On June 10, 1935, Dorse Lanpher was born with the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck. After he was resuscitated by the doctor, Dorse began living a meaningful life ruled by his vivid imagination, artistic talent, and passion for creating unforgettable special effects environments for the animated characters.
In his memoir, Dorse shares a revealing glimpse into his fascinating life as an artist in the animated film industry. He begins by offering entertaining childhood anecdotes that describe cherished moments like skinny-dipping with his friends, saving his money and buying his family their first television, and constructing a homemade golf course in a field of wild grass. After he graduated from high school in California and entered the Art Center School of Los Angeles, Dorse's talent was recognized by his teachers; after five challenging semesters, however, he left the school. As Dorse embarked on a journey to conquer a new world with nothing but a portfolio of his best art and a desire to live his dream, he soon discovered that, with a little tenacity, he could do anything.
Dorse's captivating story proves that following one's passion is never free from struggle, but staying true to a dream can lead to a life fulfilled.
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FLYIN' CHUNKS AND OTHER THINGS TO DUCKMemoirs of a life spent doodling for dollars
By Dorse A. Lanpher
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2010 Dorse A. Lanpher
All right reserved.
Chapter OneA Bumpy Start
The United States of America. Year one begins on the morning of June 10, 1935, in Pontiac, Michigan. Right off there were chunks to duck. Before I was expelled into this world, from what was supposed to be the comfort of the womb, I had some how managed to break my arm and get entangled in the umbilical cord which was wrapped around my neck, cutting off my air supply.
"Oh yes," Mother told me years later, "you were born dead with a broken arm and the doctor had to give you mouth to mouth resuscitation to save you." She seemed to put it so bluntly. I suspect the truth was that I just wasn't breathing, not dead, but Mother liked to dramatize and do it in a way that would set a person back. But my mother always spoke her mind. Both my younger brother, Darrell, and older brother, Don, were apparently ejected into the world without problems; at least I didn't hear of any.
Having lived through that early trauma, I've puttered through life, one day at a time, attempting to understand how it all works. I would have thought by now that I'd have figured it all out so that I could just kick back and enjoy what's left of it. Not so. I used to have a fantasy. A big house with a circular driveway filled with the cars of my teenage children's friends. We, the family and all the kids' friends, would be in the backyard playing in the swimming pool, all having a wonderful time. As a reality I doubt if I could have been grown up enough to handle that. It never happened.
I was about nine years old when World War II was winding down. That would have been 1944. My mother had an opportunity to visit California with my brothers and me in tow. My cousin Betty and her husband, Willis Holsworth, wanted to make the trip to California and invited us along. Dad had to stay home to work, he didn't have vacation time. We were still in Pontiac at 108 Poplar Street, a street named for the large poplar trees which lined the street and towered over the houses.
When we got home from the trip my mom talked my dad into moving to California, a trial move. Mother loved the sunshine of California so much she wanted to live there. We rented out our house in Michigan and hit the road pulling a two-wheeled trailer behind a 1939 Pontiac sedan with enough belongings to make a start in California. Driving across the Rocky Mountains in those days was terrifying; don't know how the early pioneers did it in oxen drawn wagons. Part of the perilous, cliff-hanging, highway was being rebuilt and in some places it was a dirt road without barriers to stop your car if it decided to go over the edge. At the last stop, before heading into the mountains, my dad had bought chocolate bars for us as a treat, or maybe to give us courage. As we bravely drove that scary road I held my candy bar tightly in my hand and nervously squeezed it into a melted mess. We finally arrived at our destination but I don't think my dad found much gold in them thar hills of California. We ended up living in a mostly industrial area in a very tiny cottage. It was one of several small cottages in a row of rental cottages on San Fernando Boulevard, in Glendale. I suspect in the 1930's it might have been a motel, it was built like that. Those little houses are all gone now, replaced by industrial buildings.
