Animation producer Buzz Potamkin dies of cancer

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Buzz Potamkin

Buzz Potamkin

Seven-time Emmy-nominated animation producer Buzz Potamkin, responsible for such series as Johnny Bravo, Dexter’s Laboratory and 2 Stupid Dogs, died April 22 following a long battle with pancreatic cancer.

His age was not immediately available.

Potamkin shared Daytime Emmy nominations in 1986 and 1988 for Outstanding Animated Program in connection with CBS Storybreak.

In 1995, Potamkin was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Animated Program (For Programming One Hour or Less) for both the Dexter’s Laboratory episode “Big Changes” and the TV special Daisy-Head Mayzie. For the latter, he shared a CableACE Award for Children’s Special or Series – 6 and Younger.

He shared a 1996 Emmy nomination for Outstanding Animated Program (For Programming One Hour or Less) for the Cow and Chicken episode “No Smoking.”

In 1968, Potamkin founded Perpetual Motion Pictures with two employees. It became New York City’s largest animation studio over the next decade. Potamkin produced hundreds of TV commercials, including the “fruit juicy” series for Hawaiian Punch.

Potamkin’s formal cartoon credits began when he produced the 1979 TV-movie The Berenstain Bears’ Christmas Tree. After that, he never looked back.

He founded Southern Star Productions in 1984, running the studio until 1991. He worked briefly at the Walt Disney Company in 1991 before joining Hanna Barbera as executive producer and head of TV, serving through 1996.

In 1990, working with executive producer Roy Disney, Potamkin produced the TV Academy’s Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue, the only animated program to be telecast simultaneously on all four major TV networks in the United States. As well, he served with Disney as honorary executive producer for the UNICEF Animation Consortium.

He was executive producer of the TV series Teen Wolf (1986-87), Peter Pan and the Pirates (1990), The Addams Family (1992), Swat Kats: The Radical Squadron (1993), 2 Stupid Dogs (1993-95), Cow and Chicken (1995), The What a Cartoon Show (1995-97), and Dexter’s Laboratory and Big Bag (both 1996).

Potamkin executive produced the TV-movies The Halloween Tree (1993); A Flintstones Christmas Carol and Scooby-Doo in Arabian Nights (both 1994); Jonny Quest Versus the Cyber Insects, Short Pfuse and Short Orders (all 1995); and Pfish and Chip (1997).

Executive producer of the TV shorts What’s Going on Back There!?, Daisy-Head Mayzie and George and Junior’s Christmas Spectacular (all 1995) and Out and About (1997), he executive produced the theatrical shorts Help? and Hillbilly Blue (both 1995), and Malcom and Melvin and Babe, He Calls Me (both 1997).

Both producer and director of the 1985 TV series The Berenstain Bears, he produced the TV-movies The Berenstain Bears Meet Bigpaw (1980), The Berenstain Bears’ Easter Surprise (1981), The Berenstain Bears’ Comic Valentine (1982), and The Berenstain Bears Play Ball and Deck the Halls with Wacky Walls (both 1983).

Potamkin produced the TV shorts Strawberry Shortcake in Big Apple City (1981) and Marvin: Baby of the Year (1989), along with with the theatrical short The Big Sister (1995), the 1998 video movie Buster & Chauncey’s Silent Night and the 1988 video short Mad Scientist. He produced additional material for the American version of the 1995 theatrical cartoon musical The Real Shlemiel.

Potamkin was supervising producer of the series CBS Storybreak from 1985 to 1988, along with the 1985 ABC Weekend Special The Velveteen Rabbit.

Among his awards, animation historian Jerry Beck noted, were four Clios, the MTV Video Award, over 20 ASIFA commendations, the Cannes Gold Lion, the Venice Silver Lion, the Cable Ace, the Peabody, the Scott Newman Award, two New York Festival Gold Medals and three Silver Medals, The Child in Our Time Award from MIFED, and two Humanitas.

“Buzz was like the Johnny Appleseed of animation companies, running, founding or co-founding many over the years including Perpetual Motion, Southern Star Productions, Visionary Media and Buzzco,” said animation historian Mark Evanier. “His tenures with each outfit were highlighted by innovative, acclaimed production, much of it in the area of advertising, but plenty in the category of TV series and specials. As one example, he received credit and praise for a lot of the splashy animation that the cable channel MTV employed in advertising and imaging when it debuted.

“The Buzz Potamkin I knew… was a man of utter integrity both in handling money and in handling the creative reins of a show. I wish we had more like him and am sorry to lose the one we had,” Evanier added.

Recalled Fred Seibert, founder of animation studio Frederator: “Buzz was instrumental in helping figure out how to launch the first of our shorts incubators, What A Cartoon!, in 1994. He’d given me plenty of insight about the theatrical shorts of the mid-20th century, and when he came on as my head of production we plotted the program together, and he cajoled a number of legendary filmmakers like Ralph Bakshi and Bruno Bozzetto to give this crazy idea some gravitas.

“Buzz Potamkin was a unique soul. He was the kindest man you could imagine, always ready with help and inspiration. He admired creative people of all kinds, especially artists, and he could smell out smarts in anyone in a room. He had a curmudgeonly crust, but with a quick smile and wit, and always a twinkle in his eye.”

Buzz Potamkin is survived by his wife Rosie.

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