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April 13

April 13, 1954 – Animator Glen Keane is Born


“I am convinced that animation really is the ultimate form of our time with endless new territories to explore. I can’t resist its siren call to step out and discover them.”

On April 13, 1954, Glen Keane was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to cartoonist Bil Keane (known for Family Circus) and Thelma Carne Keane. The family would soon move to Paradise Valley, Arizona. Inspired by his father’s work, Keane developed an interest in drawing from an early age. Keane applied, and was accepted, to the Califormia Institute of the Arts, where he worked under animation teacher Jules Engel in the Program in Experimental Animation. Keane joined Disney in 1974; his first assignment, alongside Ollie Johnson, was animating the characters Bernard and Penny for the 1977 animated feature The Rescuers. After this film, Keane animated Elliot in Pete’s Dragon, and the climactic showdown in The Fox and the Hound. In 1982, Keane and friend John Lasseter were inspired by the new film Tron, and the two collaborated on a 30-second test sequence based on Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are. Although the sequence was not well received at the time, it has since been considered revolutionary for the time, thanks to its experimentation of digital and hand-drawn animated characters.

In 1983, Keane left Disney to become a freelance artist, working on the character of Ratigan in The Great Mouse Detective, and on sections of the animated film The Chipmunk Adventure. He rejoined Disney to work on the characters of Fagin, Sykes, and Georgette in Oliver & Company, and was soon named Lead Character Animator. For the 1989 film The Little Mermaid, Keane designed and animated the lead character Ariel. From the moment he heard Jodi Benson (voice of Ariel) sing “Part of Your World,” Keane knew he had to animate Ariel. “I got the video of the recording and watched Jodi sing, and it was…just seeing it in her eyes, she believed it just like I believed it in listening to it,” he said. “There was this connection, it was just, ‘I’ve got to make that character as real as it is in my head.’” Keane would work as a supervising animator for Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, and Pocahontas, and returned to his role as lead animator for Long John Silver in Treasure Planet. In 2003, Keane was named as the director of the 50th animated feature film Tangled. However, due to personal health issues, he stepped down from the role of director, but remained on the film as executive producer and animating director. After 37 years at Disney, Keane retired from the Disney Animation Studios.

March 9

March 9, 1911 – Animator, Member of Disney’s Nine Old Men, and Disney Legend John Lounsbery is Born


“…very quiet, gentle guy, and what was surprising is the person seemed so reserved and very encouraging in his comments about my drawings, and then I’d look at his drawings, and they were bold! Powerful! I mean, this guy drew with such conviction…” – Animator Glen Keane

On March 9, 1911, John Lounsbery was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. When he was five, his family moved to Colorado. Lounsbery’s talent for animation was evident at an early age, and he was well known in high school for his caricatures and cartoons.  After attending the Art Institute of Denver, Lounsbery attended the Art Center School of Design in Los Angeles. An instructor there sent him to interview with Walt Disney. Lounsbery was hired on July 2, 1935, to serve as an assistant animator on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and was paired as an assistant to animator Norm Ferguson, who became his mentor and great inspiration. The team would be assigned to the plum role of the Witch in Snow White. After this, Lounsbery animated Honest John and Gideon as part of Ferguson’s team. Lounsbery’s skills flourished under the next animated feature, Fantasia, where he animated the “Dance of the Hours” sequence; his work is particularly noticeable on the animation of Ben Ali, the main alligator. Lounsbery was then named as one of six animation directors on Dumbo, where his focus was on the interaction scenes between Dumbo and Timothy Mouse. During World War II, Lounsbery stayed at the studio and animated feature films including Victory Through Air Power and The Three Caballeros, and once again served as an animating director on the animated sequences of Song of the South.