I celebrated my tenth birthday there. My parents gave me a birthday present which was a real ukulele with a song book by Ukulele Ike, a popular singer of the 1930's whose movie name was Cliff Edwards. He did the voice of Jiminy Cricket in Walt Disney's animated feature Pinocchio. My parents took my brothers and me to see the movie when I was six years old. It was the first movie I remember seeing, my first brush with the art of Walt Disney. Some people say Cliff Edwards was the originator of scat singing but I'm not sure what Louis Armstrong would say about that. I also couldn't know that many years later I would be standing next to Cliff Edwards, Ukulele Ike, in the men's room at the Walt Disney Studios. I didn't have the courage to interrupt him with my ukulele story. To celebrate my tenth birthday that year my parents took the whole family to the Shrine Auditorium, in Los Angeles, to see The Clyde Beatty Circus on stage. I still wonder how we could have afforded that. That is the only childhood birthday I remember, where are the other memories?
At the time we lived there, in that little row of cottages, "San Fernando Road", as we called it, was a main highway. This was long before freeways would divert the traffic around Burbank. I guess in the early days it was just a dirt road. It took traffic to and from Los Angeles as it passed right through downtown Burbank, just to the north east of us. The railroad track was across the road so we had every kind of rolling thunder from the biggest trains, the oldest smoke belching jalopies and the biggest rattling, honking diesel trucks coming to or leaving Los Angeles, roaring through downtown Burbank.
We lived there when President Franklin D. Roosevelt died. I was walking home from school one day and there was a lady watering her front yard and she was crying. Being an inquisitive kid and wanting to help I stopped and ask her what was the matter. She said, wiping tears from her reddened face, "President Roosevelt died." I don't think it affected my parents the same way. I don't remember their reaction so I don't think they were as stressed about it as the woman who was watering her yard. I remember her. Even at ten years old I felt her pain.
I don't think my dad liked living in Californy, as he called it. Maybe work was too tough to find. I don't remember what his work was at the time. I think maybe machine shop work. Maybe he missed the seasons of Michigan. I don't know how he talked my mom into moving back east but he did. We were soon to hit that road with all those other noisy machines to find the highway that headed east. We moved back to our house in Pontiac, Michigan. We only lived there about a year when my parents decided it was time to head back to the left coast again, such gypsies. I did finish grammar school there in Michigan, the sixth grade at Wisner Elementary School. My mother had managed to convince my dad to move back to California but I think by that time he was tired of those awfully cold snow filled winters. They even sold the house in Michigan so I guess they didn't plan on returning. We settled in a trailer park on Chestnut Street in Burbank. My two brothers, Mom, and Dad and I all moved into a twenty five foot house trailer. We had to walk to the communal bathrooms rain or shine. We did keep a pot set out at night, just like the French king in the Palace of Versailles, that way if someone had to pee they didn't have to get dressed for the long walk to the bathroom. In the summer my brothers and I would sleep outside on the patio. I don't remember ever wondering why we didn't just live in a regular house. It was kind of neat.
I was eleven years old that first summer we lived in California when my dad talked me into running my own business. He financed me in a "soda pop" venture. My Dad was working in construction, tile work, at a housing tract in the west San Fernando Valley. It was the beginning of the end to the clean air and clear skies of the rural west valley. Dad convinced me to go to work with him and sell sodas to the workers there. It was very hot and they had very little to drink. I filled a large army surplus container with ice and sodas and went with my dad to the housing tract. I pulled my wagon with its load of icy drinks around the tract and sold sodas to the workers. There wasn't a tree or bit of shade for miles and the summer sun pushed the thermometer over one-hundred degrees. The sodas were selling like crazy and as I pulled my wagon around I would pick up the empty soda bottles. The ones I sold and others that had been left behind. The sodas cost me (actually my dad bought the sodas) ten cents and I would get a nickel for every bottle I returned to the store. I charged fifteen cents a bottle so I made at least one hundred per cent profit on every bottle and I sold every bottle I had. There was one problem. I couldn't haul enough sodas out to the tract to keep me busy all day and I got terribly hot, lonely and bored, so this venture only lasted about two days. Who knows? If I had stuck with it I could maybe own the Pepsi Company today.
