April 2, 1899 – Sound and Camera Pioneer and Disney Legend Bill Garity is Born
“With his pioneering efforts in sound and camera techniques, he helped set Disney Studios apart from others, while his planning and supervisory expertise resulted in the building of a highly efficient Studio in Burbank.” – Disney Chief Archivist Emeritus, Dave Smith
On April 2, 1899, Bill Garity was born in Brooklyn, New York. After attending the Pratt Institute of Art in New York, he served with the Radio Research and Development sector of the U.S. Signal Corps during World War I. His work in radio continued to flourish when, after the war, he met and worked with Lee DeForest, a pioneer in the field of radio. The pair would work on the development of sound for the earliest films. As Garity was working on the Cinephone motion picture recording system in 1928, he met a young Walt Disney, who was hoping to elevate the animated art form. With Garity’s help, Steamboat Willie became a hit for the fledgling Disney Studios, and Disney bought the Cinephone system with an offer for Garity to come out to Hollywood to install it and train a technician to operate it. Garity officially joined the Walt Disney Studios in 1929 and stayed with the company for over 13 years, leading a department of 18 engineers. At Disney, Garity was instrumental in creating such innovations such as the multiplane camera, which earned the studio an Academy Award in the Scientific and Technical category; the team also invented Fantasound, a unique stereo system that was installed in theaters specifically for the animated feature film Fantasia. Garity left the studio in 1940 to pursue other technical ventures, and ended up serving as the vice president and production manager for the Walter Lantz Studios. He passed away on September 16, 1971, in Los Angeles California. For his groundbreaking technical expertise and ability to help Walt achieve his dream of the elevated animated film, Garity was posthumously honored as a Disney Legend in 1999.