In the 1950s, Lounsbery continued to serve as an animation director on animated feature films, including Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan. He also animated several memorable characters in these films, including the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland, and George Darling in Peter Pan. His work on the partnership of Honest John and Gideon in Pinocchio would be seen again in Lady and the Tramp with his work on the characters Tony and Joe. “John Lounsbery was a brilliant draftsman. In Lady and the Tramp he did Tony and Joe and brought these guys completely to life,” animation director John Musker said in an interview. Truly, Lounsbery was considered a wonderful draftsman who could do justice to any scene that was considered “slapstick,” such as the “Scrumps” scene in Sleeping Beauty, where the minstrel gets drunk on the celebratory wine. “[He] simply had a way of drawing that was as sophisticated as a New Yorker cartoon, and yet he loved slapstick,” said animator Will Finn. “He’s an unsung animator in some ways because people don’t hear his name mentioned as often, but his work on the jester [in Sleeping Beauty] is really one of the highlights of the film for me.” In 1970, Lounsbery was promoted to director for Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too!, and then co-directed The Rescuers with Wolfgang Reitherman and Art Stevens. Unfortunately, Lounsbery died before the films’ release of heart failure during heart surgery. He was named a Disney Legend in 1989.

February 27

February 27, 2005 – The Pixar Film The Incredibles Wins Two Academy Awards


“Animation is about creating the illusion of life, and you can’t create it if you don’t have one.” – Brad Bird at his acceptance speech

On February 27, 2005, the 77th Academy Awards were held at the Kodak Theater in Los Angeles, California. Nominated for four Academy Awards, the sixth Pixar film, The Incredibles, walked away with two, including Best Animated Feature, beating out DreamWorks’ Shark Tale and Shrek 2. The Academy was also awarded the Best Sound Editing Oscar to Michael Silvers and Randy Thom, who were nominated against Paul N.J. Ottosson for Spider-Man 2 and Randy Thom and Dennis Leonard for The Polar Express. This would be director Brad Bird’s first Academy Award; he would win again three years later for Ratatouille.

January 11

January 11, 2009 – WALL-E Wins the Golden Globe for Best Animated Feature


“…my group of animators represent your cast of actors that are your invisible actors, your shy actors, and they are a huge part of the charm of WALL-E.” – Andrew Stanton

On January 11, 2009, the 66th Golden Globe awards were held in the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California. Pixar’s WALL-E was nominated for three awards: Best Original Song (“Down to Earth”), Best Animated Film, and Best Score. The film took home the award for Best Animated Feature, beating out DreamWorks’ Kung Fu Panda and Disney’s Bolt. After receiving the award, WALL-E director Andrew Stanton said of the film, “What’s interesting is that on [Finding Nemo] it was so huge that I didn’t think that would ever happen again, so it gave me sort of a courage to go, ‘Well, I’m going to make something really eccentric to my tastes that will probably speak to a minority,’ and it’s just ironic that was probably the smartest thing I could have done as far as getting more acclaim and more attention. It was made out of such pure love of cinema, and it’s just really fulfilling for me to see so many people like it for the same reasons I wanted to make it.”

January 5

January 5, 1913 – Animator, Writer, Director, and Disney Legend Jack Hannah is Born


“He was a character, but he was like a father figure to me, because he really took care of me, not only in just showing me the tricks of the trade, and about Donald, and…Disney animation…he was a kind of rough and tumble kind of guy.” Tony Anselmo, current voice of Donald Duck

On January 5, 1913, Jack Hannah was born in Nogales, Arizona. In 1931, Hannah moved to Los Angeles, California, studying art at the Art Guild Academy; in 1933, he submitted his portfolio to the Walt Disney Studios, and was hired as an in-betweener and a clean-up artist. His first short film with an animator credit was Gulliver Mickey, and he was also a key animator for the Academy Award-winning short film The Old Mill. His introduction to Donald Duck was the short film Modern Inventions; Hannah would soon be associated with the “Gable of the [Disney] stable.” Hannah moved to the story department in 1939, writing many of the Donald Duck stories. For 27 short films, Hannah worked with Carl Barks, the Donald Duck comic book artist, to help shape the character of Donald in films, including Donald Gets Drafted and Donald’s Vacation. In 1943, he became a director of the short films, introducing new antagonists for Donald, including Chip and Dale. Hannah also introduced Donald to the new medium of television, which includes A Day in the Life of Donald Duck and At Home with Donald Duck.

