May 15, 1908 – Character Designer, Storyman, and Disney Legend Joe Grant is Born
“I think there was always a gentle sweetness to Joe and his work. There’s a gentility in everything he touched. But there’s also a great sophistication. He was one of the truly great craftsmen of our art, but he always saw his craft as a way to communicate ideas.” – Roy E. Disney
On May 15, 1908, Joe Grant was born in New York City. After attending the Chouinard Art Institute, he joined the Walt Disney Studios in 1933 as a character designer and a story artist, and his first assignment was the Mickey Mouse short film Mickey’s Gala Premiere. He also designed the look of the Queen and the Wicked Witch for Disney’s first feature film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The Character Model Department was created around this time, with Grant as the head, working out ideas for stories and characters through model sheets and three-dimension figures known as maquettes. Grant was also known for his work with partner Dick Huemer, working on story direction for Fantasia, and screen story for Dumbo. During World War II, Grant worked on story ideas and designs for several shorts, including Reason and Emotion, and Der Fuehrer’s Face. In 1949, Grant left the studio, due to the disbandment of the Character Model Department, and opened a ceramics studio and a greeting card company.
Almost forty years after leaving Disney, Grant received a call from the Animation Department, asking him to consult on Beauty and the Beast, and was credited for visual development on the final film. Grant then rejoined the studio as a story advisor for Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Home on the Range. Grant also contributed to the Pixar film Monsters, Inc., coining the title for the film. He was named a Disney Legend in 1992, and has been awarded a special career achievement award by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association. Grant passed away on May 6, 2005, at the age of 96.