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Useful Notes / The Walt Disney Family and the Nine Old Men

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We all love Disney's enormous selection of classic films and characters, but without these people, we might not have ever gotten all of those classics made! Here are some of the earliest and most veritable of all the Disney Staff. All of the Nine Old Men are Disney Legends.

The Walt Disney Family and the Nine Old Men

The Disney family and their closest associates:

  • Walter Elias Disney (December 5, 1901 – December 15, 1966): The man himself, co-founder of the company, co-creator of Mickey Mouse, and creator of Disneyland. While Walt didn't really draw anything after Mickey Mouse's creation, he was a director of many shorts. He stopped for a few years, did a brief return to directing in 1935 with The Golden Touch and loathed that short so much that he never directed another cartoon again. He was a talented storyteller, having a key role in a lot of the studio's early animated films, though he took on more the role as a businessman over the years until he died of lung cancer in Christmas 1966 (he died the day after one of his favorite voice actresses, Verna Felton, died herself), with The Jungle Book (1967) being the final Disney Animated Canon film he fully supervised and The Happiest Millionaire being the final film to involve him in some degree (he dealt with The Rescuers to a minimal degree and the last film to have any kind of input from Walt was The Aristocats, which he greenlit the production of, plus he supervised part of what became The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh). His death sent the company into a Dork Age until the 1984 management shift.
  • Roy Oliver Disney (June 24, 1893 – December 20, 1971): Walt's older brother and company co-founder. While Walt was the creative one, Roy ran the business side and remained Chairman, CEO, and President of the company until his death in 1971. A hardworking man, he cancelled his retirement to oversee Walt Disney World's completion, dedicating it to his late brother.
  • Edna Francis Disney (January 16, 1890 - December 18, 1984): Wife of Roy O. Disney, a source of support for the Disney family, company, and employees.
  • Lillian Disney (February 15, 1899 – December 16, 1997): Walt's wife. She worked as an inker and secretary in the company's early days, acting as a conservative foil to her husband's daring. Following Walt's death, she worked along Roy to complete Walt Disney World, and funded CalArts too. Although she died in 1997, Lillian's last gift was The Walt Disney Concert Hall.
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  • Diane Disney Miller (December 18, 1933 – November 19, 2013): Walt's first daughter. While never an employee of her dad's company, she had close links to the company, opening the family museum in San Francisco. She died in 2013, and has a dedication to her in Saving Mr. Banks and a special thanks credit in Pixar's Inside Out.
  • Sharon Mae Lund Disney (December 31, 1936 – February 16, 1993): Walt's second daughter, adopted due to Lillian's difficulty with childbirth. Her husband Bill Lund had helped identify a suitable place to build Walt Disney World in Orlando. She died in 1993.
  • Joanna Miller: Granddaughter of Walt Disney.
  • Ronald William Miller (born April 17, 1933): Diane's husband. He was a producer and crewmember on several films, and became the boss of Disney throughout most of their Dark Years. He did start up the Disney Channel and after a few darker than normal Disney features, founded Touchstone Pictures to make PG-13 and R rated films, the first of which was Ron Howard's, Splash, which helped toward The Little Mermaid (1989). This wasn't enough when an attempted corporate raid led to stockholders and Roy E. Disney ousting him and replacing him with Michael Eisner, and Miller retired. He has recently been given a special thanks credit on 2015's Inside Out, though, and is one of at least two Disney alumni to operate a California winery (the other being John Lasseter); his winery is the Silverado vineyards.
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  • Roy Edward Disney (January 10, 1930 – December 16, 2009): Roy's son and Walt's nephew. He spent much of his life in Disney as a writer, editor, producer, and eventually executive on the board. He ousted Ron Miller to save the company, bringing Michael Eisner (who brought Jeffrey Katzenberg with him) and Frank Wells to shake things up. During the Disney Renaissance, he became head of the animation department. He and Eisner fell out due to the latter's Executive Meddling and ousted Eisner, too. He returned to the company in 2005 as Director Emeritus until his death in 2009.
  • Disney's Nine Old Men: Disney's most notable animators who invented and perfected the animation style and techniques that made Disney a household name. They are:
    • Eric Larson (September 3, 1905 – October 25, 1988): Joined Disney in 1933 as an assistant to Ham Luske, and animated a lot of the animal characters in Disney's animated films, but he did animate Cinderella. Eventually took on a trainer role, and was the only one of the Nine Old Men to still be a part of the studio when the 1984 Management Shift happened and Jeffrey Katzenberg began overseeing animation when Michael Eisner gave it to him and said "that's your problem". Larson retired in 1986, but died in 1988; he was last credited on The Great Mouse Detective.