I got my first real job at John Markam's Woodshop on Chestnut Street in Burbank. My friends, Ace and Danny, worked there and Mr. Markam needed my help. He paid us fifty cents an hour and we worked two hours after school and eight hours on Saturday. We swept floors. We nailed forms. We rubbed white paste into the wood grain of kidney shaped coffee tables, which came in all colors, awful looking things. It was there, working in that woodshop, I first learned that earning money provided a sense of independence. I loved having the money to buy a shirt just because I liked it, real power. I didn't have to ask Mom or Dad. My boss was Gladis, John's wife, she taught me to say "those things", instead of "them things". Since I was from a family which had a serious shortage of formal education "them things" seemed like the way to call attention to something, like "them things over there". She was relentless in her efforts to correct my poor grammar. "Those things, THOSE, things over there," she would sternly say, scaring me. I feared losing my job because of bad grammar so I worked hard at correcting myself. I'm thankful she was so tough on me.
Television was just becoming popular about this time and the magic of it fascinated my friend Danny and me. We would ride our bikes for miles as we searched the valley, stopping at every TV shop to check out the new TV models. I was twelve years old and rollin' in dough, earning about nine dollars a week. So much money I couldn't spend it all so I saved up enough money to buy my family's first TV. I told my dad that I would put a down payment on a TV if he would buy it. I had saved fifty dollars. After all, how many shirts can a kid buy? We got a black and white, 9 inch Hoffman TV. It had a tiny little yellow-green screen that was round except for the flattened top and bottom. I loved the magic of this box. It delivered the world into our house trailer through that little screen. I would stare at anything on that screen. It was magic. I saw Nat King Cole interviewed when he was just starting out as a piano player with a trio. Television made that possible for me at twelve years old. It really seemed magical.
I started the seventh grade at John Burroughs Junior High School because my parents, being straight arrows, were told by the city that the neighborhood we lived in was in the John Burroughs district. All my friends went to a closer school, John Muir Junior High up in town. I guess their parents were outlaws and didn't concern themselves with the rules. The next year I was allowed to attend John Muir Junior High School, with all my friends. That school was later torn down and eventually replaced by an Ikea store; who knows what will be there in another ten years. I felt much better at John Muir with my friends but I did miss the swimming pool at John Burroughs Junior High. I graduated from the ninth grade at John Muir Junior High and received one of those Bank of America awards for being a student that showed some sort of promise as an artist. I had always enjoyed drawing and had begun to hone that ability years earlier by tracing my older brother Don's drawings of World War Two aircraft. He was a good drawer.
That year my maternal grandmother, living in Michigan, got very sick. About the only thing I remember about her was her washing my ears, her bony finger in my ear, feeling like she was trying to stick it clear through my tiny child head. That was when she lived with us for a while when I was about six years old. She threw my wooden pistol, which my Dad had carved for me, into the furnace. This was my first experience with gun control. She didn't like guns, even those carved out of wood by her son-in-law, my dad. It was around this time that I received a report card from school which was all C's, just average. As I remember I was not happy about that but my mother told me that it was okay. I guess she was just trying to take care of me by protecting me from feeling bad about being average. I do remember wondering why she didn't want me to do better when I wanted me to do better. I needed answers, not tolerance. As the summer of 1949 arrived, my grandma was so sick that my folks thought we should move back to Michigan. There must have been more to that story for moving twenty five hundred miles away from the folks in those freeway free days seems a bit much, that is if you plan on running back east for an illness. Driving a car across the country in those days, without freeways, was a long and gruesome task.
I graduated from John Muir Junior High School, said goodbye to all my friends, quit my job at John Markam's Woodshop, and headed back east to start high school, the tenth grade, in a rural area of Michigan. My uncle Caleb lived in Drayton Plains, Michigan, and fortunately for us he had converted his garage into a small cozy house which we made our home. The little house had a pot bellied stove in the middle of the tiny living room. In the winter, which was miserably cold, my dad would fill that stove with coal and it would glow red hot. That stove was a good friend in the winter after spending hours out in the snow, skiing, and skating.
