From the E-Mailbag…

Brian Pearce writes…

As you probably have not heard because it's only been reported on a fist-full of blogs and unofficial Facebook posts, Hal Sutherland passed away last week on January 16th due to Gallbladder complications (according to the email from his daughter, Lisa). I know that folks in the field of animation are passing away with more and more frequency these days, but I was wondering why nobody — and I mean nobody (other than Jerry Beck) seems to have commented about the passing of the sole surviving founder of Filmation! I know (or think I know?) that you never worked with him personally, but surely somewhere between founding Filmation, working on Sleeping Beauty, animating Star Trek and giving birth to He-Man & The Masters Of The Universe, somebody would have taken note of this other than a lowly blogger such as myself?

Any ideas of how something like this slips through the cracks?

Also, if you have any memories/interactions with Hal, I'd love to hear about them (I know, ranty-angry mail followed by a request… I'm sorry, I'm all emotional over this. Please forgive?)

Also, here's a link to my 1980's Saturday Morning Historical Reenactment Society Community where there are links and whatnot detailing my search to confirm Hal Sutherland's death. Thank you for your attention.

For those of you reading this who don't know the name of Hal Sutherland, he was a one-time Disney animator who went on to co-found Filmation, the prolific studio that did the cartoon shows Brian mentions, as well as many more. I never met Hal, never had any interaction with him and couldn't have written an obit about him here without Googling his name and just paraphrasing what I found online. He sure seems to deserve many tributes and thanks. I'm just not the guy to write them.

So let me address Brian's question of how something like this falls through the cracks. The answer is that no one takes the initiative. Obits do not just "happen" when someone dies. Someone has to phone newspapers and write the equivalent of a press release. This is especially true, I've found, when people in the fields of animation and comics pass away. The reporters who work the obit beats for the major newspapers and wire services simply are not versed in that info and are, understandably, a little reticent to trust online sources. Newspapers hate running corrections but they especially hate running them for obituaries.

Or to put it in simpler terms: If you want to see the press note the passing of someone you care about, write the basic facts of the obit yourself, then contact the appropriate department at some major news sources. Give them the facts. Give them contact info for some likely interviewees and, more important, a means of contacting a representative of the deceased. Most newspapers will not move an obituary unless they have verified the death with the family or with someone like the deceased's lawyer. In some cases, they may also want a means of fact-checking the details you give them.

I hope this doesn't come across as morbid but one big hunk of evidence of how comics have become mainstream is the obits. Back in 1973 when Bill Everett and Syd Shores died, it didn't make the New York Times or any major newspaper. The same was true of comparable folks in animation. But now, kids who grew up on such creators' work are in journalism and the impact that an Everett or Shores had on popular culture is more evident. Still though, someone has to tell the press when someone of that sort dies and help them collect the facts.