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Tag Archives: Animator

September 5

September 5, 1912 – Animator, Member of Disney’s Nine Old Men, and Disney Legend Frank Thomas is Born

Frank Thomas

“Frank was a giant in our field and he meant everything to me and to all of us who love the art of animation. Besides being one of the key guys to help elevate animation from a novelty to an incredible art form, he was so generous in passing along his knowledge and experiences to the generations that followed.” – John Lasseter

On September 5, 1912, Franklin Rosborough Thomas was born in Fresno, California. Thomas knew from an early age that he wanted to be an artist, and in his sophomore year at Fresno State, his interest expanded into animated films. After graduating from Stanford University, he honed his craft at the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles. After being told by a member of his rooming house that the Disney Studios had an opening, Thomas applied and joined on September 24, 1934 as employee number 224. His first assignment was the animated short film Mickey’s Elephant. In 1941, Thomas was picked to be part of a small goodwill tour of South America, which culminated in the animated feature films Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros. As a member of the Nine Old Men, Thomas served as a directing animator for several characters, as well as being well regarded for several of his animated sequences, including the dwarfs crying over Snow White’s body, and Bambi and Thumper’s ice skating scene. Thomas was also the pianist for the famed Disney Dixieland band Firehouse Five Plus Two. In 1978, Thomas retired from the Disney Studios, but still remained involved in the field of animation, co-writing several books with colleague and long-time friend Ollie Johnston, including one of the most important books in the study of animation: Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life. He, along with other members of the Nine Old Men, were honored as Disney Legends in 1989. In 2004, Thomas passed away at the age of 92.

September 4

September 4, 1919 – Animator, Imagineer, and Disney Legend X Atencio is Born

X Atencio

“I didn’t even know I could write music, but somehow Walt did. He tapped my hidden talents.”

On September 4, 1919, Francis Xavier “X” Atencio was born in Walsenburg, Colorado. He moved to Los Angeles in 1937 to attend the Chouinard Art Institute, which hosted classes for several Disney artists. At the urging of his instructors, he submitted his portfolio to the Studio, and in 1938 Atencio was hired by Disney as an artist. He quickly rose within the company, becoming an assistant animator in three years. When World War II broke, he served in the United States Army and was stationed in England as a photo interpreter. He came back to the studio in 1945 to work on several animated short films. In 1953, he received his first credit for the Academy Award Winning short film Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom. He also lent his talents to the likes of Jack and Old Mac, Noah’s Ark, and the stop motion animated sequences in The Parent Trap and Mary Poppins. In 1965, Atencio switched gears and was asked by Walt to assist in the creation of the Primeval World diorama within WED Enterprises. He continued to work as an Imagineer, bringing his unique talents to several attractions, including penning the unforgettable songs for The Haunted Mansion (co-writing “Grim Grinning Ghosts”) and Pirates of the Caribbean (writing “A Pirate’s Life for Me”). Atencio assisted with several attractions in Walt Disney World, and traveled to Tokyo Disneyland to assist with the recordings for the Haunted Mansion. In 1984, after nearly fifty years with the company, Atencio retired. For his prolific work, he was honored as a Disney Legend in 1996.

April 27

April 27, 2009 – The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Hosts “Milt Kahl: The Animation Michelangelo, A Centennial Celebration”


“The evening will feature an insightful analysis of Kahl’s animation drawings, rare film interviews with Kahl himself, and clips of his work…”

On April 27, 2009, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences hosted a special event titled “Milt Kahl: The Animation Michelangeo, a Centennial Celebration” at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater. Celebrating the life and works of Disney Legend and Nine Old Men member Milt Kahl, the event was hosted by animator Andreas Deja, and featured a panel of those that worked with or knew the man, including Kathryn Beaumont, Brad Bird, Ron Clements, John Musker, and Floyd Norman. The event featured clips of Kahl’s animation, interviews, and an in-depth analysis of Kahl’s work.

