One of the Walt Disney Studios’ premier animal lovers was Larry Lansburgh. Among the 18 television and feature productions he directed were the Academy Award®-winning The Wetback Hound in 1957 and The Horse with the Flying Tail in 1960. An accomplished horseman, Larry often filmed and directed on horseback, as he did with 1966’s Run, Appaloosa, Run.
Larry was particular about his animal stars; he hand-picked magnificent creatures, many of which retired to live on his Southern California ranch. As former vice chairman Roy E. Disney recalled, “I once suggested to Larry what I thought was a great idea, that he direct a story I’d found about an ugly—although heroic—little half-breed pony. He quickly dismissed the suggestion saying, ‘I don’t do stories about ugly horses.’”
Born in San Francisco, California, on May 18, 1911, Larry graduated from Mt. Tamalpais School in nearby Mill Valley in 1929. A lover of horses, he gained employment as a ranch-hand in Texas before later returning to California. Through an acquaintance, he broke into the movie business as a stunt artist on such films as The Woman in Red, starring Barbara Stanwyck.
After falling from a horse and severely breaking his leg, Larry gave up stunt work and joined The Walt Disney Studios as a traffic boy in January 1938. He later said, “It was the best break I ever had because it put me behind the camera.”
Larry soon moved into the Editing department and, in 1940, accompanied Walt Disney and a select group of artists on a goodwill tour of South America, on behalf of the United States government. Larry recorded the trip using a 16mm hand-held camera; some of his footage was featured in 1943’s Saludos Amigos, a combination live action and animated film.
Afterwards, Larry served as an associate producer on The Three Caballeros and technical advisor and production assistant on So Dear to My Heart. In 1954, he directed Stormy, the Thoroughbred with an Inferiority Complex; in 1955, he submitted a story idea to Walt for The Littlest Outlaw, about a young boy in Mexico and his love for a horse he rescues from a bullring. Larry produced the film, which was shot in Mexico; it was filmed twice—once in English and once in Spanish—for a simultaneous release on both sides of the border. The next year, Larry won an Oscar® nomination for his featurette Cow Dog.
In 1971, after more than 30 years at The Walt Disney Studios, Larry Lansburgh retired to his Oregon ranch. There, he continued to produce films including Disney’s Chester, Yesterday’s Horse, Runaway on the Rogue River, and Twister, Bull from the Sky.
Larry Lansburgh passed away on March 25, 2001, in Burbank, California.