ANIMATED INSIGHTS – Tribute to Larry DiTillio

Now every first and third Thursday each month,  ANIMATED INSIGHTS BY SHANNON MUIR takes you inside Shannon’s latest reflections on her passion for animation as a medium, and other animated insights about life. To catch up on all posts, check out the Animated Insights portion of the website!

This week, Shannon Muir says goodbye to a fellow animation writer and personal friend, Larry DiTillio.

I grew up watching Larry DiTillio’s work, first as a fan of the original HE-MAN series in the 1980s. Then, a movie came out called THE SECRET OF THE SWORD, which introduced HE-MAN viewers to SHE-RA, his twin sister, and gave teen girls like me a female-led show to watch. Larry co-created She-Ra with J. Michael Straczynski, and he would later return to work with JMS as a Story Editor when JMS launched the live-action SF series BABYLON 5.

In that same time period, I would make contact with JEM developer and story editor Christy Marx, who would become my mentor and friend. Unbeknownst to me initially, Christy was good friends with Larry DiTillo, but I would find that out soon enough – even before she wrote “Grail” for the first season of BABYLON 5.

Flash forward a few years. I’ve completed my undergrad work at Eastern Washington University in Cheney, Washington, with a double major in Radio-TV and English. For everything I wanted to do, Los Angeles was the place to be. I’d started to slowly spend time figuring out how to make that transition.

Imagine my surprise when Christy contacted me and says she has a friend going away to Hawaii for a couple weeks. He needed someone to house sit and it would be an amazing opportunity to come for a couple weeks, see if I like Los Angeles or not, and go home if I don’t want to stay.

Turns out the friend in question was Larry DiTillio.

Staying at his home for the first couple of weeks in Los Angeles (I stayed with his family in their guest cottage for a week after their return as well) gave me the home base to get my start, learn the neighborhoods, and find an apartment… one I’d live at for around thirteen years. 

In those years, and the decades to follow, Larry and I keep in touch not only through holiday cards but at Animation Caucus of the Writers Guild of America events as he and I (along with my now-husband Kevin) all belonged to that same group; Larry of course also had live-action credits with shows like BABYLON 5,  for which he’d been Story Editor. Additionally, Larry held a deep passion for board gaming and I would try – though not as often as I wanted – to go to his house and Saturday nights and learn new and various board games. There’s  a few my husband and I own as a direct result of learning them first at Larry’s home.

Here was someone whose work I grew up watching that I became honored to call someone I not only new professionally, but as my friend. Larry and his wife Margie would in turn, give Kevin and I the greatest gift we could have asked by coming down to Fullerton from Los Angeles for our wedding.

The best tribute I can leave here of Larry’s work and impact on animation is a embedded version of the full movie THE SECRET OF THE SWORD, authorized on the He-Man Official channel (intercut with frequent YouTube commercials, so it can be a bit jarring to watch). If you’ve never seen the crossover movie that originally introduced She-Ra to the He-Man mythos, here’s an opportunity. 


The second clip is from a series I know he had great influence in, as a writer, developer and story editor, but the clip is from an episode written by Christy Marx, from the episode “Transmutate”. This authorized clip from BEAST WARS: TRANSFORMERS is about learning about the Spark helps express what I feel about Larry… “When a spark goes online, there is great joy…. When one is extinguished, the universe… weeps.” 

I’m going to miss you, Larry… very, very much. And I know I won’t be the only one.

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