December 19, 1914 – Animator, Story Man, and Disney Legend Mel Shaw is Born
“Mel was on a short list of vanguard artists who would jump into a new film when it was still a blank piece of paper and with his stunning work he’d show us all the visual possibilities.” – Don Hahn
On December 19, 1914, Melvin Schwartzman (who would change his last name to Shaw) was born in Brooklyn, New York, to an opera singer mother and a lawyer father. He displayed great artistic talent at an early age, being selected for the Student Art League Society and winning a Procter & Gamble soap carving contest. In 1928, his family moved to Los Angeles, though he left at one point to try his hand at being a cowboy, despite winning a scholarship to an art institute. He soon returned to California, where he found a job at Pacific Titles creating title cards for silent films. Shaw’s first animation job came with the newly formed Harman-Ising Studios, where he took on several roles including animator, character designer, story man, and director. Shaw played polo in his spare time, where he met Walt Disney, who would invite him to join his studio. Shaw left Harman-Ising and joined Disney in 1937, where his first main project was the 1942 film Bambi. He left Disney during World War II, choosing to serve in the U.S. Army Signal Corps, working as a filmmaker and cartoonist. After the war, while not going back to Disney, he did work with the company through his new company, Allen-Shaw Productions (a partnership with former MGM Studios animator Bob Allen). He was asked back to Disney in 1974 to help transition animation from the old guard to the new, bringing his expertise to such films as The Great Mouse Detective and The Lion King. For his multitude of work for Disney, Shaw was honored as a Disney Legend in 2004. In 2012, at the age of 97, Shaw passed away.