Imagineering Legends

Walt Disney Imagineering Bio: Yale Gracey – from Disney Legends

Yale Gracey (Animation & Imagineering)   Always interested in devising gadgets and building models, layout artist Yale Gracey’s office at The Walt Disney Studios in Burbank was always cluttered with some of his lunch-hour experiments. One Saturday afternoon, as Walt Disney made his rounds through deserted offices to see what his staff was working on during the week, he came across one of Yale’s mock-ups, featuring the illusion of falling snow. Impressed, Walt later asked the gadgeteer to help research and develop attractions for Disneyland. John Hench, senior vice president of creative development, recalled, “Whenever we needed a special...
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Imagineering Legends

Walt Disney Imagineering Bio: Ward Kimball

Ward Walrath Kimball (March 4, 1914 – July 8, 2002) was an Academy Award winning animator for the Walt Disney Studios. He was one of Walt Disney’s team of animators known as Disney’s Nine Old Men. While Kimball was a brilliant draftsman, he preferred to work on comical characters rather than complicated human designs. Animating came easily to him and he was constantly looking to do things differently. Because of this, Walt Disney called Ward a genius in the book, “The Story Of Walt Disney.” While there were many geniuses at Disney, Ward’s efforts stand out as unique, especially...
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Imagineering Legends

Imagineering Bio: Walt Disney

For the company founded by Disney, see The Walt Disney Company. Walter Elias Disney (December 5, 1901 – December 15, 1966), was an American film producer, director, screenwriter, voice actor, and animator. He was the son of parents Flora and Elias Disney, and had three brothers and one sister. As the co-founder (with his brother Roy O. Disney) of Walt Disney Productions, Walt became one of the most well-known motion picture producers in the world. The corporation he co-founded, now known as The Walt Disney Company, today has annual revenues of approximately US $30 billion. Walt Disney is particularly...
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Imagineering Legends

Imagineering Bio: Ub Iwerks

Ub Iwerks (Ubbe Ert Iwwerks) (March 24, 1901–July 7, 1971), was a two-times Academy Award winner American animator, cartoonist and special effects technician, who was famous for his work for Walt Disney. He was born in Kansas City, Missouri. His name is explained by his East Frisian roots — his father, Eert Ubbe Iwwerks, emigrated to the USA in 1869 from the village Uttum in East Frisia (northwest Germany). Iwerks was responsible for the distinctive style of the earliest Disney animated cartoons. The first few Mickey Mouse cartoons were animated almost entirely by Iwerks. He was considered by many...
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Imagineering Bio: Ollie Johnson

Oliver Martin Johnston, Jr. (born on October 31, 1912 in Palo Alto, California) is a pioneer in the field of motion picture animation. He was one of Disney’s Nine Old Men, and the last living member. His work was recognized with the National Medal of Arts in 2005.He was a directing animator at Walt Disney Studios from 1935-1978. He contributed to many films including Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Fantasia, Bambi and Pinocchio. His last full work for Disney came with The Rescuers, which was the last film of the second golden age of Disney animation that had...
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Walt Disney Imagineering Bio: Milt Kahl

Milton Erwin Kahl (born March 22, 1909, in San Francisco, California, USA; died April 19, 1987, in Mill Valley, California, USA, of pneumonia) was an animator for the Disney studio. Kahl is often considered the finest draughtsman of the Disney animators. For many years the final look for the characters in the Disney films were designed by Kahl, in his angular style inspired by Ronald Searle and Picasso. He is revered by contemporary masters of the form, such as Andreas Deja, and Brad Bird. In the book The Animator’s Survival Kit the author Richard Williams makes repeated reference and...
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Imagineering Bio: Ollie Johnson

Oliver Martin Johnston, Jr. (born on October 31, 1912 in Palo Alto, California) is a pioneer in the field of motion picture animation. He was one of Disney’s Nine Old Men, and the last living member. His work was recognized with the National Medal of Arts in 2005.He was a directing animator at Walt Disney Studios from 1935-1978. He contributed to many films including Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Fantasia, Bambi and Pinocchio. His last full work for Disney came with The Rescuers, which was the last film of the second golden age of Disney animation that had...
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Walt Disney Imagineering Bio: Mary Blair