Although Hannah retired in1959, he was asked in 1975 to help develop a new class at the Disney-founded California Institute of the Arts, the Character Animation programs. In 1992, Hannah was honored as a Disney Legend, credited with developing the personality of Donald Duck in the animated short subjects. He and Carl Barks are considered the “fathers” of Donald Duck. Hannah passed away at age 81 in Burbank, California in 1994.

January 3

January 3, 1916 – Artist, Director, and Producer Louis “Lou” Debney is Born

Louis Debney as the associate producer for an episode of the Wonderful World of Color

Lou Debney as the associate producer for an episode of the Wonderful World of Color

“I stayed with the Cutting Department…it was then, while we were getting started on the preliminary story sketches and everything…that I was set up to be the man that would assemble all the tests from all the sequences in Snow White.”

On January 3, 1916, Louis Debney was born in Los Angeles, California. At the age of 18, Debney was hired by Disney to work in the Cutting Department, then located at the Hyperion Studio. Debney then became an assistant director on the first full-length feature Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, with Ben Sharpsteen. With Sharpsteen’s assistance, Debney worked on the last black and white short film, Two-Gun Mickey, released in 1934. Debney continued to assist in directing several features and short films before becoming a producer for The Mickey Mouse Club and Zorro, and a production coordinator on the Disney anthology series, including The Wonderful World of Disney. Debney passed away at the age of 70 on April 11, 1986.

December 8

December 8, 1916 – Director and Disney Legend Richard O. Fleischer is Born

Image credit: wikipedia

Image credit: wikipedia

“I called my father in New York that night and told him the story. He said, ‘Of course you must take that job without any question. Just do one thing. Give a message to Walt from me, tell him that he’s got great taste in directors.’”

On December 8, 1916, Richard O. Fleischer was born in Brooklyn, New York. Son of famous animator and producer Max Fleischer (Betty Boop, Popeye), Richard grew up around the entertainment field and attended the Yale School of Drama before joining the New York RKO-Pathe News, where he wrote newsreel commentaries and directed wartime documentaries. Soon after, he moved to Hollywood, where he directed several film noirs, including Bodyguard and The Clay Pigeon. In 1952, after he directed The Happy Time, starring Bobby Driscoll, he got a call from the Walt Disney Studios, asking him to direct the new live-action film, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. The film was a great success for the studio, as well as for Fleischer. After its release, he went on to direct such classics as Doctor Dolittle and Tora! Tora! Tora! He was inducted as a Disney Legend in 2003, and passed away of natural causes in 2006.

December 3

December 3, 1965 – Director, Screenwriter, Producer, and Voice Actor Andrew Stanton is Born


“Without meaning to, I sort of made this epic journey that takes you all over the ocean. That meant every set piece had to be different. The look of being underwater is actually quite simple from a technical standpoint. It was just really tough to dial all the different ingredients just right.”

On December 3, 1965, Andrew Stanton was born in Rockport, Massachusetts. As a child, he wanted to be a comic-book artist, which evolved into wanting to become an animator. He attended the famed California Institute of the Arts, and in 1990, he was the second animator to join Pixar Animation Studios; he and Pete Docter were the ninth and tenth employees hired by the young animation studio. He soon began working as a designer and writer on Pixar’s first film, Toy Story. The time spent on Toy Story was rather tense, as the writers were given comments and notes from Jeffery Katzenberg, whose big push was to make the main characters more “edgy;” in following these notes, the film was no longer Pixar’s, and the character of Woody was stripped of all charm. Disney shut down the production, and the Pixar team quickly began rewriting the film they wanted to make, with Stanton sequestering himself in a small office, only to emerge with new pages of script. The film went on to be a success, with Andrew Stanton, along with Joss Whedon, Alec Sokolow, and Joel Cohen garnering an Academy Award Nomination for Best Original Screenplay.

