Disney Legend Burnett “Burny” Mattinson has passed away at age 87 years old following a short illness.
During a 70-year career at Walt Disney Animation Studios, Mattinson worked as an animator, director, producer, and story artist. He was the longest serving Cast Member in the history of The Walt Disney Company and would have received a 70th anniversary service award (the first ever) on June 4.
Mattinson had the idea of “Mickey’s Christmas Carol” and was the producer and solo director of the film. He then was producer and co-director of “The Great Mouse Detective.” Before that, he worked as an artist on “Lady and the Tramp,” “One Hundred and One Dalmatians,” “The Sword in the Stone,” “The Jungle Book,” and “The Rescuers.” He was a key member of the story team on “Aladdin,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Lion King,” “Pocahontas,” “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” “Tarzan,” and “Mulan.” He was the story supervisor on “Winnie the Pooh” (2011).
“Animation is 75 percent thinking and 25 percent drawing,” Mattinson said. “Everything must be carefully thought out first. Our animators not only have to think like actors but also figure out how to get that performance across on paper and on the screen. Our characters pause to think and connive. You can see it in their eyes.”
He continued, “The important thing to remember about good animation is that less is more. Moving the characters too much is the sign of a real amateur. We put our efforts into more subtle, carefully thought out actions that communicate the point clearly and in an entertaining way.”
Mattinson was named a Disney Legend in 2008. Ten years later, he set the record for longest-running Cast Member, surpassing Disney Legend John Hench.
Chief creative officer of Walt Disney Animation Studios Jennifer Lee said in a statement, “Burny’s artistry, generosity, and love of Disney Animation and the generations of storytellers that have come through our doors, for seven decades, has made us better—better artists, better technologists, and better collaborators. All of us who have had the honor to know him and learn from him will ensure his legacy carries on.”
Academy Award-winning Disney director Don Hall said, “For almost 30 years, I’ve had the privilege to work alongside Burny Mattinson, from Winnie the Pooh to Big Hero 6 to, most recently, Strange World. I have marveled at his artistry, enjoyed his good humor, and sat enraptured by his stories of Disney history. At 18 years old, he followed his dream of working at Walt Disney Animation Studios, and for almost 70 years he lived that dream every day, inspiring all of us who had the good fortune to follow in his footsteps. I love him dearly.”
“Burny was the Renaissance man of Disney Animation,” said Disney animator Eric Goldberg. “He literally did everything that could be done at the studio—assistant animator, animator, story artist, producer, and director of many films that made an indelible mark on our collective appreciation of the Disney ethos. […] Burny was low-key, charming, inventive, and superbly gifted as a draftsperson and a storyteller. His storyboards were beautifully acted and wonderfully atmospheric, which I first encountered when I joined the studio for Aladdin. The more I saw of his work, the more I became in awe of his breadth of talent. I value his cheerful friendship and lasting inspiration to me and so many other animation artists. He will be missed, but not forgotten.”
Walt Disney Animation Studios posted a touching video tribute on their official Instagram page, honoring the life and contributions of the beloved Disney Legend.
The video tribute was captioned: “It is with a heavy heart that we share the passing of beloved Disney Legend, Director, and Story Artist Burny Mattinson. You made our world a happier place and inspired generations of artists with your heart, humor, and storytelling. Thank you for your legacy, Burny.”
Mattinson was still working full-time as a consultant and mentor at Walt Disney Animation Studios when he passed. He is survived by his wife, Ellen Siirola; his son, Brett, and his wife, Kelly, and their two children; his daughter, Genny, and her husband, Larry Ellena, and their two children. He will be laid to rest at Forest Lawn, Hollywood Hills. Funeral services will be private and in lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Motion Picture and Television Fund (MPTF) in Woodland Hills, California.
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