not only told funny stories, but he played the guitar and sang as well, all with his dry wit and wonderful British accent.
This all feels like the old days now-before computers, before iPods, before Pixar, beforeSesame Street, before MTV, before the invention of the VHS recorder, before film schools and CalArts. Norman McLaren was still at the Film Board making films by scratching on black leader. Pixillation was still an eye-popping concept. Nobody knew how you could make inanimate objects come to life by moving them frame by frame, and were astounded when they saw even our crude and simple student work.
I kept in touch off and on with Derek over the years and, whenever we met, was flooded once again with that enthusiasm and quirky humor about film and life that seemed to be part of his soul and had survived the explosion of media that has followed since then. I consider him a good friend and will miss him greatly.
President/ceo, ToonBoom Animation
I had the honor of being with Derek in Trivandrum in India at The Week with the Masters. He was showing me his animation, The Last General in India, along with Jeff Hale, Derek was singing the lyrics, very much along the lines of Gilbert and Sullivan, as Jeff was explaining the drawings. I looked at these two men whose faces were transformed with delight to those of teenagers and thought how wonderful it was that they were so creative and loved so much what they had done all of their lives. It is a shame this show did not make it into production.
Rest well Derek.
Alumni Member of Sheridan College
Years before I attended the Sheridan School of Animation, I had read Kit Laybournes The Animation Book, learning much about the National Film Board of Canada and Derek Lamb. What I remember most about him is his work with Edward Gorey in the opening animation of PBSs Mystery Theater. All I know is that I really enjoyed his work, and a lot of other films done by artists of the NAB. Being heavily influenced by Disney animation, I am very glad that I attended a Canadian school for animation, because it broadened my experience for the art form, and taught me that Disney animation was only one aspect of craft, and not the standard to judge all animation.
Derek Lamb, Janet Perlman, Paul Driessen, Caroline Leaf, and another animator for the NAB that I cannot recall (he made the short film, The Cat Came Back), created animated films that inspired new, coming artists to be more different, more expressive, and not just make cookie-cutter animated films.
Kaj Pindal was one of my instructors at Sheridan in 1994 (maybe 1995), and working on his film Karate Kids at the time. Kaj hosted a summer party for the students, and Derek Lamb was there. That was where I briefly met him. Occasionally, he would come to Sheridan when Kaj showed clips of his film as the work progressed. Derek Lamb was a really nice guy, and I wished I could have taken the advantage of this awesome opportunity and talked to him a lot longer about his work. But now he is gone, and I am sure he will be missed by everyone.
Thanks for giving us animators (or would-be animators) a chance to express our thoughts.
Chris LandrethOscar-winning director of Ryan
I met Derek way too late in my life. I met him at a dinner party late in 2001, and I was lucky enough to sit with Derek on my left, and his longtime animation collaborator Kaj Pindal on my right. After about 15 minutes of them exchanging banter between each other around the back of my head, they both started a nice rapport with me, and were interested in a short film I was working on at the time, an animated documentary about Ryan Larkin.
Derek had been Ryans exec producer during Ryans last, turbulent years at the National Film Board of Canada and had stayed friends with him for years afterwards. I asked Derek if he would mind if I interviewed him about his involvement in Ryans life and career. He responded the next day by coming by with six pages of notes he had prepared that previous night, after wed had dinner.
His reflections on Ryan Larkin were more than just well prepared. They were thoughtful and contemplative, compassionate and brokenhearted, and, in turn, heartbreaking. It was very clear then, and is now, that Derek needed to be included in my film, Ryan. He was very gracious in allowing me to turn him into the 3D animated talking sketch you see in the film, although he quite understandably unnerved somewhat by the conversion.
We stayed friends and exchanged photos, artwork and musings until late this summer. Im glad now to say that in addition to knowing his great influence on Canadian animation and the independent animation scene in general, that Im glad to have personally known him as a friend for the last four years. It was way too short a time.
Derek was a giant.