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CalArts Veteran Frank Terry Passes Away

Industry veteran and former head of the CalArts Character Animation program dies at the age of 75 from causes related to pulmonary fibrosis.

Longtime animation industry veteran Frank Terry, the former head of the CalArts Program in Character Animation, has passed away. He died on Tuesday, February 11, 2014, following a diagnosis late last year of pulmonary fibrosis. He was 75.

According to the CalArts 24700 blog, Terry joined the faculty of CalArts’ School of Film/Video in 1995 and directed Character Animation from 1996 to 2007. He continued teaching at CalArts through 2008.

Upon graduation from Chouinard in 1964, Terry spent many years producing animated TV commercials for blue-chip clients such as Keebler, Kellogg, Neiman Marcus, American Express, Procter and Gamble, Mattel, and Pillsbury. He also worked on The Beatles’ cartoons in the 1960s and ABC-TV’s 1982 production of Stanley, the Ugly Duckling. Terry was a recipient of Gold and Bronze Awards from the International TV and Film Festival in New York, as well as the New York Art Directors Club Award for Best Animation.

At CalArts, Terry is remembered as a strong leader who helped thousands of animation students through his industry experience, personal mentorship, and, in some cases, even financial support. “Frank was always willing to help students,” said Martha Baxton, senior administrative coordinator in the Program in Character Animation. “He was a giving visionary; a very important figure in strengthening our third-and fourth-year curricula and overseeing significant expansion of our 3-D capabilities.”

Assistant Dean Leo Hobaica Jr. said, “Frank brought a new level of ideas to the program—from curriculum to the jurying process for the annual producers’ showcase, to his encouragement for student participation in film festivals. He elevated the discourse in the classroom, always striking a balance between industry requests and art for art’s sake. The films became technically better and more interesting than they’d been before, and suddenly there were kids who believed that they could become auteurs.”

The Frederator blog reprints Terry’s touching and inspiring letter, from 2007, announcing his resignation as the head of the CalArts character animation program:

To All Character Animation Faculty and Staff,

I hope the 2007 spring finds you all well and looking forward to the quiet of Summer. This is indeed my last day anywhere near the Office of the Director of the Character Animation Program. Next School year I will be teaching only a quiet night class or two, and not involving myself with the Directing of the Program. Minimized to the Max. That is now the responsibility of Ms. Cynthia Overman. And I am delighted with the decisions of the School of Film and Video. Cynthia will be a wonderful Director!

So, Thank you all for the remarkable 11 years of my Directorship. You have all given me memories that I would wish for all of you to experience. To all of our Students -- both Graduated and not, come back often … call Cynthia … find time to teach or at least present a workshop. Your participation with the department is as essential to its health as the health of the Instructors. You all were selected from the request of many, and each carry a uniqueness that is remarkable. It has been a joy to be associated with you. Stay healthy; Grow in Artistry and Stature, and Stay in Touch!

To the Faculty who have labored alongside the students; all of the accomplishments of the Department are a reflection of your efforts, collectively, and not of any one individual … Thank you for all or your expertise and sacrifices … I’m sure we know your participation was for the students, as the Salary was never a reason. Long Days and Long Nights have made the Program the finest in the World, and it is because of your efforts … I hope that you will continue that effort.

To the Staff and all support people … none of this would have happened without your active participation. To you all, the Department owes a great deal of gratitude and indebtedness … time and time again, despite seeming like we are alone in a sea of disregard, our labs, Mentor process, and quality of connection are all rather admired. With only a small Office Staff and an even Smaller Technical Staff, you have accomplished some rather Remarkable results!

And finally, to Cynthia, I would say … “Have At It!”… I hereby turn over to you the finest Animation Program that I know of, and one that is respected, World Wide.

Thank you all, once again

Jennifer Wolfe's picture

Formerly Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network, Jennifer Wolfe has worked in the Media & Entertainment industry as a writer and PR professional since 2003.