    • Frank Thomas (September 5, 1912 – September 8, 2004): Joined the studio in 1934 and specialized in animating Tearjerker scenes such as Snow White in the glass coffin as well as Baloo coming to grips and having to tell Mowgli to go to the man village when he hears Shere Khan is in the picture. He joined World War II, but returned and animated tense scenes such as Ichabod Crane's ride before encountering the Headless Horseman. Also animated the infamous Lady Tremaine in Cinderella, the Trope Naming Spaghetti Kiss in Lady and the Tramp, the three fairies in Sleeping Beauty, Robin Hood in disguise, and the majority of Bernard and Bianca in The Rescuers, which he thought highly of. He retired during production of The Fox and the Hound, and provided commentary on these movies and cameos in others such as The Iron Giant note  and The Incredibles alongside best friend Ollie Johnston, but he passed away in 2004.
    • John Lounsbery (March 9, 1911 – February 13, 1976): Originally an assistant to Norm Ferguson in the late '30s, he was first credited with animating Honest John and Gideon in Pinocchio and animated a handful of bit characters in Disney movies such as Ben Ali Gator in Fantasia and Maleficent's minions in Sleeping Beauty. He directed the third Winnie The Pooh short, Tigger Too!, and was supposed to direct The Rescuers, but he sadly became the first of the Nine Old Men to pass away instead, in 1976; Robin Hood is the final Disney Canon film made while all of the men were alive.
    • Les Clark (November 17, 1907 – September 12, 1979): Was hired by Ub Iwerks right out of high school in 1927 as an "apprentice animator" alongside his more obscure contemporary Johnny Cannon, making him the first of the Nine Old Men to be recruited in (the others didn't join Disney until the mid 30's, nearly a decade later). Through the distinction of being, alongside Iwerks and Cannon, one of the few animators to remain with Disney following the seizure of the rights and crew behind the Oswald the Lucky Rabbit series, Clark rapidly became a major MVP at Disney with the dawn of the sound era, working on the skeletons in the original Silly Symphony Skeleton Dance and taking over as Mickey Mouse's animator when Iwerks departed the studio. He dealt with a lot of emotional scenes in the Classic Disney Shorts and secured his position by animating the most complicated dwarf scenes in Snow White. Other major reveals he supervised were Sorcerer Mickey waking his broom up in Fantasia, the dance in Cinderella, Lady's present box being opened at the beginning of Lady And The Tramp, and directing parts of Sleeping Beauty and the Paul Bunyan featurette. He stuck to educational material after that until his death in 1979.
    • Marc Davis (March 30, 1913 – January 12, 2000): He started with animating Snow White herself, then Cinderella receiving her gown, then Alice and Tinker Bell. His biggest achievement is animating two classic villainesses, first Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty, and the more difficult Cruella de Vil in 101 Dalmatians. This second one, however, convinced Davis to transfer to Imagineering, where he worked on a lot of Disneyland material until his retirement. Being the idol of several villain designers such as Andreas Deja, Davis passed away in 2000.
      • Alice Davis (born March 26, 1929): Marc's wife, who designed costumes for the company and has served on consulting roles on projects after her retirement.
    • Milt Kahl (March 22, 1909 – April 19, 1987): Joining Disney in 1934, he animated Mickey in a few cartoons and the forest animals in Snow White, but he really got going with animating Pinocchio himself when the puppet came to life. He animated several more down to earth characters in the 50's such as Peter Pan and Prince Phillip in Sleeping Beauty, and moved on to more major characters such as Big Bad Shere Kahn in The Jungle Book and the main villains of The Rescuers, which was his last project.
    • Ollie Johnston (October 31, 1912 – April 14, 2008): Started as a cleanup artist on Mickey's Garden, and became the main assistant of the dwarfs in Snow White. He animated the signature scene of Pinocchio trying to lie to the Blue Fairy and several other personality scenes, but got thrown a curveball with the evil stepsisters in Cinderella, and then did Mr. Smee in Peter Pan. At this point, he began working on characters that best friend Frank Thomas was assigned to, such as Mowgli and Baloo in The Jungle Book. He retired during production of The Fox And The Hound, and was the last of the Nine Old Men to pass away (he died in 2008).
    • Ward Kimball (March 4, 1914 – July 8, 2002): Joined the studio in the mid 30's, but almost walked out at the end of the decade before he was assigned to Jiminy Cricket in Pinocchio. He mastered the Disney Acid Sequence when he animated the title song number in The Three Caballeros and directed the short Toot, Whistle, Plunk, and Boom note , and did "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" in Mary Poppins, but resigned in 1973 when he clashed with the new bosses of the studio that followed Walt and Roy O.'s deaths, although he was tapped for EPCOT in the 80's.
    • Wolfgang "Woolie" Reithermann (June 26, 1909 – May 22, 1985): Effectively the de facto leader of the Nine Old Men, Woolie joined Disney in 1934, and immediately mastered in the animated action and tension scenes in the Disney movies such as the escape from Monstro in Pinocchio, Timothy doing his scare in Dumbo, the key retrieval at the end of Cinderella, Tramp's fights in Lady And The Tramp, and directing the iconic/classic final confrontation with Maleficent in her fearsome dragon form (and the castle escape and thorn garden just prior to this scene) in Sleeping Beauty. Woolie got more responsibilities in the 60's and began directing the Disney Animated Classics himself starting with The Sword in the Stone and ending with The Fox and the Hound, which most of the Disney Renaissance staff started on. Woolie outright took over animation when Walt died and kept the position until he retired and died in a car crash in 1985, taking the old style of animating with him; Wolfgang Reithermann was spiritually succeeded by Jeffrey Katzenberg and Roy E. Disney, who were succeeded themselves by Ed Catmull and John Lasseter.

Alternative Title(s): Disneys Nine Old Men