Leo Sullivan, Co-Founder Of Hollywood’s First Black-Owned Animation Studio, Dies At 82

Sullivan as soon as recalled discovering an early affinity for animation as a toddler, though the mechanics of how animation labored eluded him for a while:

I might go to the flicks and see all these cartoons and I assumed it was little folks working round in costumes doing it. Then I began performing some analysis after I was in highschool and I stated “Hey, that is incredible.”

Clampett promoted Sullivan to an inbetweener on the Beany and Cecil sequence, which marked the start of his profession as an business artist. Over time, Sullivan labored for all the main studios of the period together with Hanna-Barbera, Filmation, DePatie-Freleng Enterprises, DiC Leisure, and Marvel Productions. He contributed as an animator, structure artist, and sheet timer to numerous animated exhibits together with The Flintstones, Scooby-Doo, Mighty Mouse, Fats Albert, Tremendous Mates, The Transformers, My Little Pony, Tiny Toon Adventures, and Animaniacs.

Sullivan additionally labored on the manufacturing and administration facet of the enterprise. Most notably, he co-founded Vignette Movies in 1966, together with Floyd Norman, Richard Allen, and Norm Edelen. As the primary Black-owned animation manufacturing firm, Vignette produced instructional movies about Black historic figures like George Washington Carver and Booker T. Washington. In addition they labored on numerous Hollywood television productions all through the Nineteen Sixties, together with the primetime television particular Hey, Hey, Hey, It’s Fats Albert (1969), the Soul Practice sequence opening, and writing on sketch comedy sequence like Rowan & Martin’s Snigger-In and Flip On.

“It was Leo Sullivan’s confidence that took us to the following stage,” Norman wrote in his memoir Animated Life. “It was additionally throughout this time that I realized that my accomplice Leo was a wonderful film producer. Truly, it could not be exaggerating to say he’s higher than most. Throughout this time, it was extremely unlikely {that a} black man would ever be given such a place in a serious studio.”

Leo Sullivan, at far left, with other Vignette Films co-founders Richard Allen, Norm Edelen, and Floyd Norman, in 1966.
Leo Sullivan, at far left, with different Vignette Movies co-founders Richard Allen, Norm Edelen, and Floyd Norman, in 1966.

Within the Nineteen Seventies, Sullivan ran the animation division on the L.A. commerical studio Spungbuggy Works. All through his profession, he jumped between mainstream studio work and producing work via his personal firm. Sullivan did business work for advert companies within the Caribbean, managed a number of animation studios in Asia, revealed a online game that honored the heroic Tuskegee Airmen, and developed and animated a personality (named Walt) for the California Science Heart.

In 2016, Sullivan and Norman reteamed to launch Afrokids.com, a label devoted to empowering households and constructing kids’s vanity and cultural heritage via instructional and leisure media.

Late final 12 months, Sullivan appeared on the Reelblack Podcast to speak in regards to the work he and the Afrokids crew do within the children and household house. The impetus for launching the corporate, he defined, goes all the way in which again to his early profession when he noticed characters from underrepresented communities being marginalized in animation, an issue he says persists in the present day:

I noticed that Black characters, completely different ethnicities, have been marginalized. Typically marginalization is available in delicate methods. And I stated, “Someone wants to vary that.” However most people within the business who occurred to be African American or from different cultures kind of needed to go together with what was dished out to them with the intention to make a residing. The one option to escape that’s to exit by yourself and see when you can construct one thing that’s extra in keeping with what may construct up our folks.

Later within the podcast, Sullivan defined why it was necessary for youthful generations to see him working into his 80s, consistently be taught in regards to the ever-changing artform of animation:

Why I keep out right here even at my age is so [young people] can see, after they have a look at me as an previous man, I work with computer systems, and my spouse works together with me. We make the content material. We work with younger musicians, artists, and every thing, to create a few of these issues.

Sullivan supplied mentorship and schooling to many artists. Wherever he was in a hiring capability, he would take possibilities on younger artists who have been beginning their animation careers. He usually spoken to grade faculty college students about pursuing a profession in movie, and he additionally sponsored subject journeys for youngsters to attend film theaters. Moreover, he taught animation on the Artwork Institute of California in Orange County.

Sullivan with Pat Ventura (left) and Gary Trousdale in the early 1980s.
Sullivan with Pat Ventura (left) and Gary Trousdale within the early Nineteen Eighties.

Sullivan is a key a part of the 2016 documentary Floyd Norman: An Animated Life which incorporates quite a few video interviews of Norman and Sullivan collectively from throughout the a long time, a style of which might be seen in that movie’s trailer.

Throughout his profession, Sullivan was honored twice by the Black Filmmakers Corridor of Fame and received an Emmy for his work as a timing director. He’s survived by his spouse Ethelyn O. Stewart, their son Leo Jr., and daughter Tina.

Tributes to Sullivan have been flooding social media because the information of his passing. Afrokids.com revealed a message throughout its on-line accounts:

The Twitter account for Floyd Norman: An Animated Life posted a touching tribute to Norman’s shut buddy and long-time skilled colleague:

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse director Peter Ramsey tweeted:

Walt Disney Animation vfx supervisor Marlon West shared a captivating anecdote:

Bruce W. Smith, creator and govt producer of The Proud Household and supervising animator of The Princess and the Frog villain Dr. Facilier, tweeted: