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.