These were nice years. My cousin Sam, who had always lived in Michigan, was two years older than myself and had skis and sleds and hockey sticks. In the winter we would ski and toboggan. If the wind wasn't blowing when the lake froze we would clear the snow and make a hockey rink. If the wind was blowing when the lake froze it would make the ice so bumpy that the lake would be unusable for ice skating for the whole winter. We would be very disappointed. In the summer we would hike in the endless, mysterious, woods or play golf on the nine-hole course we had constructed in the fields of wild grass. For the "greens" we would just mow the grass very short. We had a sand trap and a briar patch trap and a sixty yard drive for the longest fairway.
My friends and I had an old boat we kept in a swamp. The swamp had a small water passage into a nice sized lake where we would we would go skinny-dipping. We would paddle out to the middle of the lake and dive into the murky water from the boat. That lake was always reddish murky, must have been its connection to the swamp. To keep the boat from leaking we had smeared the hull with liberal amounts of tar. That black tar would be smudged all over us after climbing into the boat a few times. We would paddle around the swamp and would fill the boat with mud turtles while the leeches would slither up the sides of the boat. There were large trees and many plants that grew around the swamp which made it seem very prehistoric and I guess in a sense it was. It was unexplored territory filled with Rattle Snakes and Water moccasin's and in the past, bears, cougars, wolves and other threatening creatures. It was probably that way for thousands of years.
It was the early fifties when our family moved from the garage house to a small house Dad built on M-59, a two lane state highway that crossed Michigan north to south. Mom, Dad and I, with my younger brother Darrell, lived there. My older brother Don, five years my senior, didn't live with us at the time, he had joined the Air Force before we moved to Michigan.
One day I discovered a 78 rpm record my parents had acquired. The record was black and had a red orange label surrounding the hole in the middle.
The words printed around the circular edge read Good Time Jazz with the band's name The Firehouse Five Plus Two. It was my introduction to Dixieland Jazz, a musical form begun in the late eighteen hundreds. I think I read somewhere that during the civil war there were many morale building military bands which had no use for their instruments after everyone stopped shooting each other. Many of these instruments ended up in New Orleans and the youngsters managed to acquire them and learned to make music. Having no formal musical training allowed them to develop a style peculiar to their own culture. Someone, don't know who, called it Dixieland Jazz, most likely because it originated in the southern United States. Dixie was that area south of the Mason-Dixon Line, the dividing line between the "free" states of the North, and the slave states of the South.
Excerpted from FLYIN' CHUNKS AND OTHER THINGS TO DUCK by Dorse A. Lanpher Copyright © 2010 by Dorse A. Lanpher. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
ContentsA note on doodling....................vii
Foreword by Don Bluth....................xi
1. A Bumpy Start....................1
2. Learning with the Pros....................15
3. Walt Disney Wants Me....................21
4. Uncle Sam Wants Me Too!....................31
5. A Short Stop at Disney....................43
6. Broken Brain, Marriage Malfunction, and Career Collapse....................51
7. The Rescuers Rescue Me....................56
8. So I Skip Out Again....................62
9. A Well Oiled Career Ahead....................72
10. Oops, Who Took the Fun Out of Funding....................78
11. The My$tery Money Man Promi$ed Million$....................85
12. So We're Off to Ireland....................92
13. The Irish Lose Us to Merry Olde England....................109
14. Disney Wants Us Back....................115
15. The 2nd Golden Age of Animation Blooms....................128
16. Aladdin and the Ride On the Magic Carpet....................139
17. My Pride With the Lions....................143
18. Native Americans and Notre Dame....................149
19. When the Saints Go Marching In....................153
20. Hercules Takes Me to a New York Party....................161
21. Take Two Won't Do But Mulan Does....................167
22. A Hawaiian Bonus to the Jungles of Tarzan....................171
23. In The Groove with Computers on the Move....................176
24. Home on the Range Then Out To Pasture....................179
25. Making Room for the New Guys....................185
About the Author....................192
My Crazy Books....................193