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Marc Davis - Legendary Disney Animator - Passes Away
(January 14, 2000) Marc Davis, one of the grand masters of Disney animation and a celebrated member of Walt Disney's trusted inner circle known as the "nine old men," passed away on Wednesday (1/12) at Glendale Memorial Hospital following a short illness. He was 86 years old.

Davis was regarded as one of the top talents ever to work in the animation medium and one of Disney's all-time greatest animators and Imagineers. He earned a reputation for being Disney's "ladies' man" because of his memorable female character creations that included Cinderella, Alice, Tinker Bell, Briar Rose, Maleficent and Cruella De Vil.

A fine artist in his own right, Davis' paintings are currently being exhibited at Larry Smith Fine Arts Gallery in Los Angeles. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has conducted its annual "Marc Davis Lecture on Animation" since 1994.

During his 43-year association with the Studio, Davis was responsible for designing and bringing life to such classic characters as Bambi, Cinderella, Alice, Briar Rose and Maleficent (from "Sleeping Beauty"), and Cruella De Vil.

He went on to play a key role in the creative planning for the original Disneyland, for which he developed story and character concepts for such favorite attractions as "It's a Small World," "The Enchanted Tiki Room," "Pirates of the Caribbean," "Jungle Cruise," "Carousel of Progress" and "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln."

Commenting on Davis' passing, Roy E. Disney, vice chairman of The Walt Disney Company, said: "We have lost one of the great giants of our industry. Marc was a true renaissance man and an amazing talent who helped to define the art of animation and raise it to incredible new heights.

"His abilities as a draftsman were second to none and as a result he often took on the most complicated assignments of drawing heroines and villainesses. He also played a great role in creating some of the most innovative and popular attractions for our theme parks.

"Marc's high standards and incredible achievements serve as great inspirations to today's artists and animators, and he will be sorely missed by his Disney family and his legions of fans the world over."

The only son of Harry and Mildred Davis, Marc was born in Bakersfield, Calif. After high school, he enrolled at the Kansas City Art Institute for his first formal art training, after which he attended the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco and the Otis Art Institute of Los Angeles.

Davis went to work for Walt Disney in 1935 as an apprentice animator. He was promoted to assistant animator when Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs went into production. Following that, Davis spent six years doing character design and storyboards for Bambi.

His skills with personality animation provided a breakthrough on that film and played a key role in making that film a success. He is credited with developing the characters of young Bambi and Thumper.

Among his numerous Disney feature credits, Davis served as a directing animator for Song of the South, Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Sleeping Beauty and 101 Dalmatians. He was an animator on Bambi, Fun and Fancy Free and The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad.

Additionally, Davis received credit for "cartoon story treatment" for So Dear to My Heart. He also animated on numerous shorts including "Adventures in Music: Melody" and "Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom."

Davis joined Walt Disney Imagineering in 1961 and remained there until his retirement in 1978. He developed story and character concepts for numerous attractions including the four New York World's Fair shows; "Country Bear Jamboree," "Haunted Mansion," "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln," "Jungle Cruise," "Nature's Wonderland," "The Enchanted Tiki Room," "Pirates of the Caribbean" and "America Sings."

After his retirement, he returned to Imagineering as a consultant on "World of Motion" for EPCOT Center and numerous attractions for Tokyo Disneyland.

In addition to his distinguished career as an artist, animator and imagineer, Davis taught advanced classes in drawing for 17 years at Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles.

Davis' many distinctions and awards include a 1992 salute from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. In 1989, he was honored at the Annecy Film Festival and also received a Disney Legends Award from the Studio. The International Animation Society, ASIFA, also presented him with their top honor, the Winsor McCay Award.

Davis' personal paintings and drawings are currently on exhibit at the Larry Smith Fine Arts Gallery in Los Angeles. His impressive artistry included such diverse subjects as bulls and bullfighters, dancers and harlequins as well as the warriors and jungle life of New Guinea.

His evocative New Guinea paintings have been collected for a forthcoming book, "The Bite of the Crocodile." He had also completed an unpublished book on the anatomy of motion.

Davis is survived by his wife of 44 years, Alice. There will be no funeral service, and plans for a memorial service will be announced shortly. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in his name to CalArts (California Institute of the Arts).

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