October 25, 1904 – Animator and Disney Legend Bill Tytla is Born
“Whatever [Bill Tytla] animated had the inner feelings of his characters expressed through very strong acting. He did not just get inside Stromboli, he was Stromboli and he lived that part.” – The Disney Villain
On October 25, 1904, Vladimir Peter Tytla was born in Yonkers, New York, the son of Ukranian immigrants. Having shown a talent for art at an early age, it was after seeing a filmstrip of Gertie the Dinosaur by famed cartoonist and animator Winsor McCay that he was inspired to go into animation. At the age of 16, Tytla was hired by the Paramount Animation Studio to letter cards. He later worked at Paul Terry’s animation studio, then enrolled in the Art Students League; in 1929, he traveled to Paris to study painting. On his return, he continued working for Terry Studios, but when his friend Art Babbitt moved to California to work for Disney, he followed his friend soon after and joined the studio in 1934 on a trial basis. Tytla soon showed his great animation skills on three shorts: The Cookie Carnival (gingerbread boy and girl, as well as the angel food cake and devil’s food cake rivalry), Mickey’s Fire Brigade (Clarabelle Cow), and Cock o’ the Walk (the rooster, his first “heavy” role at the studio). Seeing great potential in Tytla and Babbitt, Walt Disney gave them more responsibility, and a greater salary, making the two the highest paid artists in the studio. For the first full-length feature Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Tytla worked with Fred Moore to create the personality of each of the dwarfs. After the success of Snow White, Tytla was given the role of Stromboli in the second film Pinocchio. His skill with animation and understanding characters made Stromboli one of the most powerful and frightening villains in Disney films. However, Tytla’s best and most-known role was that of Chernabog in Fantasia, which was said to have been based on Bela Lugosi, although Wilfred Jackson was the live-action reference for the character that Tytla actually used. He would also animate Yen Sid in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice sequence of the same film.
Tytla wished for a change in his roles, and requested the title role in the upcoming film, Dumbo. He got the job, and based the character on his infant son, Peter. Around the same time, a strike was brewing at the Studio, and Tytla, along with Art Babbitt, joined the strike, feeling sympathy for those assistant and production crew members being paid low salaries. Fortunately, he finished his scenes in the film before he joined the picket line. After the strike ended, he rejoined the studio, but the atmosphere had changed significantly. In 1943, due to several factors – including a bout of tuberculosis and a desire to live with his family back on his Connecticut farm – Tytla resigned from the studio, a decision he regretted for the rest of his life. He continued to work in animation for the Terry Studio, and Tempo Productions, but always tried to rejoin the studio. Tytla passed away on December 30, 1968, at age 64. He was named as a Disney Legend in 1998.