March 9, 1911 – Animator, Member of Disney’s Nine Old Men, and Disney Legend John Lounsbery is Born
“…very quiet, gentle guy, and what was surprising is the person seemed so reserved and very encouraging in his comments about my drawings, and then I’d look at his drawings, and they were bold! Powerful! I mean, this guy drew with such conviction…” – Animator Glen Keane
On March 9, 1911, John Lounsbery was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. When he was five, his family moved to Colorado. Lounsbery’s talent for animation was evident at an early age, and he was well known in high school for his caricatures and cartoons. After attending the Art Institute of Denver, Lounsbery attended the Art Center School of Design in Los Angeles. An instructor there sent him to interview with Walt Disney. Lounsbery was hired on July 2, 1935, to serve as an assistant animator on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and was paired as an assistant to animator Norm Ferguson, who became his mentor and great inspiration. The team would be assigned to the plum role of the Witch in Snow White. After this, Lounsbery animated Honest John and Gideon as part of Ferguson’s team. Lounsbery’s skills flourished under the next animated feature, Fantasia, where he animated the “Dance of the Hours” sequence; his work is particularly noticeable on the animation of Ben Ali, the main alligator. Lounsbery was then named as one of six animation directors on Dumbo, where his focus was on the interaction scenes between Dumbo and Timothy Mouse. During World War II, Lounsbery stayed at the studio and animated feature films including Victory Through Air Power and The Three Caballeros, and once again served as an animating director on the animated sequences of Song of the South.
In the 1950s, Lounsbery continued to serve as an animation director on animated feature films, including Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan. He also animated several memorable characters in these films, including the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland, and George Darling in Peter Pan. His work on the partnership of Honest John and Gideon in Pinocchio would be seen again in Lady and the Tramp with his work on the characters Tony and Joe. “John Lounsbery was a brilliant draftsman. In Lady and the Tramp he did Tony and Joe and brought these guys completely to life,” animation director John Musker said in an interview. Truly, Lounsbery was considered a wonderful draftsman who could do justice to any scene that was considered “slapstick,” such as the “Scrumps” scene in Sleeping Beauty, where the minstrel gets drunk on the celebratory wine. “[He] simply had a way of drawing that was as sophisticated as a New Yorker cartoon, and yet he loved slapstick,” said animator Will Finn. “He’s an unsung animator in some ways because people don’t hear his name mentioned as often, but his work on the jester [in Sleeping Beauty] is really one of the highlights of the film for me.” In 1970, Lounsbery was promoted to director for Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too!, and then co-directed The Rescuers with Wolfgang Reitherman and Art Stevens. Unfortunately, Lounsbery died before the films’ release of heart failure during heart surgery. He was named a Disney Legend in 1989.