Burny Mattinson, the legendary Disney animator who worked on several classics since the 1950s, passed away on Monday at the age of 87 in Canoga Park, California.
During his amazing and prolific career, Mattinson became Disney’s longest-serving employee ever. The Walt Disney Company confirmed his death.
The animator, who got his start with the iconic studio for 1950s classics including The Lady And The Tramp (1955) and Sleeping Beauty (1959) and most recently worked on last year’s Strange World, died just months before he took the stage. award would receive Disney’s first-ever 70th anniversary service award in June.
“Burny’s artistry, generosity and love for Disney Animation and the generations of storytellers that have come to us over seven decades have made us better – better artists, better technologists and better employees,” said Walt Disney Animation Studios Chief Creative Officer Jennifer Lee in a statement. “Anyone who has had the honor of knowing and learning from him will ensure that his legacy is carried on.”
End of an era: Burny Mattinson, the legendary Disney animator who worked on several classics from the 1950s and became the studio’s longest-serving employee ever, died Monday at 87; seen in 2013
Classics: Mattinson began working with Disney as an animator for Lady And The Tramp (1955) and Sleeping Beauty (1959; pictured), though he was uncredited in those early projects
Don Hall, the director of Raya And The Last Dragon and the Oscar winner Big Hero 6, also shared a statement in tribute to Mattinson.
“For nearly 30 years I’ve had the privilege of working with Burny Mattinson, from Winnie The Pooh to Big Hero 6 to, most recently, Strange World,” he said. “I have marveled at his artistry, enjoyed his good humor, and been entranced by his stories of Disney history.
At the age of 18, he followed his dream of working at Walt Disney Animation Studios, and for nearly 70 years he lived that dream every day, inspiring all of us who were lucky enough to follow in his footsteps. I love him dearly,” he added.
Mattinson was born on May 13, 1935 in San Francisco. A childhood screening of Pinocchio (1940) when he was just six inspired him to become an animator, according to Variety.
His early animation was modeled on the Disney style, and he landed a job in the mailroom at the studio shortly after graduating from high school.
After six months he switched to animation, where he worked as an intermediary on Lady And The Tramp (1955).
The process in hand-drawn animation involves an animator using a light board to create transition frames between key frames created by the lead animators. The frames in between help to create a sense of movement between the main images.
Other early Disney films he worked on included One Hundred And One Dalmatians (1961), The Sword In The Stone (1963), Mary Poppins (1964), The Jungle Book (1967), The Aristocats (1970), and The Rescuers (1977). .
Rising fast: Mattinson started with Disney just out of high school as an in-between animator for Lady and the Tramp, and projects like One Hundred And Dalmatians (1961; pictured) and The Jungle Book followed
Bringing back an icon: Mattinson also worked as a director, co-directing Mickey’s Christmas Carol (pictured) in 1983. The 26-minute cartoon, which hit theaters before a re-release of The Rescuers, marked Mickey Mouse’s first on the big stage. screen in 30 years
He worked with several members of Disney’s Nine Old Men, the influential group of core animators at the studio that shaped many of his best films.
Mattinson also had a hand in Disney’s television work on Walt Disney’s Wonderful World Of Color.
In addition to working on animation for those films, he also served as a story team member for subsequent Disney animated films, including the modern classics Aladdin (1992), Beauty And The Beast (1993), The Lion King (1994), Pocahontas (1995) , The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996), Tarzan (1997), and Mulan (1998).
Mattinson also worked as a director, directing his 1983 mid-career animated featurette Mickey’s Christmas Carol.
The 26-minute cartoon, which hit theaters before a re-release of The Rescuers, marked Mickey Mouse’s first big screen appearance in 30 years.
According to Disney, Mattinson had been busy in his final years and still worked as a story consultant and mentor to younger artists at the studio.
In 2008, he was inducted into the Disney Legends program, a hall of fame for the studio’s contributors.
Still Busy: According to Disney, Mattinson had been busy in his final years, still working as a story consultant and mentor to younger artists at the studio; seen in 2011
“Burny was Disney Animation’s renaissance man,” says Disney animator Eric Goldberg, according to Variety.
“He literally did everything that could be done in the studio – assistant animator, animator, story artist, producer and director of many films that left an indelible mark on our collective appreciation of the Disney ethos. He was also Walt’s traffic boy when he started, giving Walt his weekly pocket money.’
He is survived by his wife Ellen Siirola; his son, Brett Mattinson, his wife Kelly and their two children; and his daughter, Genny, her husband Larry Ellena and their two children.
Mattinson will be buried in a private ceremony at Forest Lawn in the Hollywood Hills, although donations may be made in his honor to the MPTF (Motion Picture and Television Fund) in Woodland Hills, California.