Stanton would go on to co-direct and co-write A Bug’s Life, co-write Toy Story 2, and co-write and Monsters, Inc., before being tapped to direct his first feature film, Finding Nemo. It became highest grossing animated feature on its release (before being taken over by Toy Story 3), and Stanton was awarded the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.  Stanton’s next major project was 2007’s Wall-E, which he directed and co-wrote. Similar to Finding Nemo, Stanton wanted to pick a setting that would challenge the animators, this time choosing space. The film was another success, winning the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. After Wall-E, Stanton mostly executively produced several short films for Pixar, and co-wrote Toy Story 3. In 2012, Stanton’s project John Carter was released; he directed and co-wrote the film, adapting it from A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Unfortunately, the film received mixed critical reviews, and just barely made back its budget. However, Stanton announced that his next project is back at Pixar, working on a sequel to his hit film, Finding Nemo.

November 19

November 19, 1906 – Imagineer and Disney Legend Bill Cottrell is Born

“…it was Uncle Bill who was Walt’s counselor and right-hand man.” – Imagineer Marvin Davis

On November 19, 1906, William Cottrell was born in South Bend, Indiana. After graduating from Occidental College in Los Angeles, California, Cottrell had a stint with George Herriman’s “Krazy Kat” before he was offered a job with the Walt Disney Studios working cameras. He then worked as a cutter and animation director before transitioning into the story department. One of shorts he is most known for is Who Killed Cock Robin? Cottrell also served as a sequence director on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and contributed to the story on Pinocchio. He also was chosen to be part of the goodwill tour to South America with Walt Disney.

In 1952, Cottrell was named the vice president of WED Enterprises, using his skills from the story department to develop the story lines and dialogue for the new Disneyland attractions. He also helped develop the Zorro serial for the Disneyland television series. In 1964, he was named President of Retlaw Enterprises, the Walt Disney family corporation, a position he held until 1982. Cottrell became the first person to receive the 50-year Disney service award, and was named a Disney Legend in 1994. Cottrell passed away in 1995.

November 17

November 17, 1907 – Animator, Member of Disney’s Nine Old Men, and Disney Legend Les Clark is Born

“I remember, I was in the Annie Awards ceremony with Les Clark’s widow, and there was a picture of Walt up there with a drawing of Mickey…and she was like [whispering], ‘Les did that drawing.’”- Animation Director John Musker

On November 17, 1907, Les Clark was born in Ogden, Utah. His family moved to Los Angeles, where he graduated high school. During high school, Clark worked a summer job near the Disney Brothers Studio at a lunch counter that Walt and Roy Disney frequented. When Clark asked Walt for a job one day, Walt asked him to bring in his drawings. “He said I had a good line and why don’t I come to work on Monday,” Clark recalled. “I graduated on a Thursday and went to work [the following] Monday.” In 1927, Clark joined the studio, with Disney warning him that it might be just a temporary position. The temporary position began a lifelong career at Disney, and Clark became one of the first members of the Nine Old Men, Disney’s affectionate name for his top animators.

Clark was adept at drawing Mickey Mouse, able to draw a scene in the debut Mickey Mouse film, Steamboat Willie. One of his notable segments in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was the scene where the dwarves dance with Snow White. Clark was also responsible for animating and directing on nearly 20 animated features, including Pinocchio, Dumbo, Saludos Amigos, So Dear to My Heart, 101 Dalmatians, Song of the South, Fun and Fancy Free, Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, and Lady and the Tramp. Clark also contributed to more than 100 shorts. After being the sequence director for Sleeping Beauty, Clark moved to directing television specials and educational films, which included Donald in Mathmagic Land and Donald and the Wheel. Clark retired from the Disney Studios in 1976, and passed away in 1979. He was named a Disney Legend in 1989.