In Memory of Iris Beckerman…. by Bill Lorenzo

Posted by on Apr 13, 2012 in Feature Articles | 18 Comments

Iris Beckerman, ASIFA-East Executive Board Member and beloved wife of Howard Beckerman

ASIFA-EAST is sad to report the passing of long-time Executive Board Member Iris Beckerman, beloved wife of Howard Beckerman, on April 8, 2012.

Iris was an active and ever-present Board Member from the 1970s to the 1990s. Howard and Iris. Iris and Howard. But then, they had it easy – – Beckerman Animation was in the same building as Dick Rauh’s Optical House, where we held Board Meetings. The old Famous Studios location at 25 West 45th Street. Would Popeye get off the elevator or Little Audrey skate by the door? Well, no, I never saw them. But up at Beckerman Animation you would always find Iris and Howard. Howard and Iris. But then, they had it easy…they had each other.

Iris and Howard met in high school, The School of Industrial Arts, he from Brooklyn, Iris from the Bronx. Howard says: “She was smart, funny, clever, and talented.” After school she became a Fashion Illustrator in the garment industry.

Part of the same social group of friends, they continued to see each other casually, but when they met up taking art classes together, the couple began dating.

However, Iris wasn’t originally involved with animation, she was an artist and a dancer who took dance classes regularly. But in 1951 Iris went to the Paris Theater to see UPA’s highly influential GERALD McBOING BOING. She was surprised to see the predominantly adult audience applaud the cartoon short. “When I knew she saw McBoing Boing I knew I had to marry her!” Howard recalled.

They started a business in 1970, HOWARD BECKERMAN ANIMATION, Inc., and for over 20 years produced animation for commercials, industrials, Sesame Street, etc. Iris did Ink & Paint in an era when small studio cel production was a fine art and cels a thing of beauty.

Prior to 1980, just before I started my run on the ASIFA Newsletter, I got the opportunity to work on a FELIX the Cat project a friend was involved in. I had already spent an evening with Felix’s Joe Oriolo at his home, discussing the project and seeing the pencil animation. Then we were to meet at ‘Beckerman Animation’ that week. It was the first time I was at their studio. Howard explained what I needed to know about rendering the animation backgrounds, and while discussing animation backgrounds in general he showed me a batch of Terrytoon background paintings. Oriolo, Beckerman, Terry Backgrounds…not a bad day! But what I remember most about that afternoon was the work that Iris was doing on the Felix cels. They were just wonderful. The scene had Felix walking in perspective and he gets very small. Oriolo’s pencil animation was very tight but Iris polished them off to perfection. I still wish I had one of those cels.

According to Howard, they developed a way of working that if he animated roughly, perhaps leaving out details like buttons or whatever, then Iris would ink them in and take care of the little details. When stuck for a way to end their prize-winning short BOOP BEEP (1984), Howard says it was Iris who came up with the ending. “She was very valuable.”

In the 1990s, Iris began to restore classic animation cels, working on pieces from almost every Disney animated feature.  Iris was diagnosed 14 years ago with Alzheimer’s Disease and is survived by three daughters and five grandchildren. Howard said, “We had a good, loving relationship. Wherever we were she turned a house into a home.”

A donation will be made by ASIFA-East to the Alzheimer’s Foundation in memory of Iris Beckerman.


  1. Candy Kugel
    April 13, 2012

    Iris was a lovely woman and I can see how she and Howard had such a good rapport and collaboration. Beautiful picture! My heart goes out to Howard and the girls. xoxo Candy

  2. Richard O'Connor
    April 13, 2012

    Beautiful tribute to a beautiful woman.

    Iris was a graceful, gracious person. She contributed to us all with her heart and her talent.

    Deepest condolences to Howard and the rest of the Beckerman family.

  3. Janet Benn
    April 13, 2012

    We’ve been missing Iris for a while, really. I noticed she wasn’t herself about the time I left to teach in western MA. in 1998, which does correspond with her Alzheimer’s diagnosis.
    When I met her in the 70’s she brought a glow with her wherever she went – those marvelous eyes! Everyone was drawn to her, and she and Howard made such a wonderful couple. They were two of the main supporters of ASIFA-East, and they drew me in to the group and all the wonderful projects they did. I can see her dancing, as animated by Howard, all around the heavens.

