One month after his passing, I’m finally ready to acknowledge he’s gone.
It was a little past 3 am on November 4th when I got an e-mail informing me that Larry Lauria has passed away. I was in Shanghai, wide awake, sitting at my computer, trying but failing as usual to be productive at such an hour, an hour I’m up working at far too often. I stared at the e-mail in disbelief. I paced back and forth across my hotel room, trying to grapple with what I’d just read. I’ve truly never felt so “far away” from everything near and dear to me as I felt right then. 6,000 miles far away in fact. People die all the time, I thought. But how could Larry die? This can’t be right. What could possibly bring down someone so solid? I can still hear him picking up the phone on one of our many calls... “Hello, this is Larry!”
I don’t even know how long I’ve known Larry. Our friendship certainly dates back to the earliest days of AWN – 1996 or 1997 most probably. Our paths crossed over publication of his endless stream of educational tutorials and materials designed to teach young animators the fundamentals of the craft. Larry was always so focused on his students, so many who became lifelong friends, let alone successful animators and artists in their own right. Over the years, I published his content, hosted and edited his tutorial websites, kicked around ideas for live training webcasts and countless other educational schemes, activities all centered on teaching animation. That was his passion. That’s what drove him. Even while working on his own film projects, he geared his efforts so they could be parsed into teaching segments. Always an eye on learning.
He was always so patient with me. Over the years I continually promised to look over article notes, a future blog post, or a tutorial in progress, only to push off or miss our scheduled reviews completely. He never nagged me or bagged on me. Not once. He always worked around my disorganization and found the time to reschedule. Without complaint. And, he was always so nice about everything. He never seemed to get too out of sorts, even when we talked about his frustrating dealings with college deans or administrators seemingly determined to make his teaching efforts as challenging as possible. His assessments of educational bureaucracy were always much kinder than mine.
We always shared the latest exploits of our kids. He was always so proud of his family. We talked about upcoming trips and our latest festival adventures. I got a kick out of telling him I had just seen his son Matt on some episode of some TV show and as always, when he popped onto the screen, I’d shout out, “Hey, that’s Larry Lauria’s kid!”
I was always amazed at his knowledge of the industry. There are some people who not only know “people” in the industry, but knew them when they were just starting out. That was Larry. He was like your cool uncle – “Yah, I remember watching Magic Johnson shoot hoops in 8th grade…” He never bragged or name dropped. He didn’t need to. He was an endless source of great stories and knowledge about the business.
His main blog on AWN is called “Always Animated.” He filled it with lessons, sketches and musings about life and animation. In reality, it was a chronicle of his love affair with all things animated. I still can’t bring myself to add a final post mentioning his passing, as if the very act will somehow diminish everything he wrote within.
I will miss his squashing and stretching. I’ll miss his Ty B Bear sketches and holiday cards. I’ll miss his patient and friendly demeanor. I’ll miss his laugh. I’ll miss our calls walking through all the ways his latest blog post needed a bit of “cleaning up” to make it fit the page just right. Most of all, I’ll miss my good friend, a friend who was always cheerful, always upbeat and truly, always animated.
Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.