April 26

April 26, 1916 – Artist and Illustrator Eyvind Earle is Born


“Eyvind had done something that Walt loved on Lady and the Tramp: Walt wanted Eyvind to paint one background where when you saw that small American town, you wanted to live there forever. But if you looked up to the horizon, you saw adventure, and you wanted to get out of town.” – Animation historian John Culhane

On April 26, 1916, artist and illustrator Eyvind Earle was born in New York. As a child, his family moved to California, and at one point, his parents divorced. As a child, Earle suffered from polio, which killed his brother and paralyzed part of his face. At one point, Earle’s father gave him a command: every day, paint a picture and read fifty pages of a book. His father took him on a tour of Europe for three years, though the experience was less than ideal, as his father was a difficult man who beat his son. After three years, he headed back to his mother back in California. Although he didn’t want to paint anymore, he discovered he actually had a talent for it, and continued to do so during the Great Depression. In 1951, Earle was hired as an assistant background painter at the Disney Studios, with his first assignment being The Little House. He continued to work on animated features and short films, notably Melody and Toot, Whistle, Plunk, and Boom with Ward Kimball. When working on Sleeping Beauty, he worked on all the key backgrounds for the film, with many of the animators praising his work and sneaking up to see his paint in his office. To this day, Earle’s backgrounds have been praised for providing an unforgettable look to the film. In 1966, Earle left Disney and returned to painting full time. He was honored with a Winsor McCay Award in 1998 for a lifetime of achievement in the art of animation. He passed away in 2001.

April 21

April 21, 1920 – Animator, Artist, and Disney Legend Bob Moore is Born


On April 21, 1920, Bob Moore was born in Los Angeles, California. Moore had been exposed to Disney from an early age, when his father worked with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra as a violinist; the group was hired to play music for the earliest Mickey Mouse short films. In 1940, after attending the Chouinard Art Institute, Moore was hired at the Disney Studios as an apprentice animator, working on such films as Dumbo and The Three Caballeros. He continued to work on special projects as the country entered World War II, until he was drafted into the Navy, working on training films. After the war ended, he returned to the studio, working as a story man for animated shorts and package feature films. In 1951, Moore was asked to head up the art department for publicity, and ran it for three years as a one-man show. His success in the department led to a promotion to the creative director of marketing, designing movie posters, cards, and logos. In 1968, Moore designed the commemorative Walt Disney postage stamp. In 1983, Moore retired from the Disney Studios after working there for 43 years. Moore is also memorialized with his own color of Disney paint: Moore Red. He was inducted as a Disney Legend in 1996. In 2001, Moore passed away at the age of 81.

March 30

March 30, 1913 – Animator, Imagineer, Member of the Nine Old Men, and Disney Legend Marc Davis is Born


“When I then came to the studio and met Marc Davis…he was the total opposite of Cruella de Vil in figure, but the sense of taste, that was a guy who really savored life, and you can see it in his animation.” – Animator Glen Keane

On March 30, 1913, Marc Fraser Davis was born in Bakersfield, California. After moving around several times due to his father’s job in oil fields, Davis enrolled in the Kansas City Art Institute after high school, which was followed by enrollments in the California School of Fine Arts and the Otis Art Institute. In 1935, Davis was hired by Disney as an apprentice for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. He soon rose through the animator ranks, working as a story sketch and character designer for Bambi and Victory Through Air Power. He continued to work on Disney animated features as a character designer, and is particularly known for creating the looks for Tinker Bell from Peter Pan, Alice from Alice in Wonderland, and Cruella de Vil from 101 Dalmatians, among others. Davis was also an animator for several key short films, including Duck Pimples and Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom. In the mid-50s, Davis began working for Walt Disney Imagineering, working as one of the original Imagineers on such attractions as it’s a small world, Pirates of the Caribbean, and The Haunted Mansion. His wife and fellow Disney Legend Alice also worked with Disney park attractions, creating costumes for the audio-animatronic characters. In 1978, Davis retired after 43 years at Disney, but continued to work in a consulting role. He and Alice continued to support the California Institute of the Arts. In 1989, Davis was honored with the other Nine Old Men as Disney Legends. In 2000, Davis passed away at the age of 86.

February 9

February 9, 1914 – Animator, Imagineer, and Disney Legend Bill Justice is Born


“[Bill Justice] was a great animator, particularly on the short subject. He was as good as they came.” – Disney Legend X Atencio

On February 9, 1914, William Barnard Justice was born in Dayton, Ohio. After studying at the John Herron Art Institute, he headed to California and joined the Disney Studios in 1937, working as an animator. His many credits during his early years include Saludos Amigos, Victory Through Air Power, and The Three Caballeros. In the 1950s, he was given a chance to explore more experimental types of animation, creating several memorable shorts with fellow Disney Legend X Atencio and artist T. Hee using the stop-motion technique that include A Symposium On Popular Songs, and Noah’s Ark, which were nominated for Academy Awards. He also helped with the stop-motion technique on live action films The Parent Trap and Mary Poppins. In his career as an animator, Justice had 57 short films and 19 animated feature film credits to his name. In 1965, Walt Disney asked Justice to work with Walt Disney Imagineering, and his talents were used on popular attractions Pirates of the Caribbean, The Haunted Mansion, and The Hall of Presidents. Justice was also asked to help design parades, and created the sketches for what would become the Main Street Electrical Parade. In 1972, Justice retired from Disney after a 42-year career. He continued to be a presence around Disney fans, appearing at Disneyana conventions and writing a book called Justice for Disney about his experiences at the studio. In 1996, he was honored as a Disney Legend. He passed away in 2011 at the age of 97.

January 28

January 28, 1939 – Imagineer and Disney Legend Ralph Kent is Born


“He said he `fell under the spell’ of Disney when he saw Pinocchio, and much of his 41 years at Disneyland and Walt Disney World was involved in various artistic usages of the Disney characters for marketing, merchandising and Imagineering.” – Imagineer and Disney Legend Marty Sklar

On January 28, 1939, Ralph Kent was born in New York. At age 10, he was so enamored with Disney that he created a giant mural of popular Disney characters in his basement. Kent also sent a letter to Walt Disney the same year, as he wanted to work for the Disney Studios. After studying art at the University of Buffalo Albright Art School, he joined the Army in 1960, working on illustrations for military training films. In 1963, Kent achieved his dream of working at Disney when he was hired to work at Disneyland as a marketing production artist, working on marketing materials for several popular attractions. Kent also designed the first set of limited-edition Mickey Mouse watches for adults, which immediately gained popularity. Over his 41 year career with the company, Kent was known as the “Keeper of the Mouse,” as he was one of the handlers for Mickey Mouse, keeping the wholesome image of the character; this title was evident in 1990, when Kent joined the Disney Design Group as a corporate trainer, teaching new artists the proper way of animating the popular characters. Kent retired from Disney in 2004, and was inducted the same year as a Disney Legend. Kent passed away at the age 68 in 2007.

January 24

January 24, 1906 – Animator, Director, and Disney Legend Wilfred Jackson is Born


“Jackson was easily the most creative of directors, but he was also the most ‘picky’ and took a lot of kidding about his thoroughness.” – Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston

On January 24, 1906, Wilfred Jackson was born in Chicago, Illinois. After attending the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles, he went to the Walt Disney Studios to ask for a job; although not officially hired by the Studio, he washed cels and assisted the animators. Jackson rose quickly through the studio ranks, and shortly after he arrived in the animation department, he created the method of synchronizing sound to the animation for the Mickey Mouse short film Steamboat Willie. It would take rival studios over a year to figure out how the trick was done. Jackson would go on to direct 35 short films, with three winning Academy Awards; he would also help direct segments of animated feature films, including the “Night on Bald Mountain” segment in Fantasia. As Disney entered television, Jackson moved into the new medium, directing 13 episodes of the Walt Disney anthology series. In 1965, Jackson retired from the Disney Studios. He passed away on August 7, 1988. In 1998, Jackson was honored as a Disney Legend in the field of animation.

January 1

January 1, 1904 – Head of Ink and Paint Department and Disney Legend Grace Bailey is Born

Grace Bailey

“Grace was quite a professional lady. She was class.” – Bob Broughton, Supervisor of Special Photographic Effects

On January 1, 1904, Grace Bailey Turner was born as Elizabeth Grace Randall, in Willoughby, Ohio. Bailey’s life was steeped in animation, as she began working for the Out of the Inkwell series for Max Fleischer after graduating from the Cleveland School of Art. In 1930, she moved from New York to Southern California, and applied for a job at the Disney Studios in 1932; she scored a position in the Ink and Paint department. The Ink and Paint department was highly important when it came to an animated film: inking could take about 12 months to learn properly, and one had to be very precise to preserve not only the animator’s original drawing, but also the emotion the animator wished to invoke. Bailey quickly rose through the ranks, from painting supervisor all the way up to the head of the Ink and Paint Department. After the success of Flowers and Trees, Disney’s first Technicolor animated short, Turner was tasked with the important duty of expanding the studio’s catalog of colors; a dramatized version of this process can be found in the Disney film The Reluctant Dragon during the tour of the Ink and Paint studio scene. After forty years at the Disney Studios, Bailey retired in 1972; she passed away on August 23, 1983. She was posthumously inducted as a Disney Legend in 2000.