Mary Blair (October 21, 1911–July 26, 1978), born Mary Robinson, was an American artist best remembered today for work done for The Walt Disney Company. Blair produced striking conceptual art for such films as Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan. Her style also lives on through the character designs for the Disney attraction “it’s a small world”, as well as an enormous mosaic inside Disney’s Contemporary Resort. Blair was honored as a Disney Legend in 1991. Born October 21, 1911 in McAlester, Oklahoma, Mary Browne Robinson moved to Texas while still a small child, and later to California when...
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Imagineering Bio: Marty Sklar

Martin A. “Marty” Sklar is The Walt Disney Company’s international ambassador for Walt Disney Imagineering, the subisdary of the company which designs and constructs the Disney theme parks and resorts across the world. Sklar was formerly vice president of concepts and planning for the company, before being promoted to president, and then eventually taking the position of vice chairman and principal creative executive of the company before his current role. Born in New Brunswick, New Jersey, Sklar was a student at UCLA and editor of its Daily Bruin newspaper in 1955 when he was recruited to create an 1890s-themed...
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Walt Disney Imagineering Bio: Marc Fraser Davis

March 30 , 1913 – January 12 , 2000 ) was a prominent artist and animator for Walt Disney Studios. He was one of Disney’s Nine Old Men , the famed core animators of Disney animated films. Some of the animated characters Davis mainly designed and animated are Thumper from Bambi ( 1942 ), Brer Rabbit from Song of the South ( 1946 ), Cinderella ( 1950 ), Alice of Alice in Wonderland ( 1951 ), Tinker Bell in Peter Pan ( 1953 ), Maleficent and Aurora in Sleeping Beauty ( 1959 ) and Cruella De Vil of 101...
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Walt Disney Imagineering Bio: John Lounsbery

John Lounsbery, one of Walt Disney’s legendary “Nine Old Men,” was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, on March 9, 1911. He graduated from the Art Institute of Denver, in 1932. Moving to Los Angeles, he submitted his work to the Disney Studios and joined the animation team in 1935. His character animation work included Ben Ali of “Fantasia,” Honest John in “Pinocchio”, Timothy in “Dumbo” and Tony in “Lady and the Tramp.” Moving into the role of Animation Director, he worked on “Alice in Wonderland”, “Peter Pan”, “Sleeping Beauty” and ‘Winnie the Pooh” to name a few. His untimely death...
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Walt Disney Imagineering Bio: John Hench

John Hench (June 29, 1908 – February 5, 2004) was an employee of The Walt Disney Company for more than sixty five years, an exceptionally long tenure which saw the rise of nearly every Disney animated feature and theme park.Born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Hench attended numerous art and creative schools across the country, including the Art Students’ League in New York City, the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles, the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco, and the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles. Starting in 1939 as a story artist, he weaved his way through...
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Imagineering Bio: Joe Rohde

Joseph “Joe” Rohde is a veteran executive at Walt Disney Imagineering, the division of The Walt Disney Company that designs and builds Disney’s theme parks and resort hotels. Rohde’s formal title is executive designer and vice president, creative. He is the lead designer of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, one of four theme parks at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. He also is the principal creative force behind the park’s Expedition Everest thrill ride, which debuted in 2006. Rohde joined Imagineering in 1980 during the development of Epcot as a model designer and scenic painter for the...
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Jack Lindquist

Jack Lindquist (b. March 15, 1927 in Chicago) served as the president of the Disneyland amusement park in Anaheim, California from 1989 until he retired in 1993. He was a Disney employee from 1955 until his retirement, and was a marketing executive in the theme parks division for almost thirty years, including a stint as the first advertising manager for Disneyland. As a child actor, Lindquist appeared as an extra in several episodes of Our Gang, and appeared in the film Best Foot Forward with Lucille Ball. After Lindquist retired, he received a commemorative window on Main Street, U.S.A.,...
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Walt Disney Imagineering Bio: Frank Thomas

Franklin Thomas (September 5, 1912, Fresno, California – September 8, 2004, Flintridge, California) was one of Walt Disney’s team of animators known as the Nine Old Men. He graduated from Stanford University, attended Chouinard Art Institute, then joined The Walt Disney Company on September 24, 1934 as employee number 224. There he animated dozens of feature films and shorts, and also was a member of the Dixieland band Firehouse Five Plus Two, playing the piano. His work in animated cartoon shorts included The Brave Little Tailor, in which he animated scenes of Mickey Mouse and the king; Mickey and...
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