Friday, April 16, 2010
Tom Scherman Tribute
Tom Scherman was born on July 11, 1940, in the county of Westchester, a suburb of New York. His family was musical and artistic and so was Tom. His boyhood sketches were of fantastic machines rather than clouds and barns and animals. In fact, the animals Tom drew were mostly dinosaurs, and he had an exhaustive knowledge of each dinosaur's size, power and hist
When Tom's interest was piqued, he studied that subject extensively; and, possessing an encyclopedic memory, never forgot what he learned. In 1954, Tom saw 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Then he saw it again a few days later. He began building Nautilus models, and studying not only 20K, but all the works of Jules Verne. It was an interest, a passion, really, that was to last for the rest of his life.
Tom studied art formally at Rhode Island School of Design, where he made his first animated film, a sort of campy homage a King Kong. Tom was captivated by the idea of film, and filmic special effects, which led him to move to California, to be in the center of the SFX world. He worked at several of the LA commercial production houses, notably Jon Urie and Associates, and Cascade. His model-making skills were noted and he worked on an impressive list of television commercials including Alka Selzer, Paper Mate, Pillsbury, Norelco, Bird's Eye, and Arco.
These jobs were means to an end. Tom never forgot the reason behind his move to California, and became friends with Harper Goff, the Production Designer of 20,000 Leagues. In fact, it was a meeting of the minds. Harper once said that Tom "was the son I never had." Harper showed Tom the design for the Nautilus Two and the concept of Vulcania. Tom built many Nautilus models, scores of them. The author Ray Bradbury had one on his desk that was shown every week at that author's TV show.
Tom was once again smitten by the fantasy world of Jules Verne, and expanded upon Harper's original concept, even after Harper passed away. The work he did heavily influenced the design of Tokyo DisneySea's Mysterious Island theme park. Tom, never idle, did models for films Airport 2, and Darkman.
Tom had met Richard Fleischer, the director, and attended the lectures he gave about 20K. Fleischer often asked if Tom were in the audience because he knew that Tom's grasp of the facts connected with the film were superior to his own. It was therefore acknowledged that Tom was the ranking aficionado of all things concerned with the film.
So when Disneyland Paris WDI Imagineers needed an interior design for their Nautilus, Tom was the choice to do it. It was the culmination of a dream, and even though Tom was in remission for the cancer that would eventually kill him, he finished the job on time and under budget and was thanked by WDC Chief Michael Eisner.
His memorial service was attended by scores of his friends, and the eulogy was given by Ray Bradbury.
We like to remember him proudly standing on the deck of his ultimate creation.
From an interview with Rowland Scherman
Pictures: copyright Rowland Scherman. B&W framed pictures: Thanks to Richard Allsmiller. Last picture: copyright Disney