  4. Michael Sporn
    April 13, 2012

    Iris was always a part of my animation life. Howard and Iris were the team to watch; they were the real Independents in the animation community for such a long time. I’ve missed seeing her since she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and I’ll miss her more, now that she is gone. All my best wishes go out to Howard and his family.

  5. LindaBeck
    April 13, 2012

    A very nice tribute, Bill. We’re all thinking about you and the family, Howard.

  6. Maria Franzetti
    April 14, 2012

    I remember Iris as a vary gracious lady. She was my next door neighbor. Her first greeting to me was a smile and a welcome. We shared a piece of common graden area in the front of the houses. She invited me to use it however I wanted. “Anything that adds color and beauty to the front of the houses is wonderful”. I also noted the love and attachement Howard and Iris had for each other. We miss her smile and good cheer on the block. It is a deep loss to all of us.

  7. David Levy
    April 14, 2012

    Lovely post, Bill!
    Iris was one of the warmest and most welcoming people I had ever met in this industry. I’ll never forget a lovely evening some years back when I enjoyed dinner at the Beckerman house. It was a treat to see the happy couple interacting. My heart goes out to Howard and his family at this difficult time.

  8. Kaukab Basheer
    April 14, 2012

    I never had the pleasure of meeting or working with this remarkable woman. But Howard frequently shared his fondest experiences and memories of Iris with me. I recently had the good fortune of winning an original, unfinished 1985 “Sniffen Goes Flying” cell at an auction bid. A modelsheet of Sniffen – drawn by Howard, painted delicately by Iris. I will treatsure it always. Howard, you and your family are in our thoughts and prayers. The animation world has lost a beautiful, gifted, inspiring soul.

  9. dan danglo
    April 14, 2012

    I worked with Howard an several projects over the years..Iris was always there, helpful and charming..We all miss her.

  10. Berdian Torres
    April 14, 2012

    Howard Beckerman was my animation professor and was so glad to have met him, he really is a great friend and mentor. I’m sad to read the news of his wife Iris and I wish the best to Howard and his family.

  11. Marcia Savella
    April 16, 2012

    I am deeply saddened to hear of Iris’ passing. I had the pleasure of sharing dance classes with her and working with both her and Howard as a voice-over artist. I remember her wonderful smile and twinkling eyes and the special glow they had together. I send my heartfelt wishes to Howard and their family.

  12. Bobby Abdoo
    April 17, 2012

    So Sorry to hear of Iris’ passing. She was a joy to be with both in dance class and in acting class. Always a smile and always a kind word. The world is surely bereft of such a loving soul. My deepest sympathy to Howard and family.

  13. Art Wave Co. – Iris Beckerman Passes Away
    April 18, 2012

    […] Bill Lorenzo’s touching remembrance on the ASIFA-East […]

  14. Gene Deitch
    April 19, 2012

    Howard, nothing can soften such a blow, but I can tell you from my own 50-year and counting marriage, that one feels co-joined. The loss of such a life partner inevitably will leave us feeling as only half a person. Yet, as an old,old friend and colleague, I wish you to remain whole and well, while realizing you will have to work at it. All the best possible from Z&me, Gene

  15. Steve Grossfeld
    April 20, 2012

    Knowing Iris was pure joy, and having the opportunity to work with her was golden. Howard and Iris, friends and just wonderful people to know. I only wish that Iris had things a bit easier over the past few years. Howard, you are an inspiration in your love and devotion to a wonderful partner. My deepest condolences.

  16. mara beckerman sneiderman
    April 22, 2012

    I want to thank Bill for such a lovely article and each one of you who left a comment. My mother was a very wonderful and dear woman who taught me so very much. I have missed her for so many years already. I truly appreciated reading all your loving memories of her and knowing how she touched your lives as well. Thank you…

  17. Scott Staton
    April 23, 2012

    Well done Bill, thank you. My thoughts are with Howard and his family.

  18. Michael Fleischmann
    April 27, 2012

    At a union party years ago I met Iris, and danced with their daughter, Mara. Television took me away from cel animation years ago, but I’m glad to have been in the business long enough to meet people like Iris. My sympathies to Howard and the Beckermans.