Sunday, February 26, 2012

John Lounsbery - Disney's Nine Old Men

John Lounsbery (March 9, 1911 - February 13, 1976) was hired at Disney on July 2, 1935. Times were tough, and any job was a good job. Still, his starting salary was only $12 a week. Not much to live on, especially for someone with hopes of getting married. So it was that John would draw for Disney during the day and work for Sears department store at night.

Don Graham, instructor for the studio's evening art school, saw that Lounsbery had talent. He got the young artist a raise so he could quit his night job. By December, John and his fiance, Florence were married.

The newlyweds, 1935...



John became an assistant to Norm Ferguson with whom he worked on several Pluto shorts. Lounsbery's strong draftsman skills shown through as he developed quickly under his mentor. For his assignment on Snow White, John continued with Ferguson as they tackled the all-important Old Witch character. A few of the scenes he was given included working over the rotoscoped drawings of the Witch atop the cliff...



Her poling the boat across the lake...



And the feigned heart attack...



Lounsbery was also asked to animate on his own the scene where the Witch exits her dungeon down through a trap door in the floor...



As an assistant, he was given no screen credit in the film. Yet, thanks to Ferguson, Walt was made aware of John's hard work on the movie's evil villain. As a result, Lounsbery did receive a nice financial bonus.

Pictured below, John working at his drawing board on Fantasia (with Leopold Stokowski)...



And on Mickey and the Beanstalk...

John Lounsbery photos via John Canemaker's Walt Disney's Nine Old Men and the Art of Animation, 2001.
Snow White image scans copyright Disney.

John continued as an animator at the studio until 1973 when he was moved into directing. It was a position he didn't really seem to enjoy. He would pass away three years later.

Further reading:

2 comments:

  1. It's a shame he didn't live longer (wasn't he the first of the nine old men to die?); So many of the other guys had a chance to see their work receive accolades in their later years.

    ReplyDelete
  2. You're right Major, if he would have lived a little longer, John would probably have seen the respect and honors he deserved in his older age. The studio politics of the 1970s were a low point.

    ReplyDelete