We are sorry to report that one of the Walt Disney Company’s most prolific animators and longest-serving employees has passed away.
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Burny Mattinson’s career with the Walt Disney Company spanned 70 years (the longest-serving Cast Member in Disney history). During that time, Mattinson contributed as a director, producer, story artist, and, most memorably, an animator. The Walt Disney Company describes Burny’s background and where it all began:
Before he was 6 years old, his mother took him to the San Francisco Orpheum Theatre, where he saw Walt Disney’s Pinocchio. “Ever since I saw that film, this was my dream—to work in this business,” Mattinson once recalled. “So, I worked every day, drawing.” […] By the time he was 12, he was skillfully drawing Disney-style cartoons, and he kept dreaming of being a Disney artist. After his high school graduation, his mother drove him to Burbank and dropped him off at the Studio gate. A kindly guard took a look at the teenager’s portfolio and called the head of the personnel department. Mattinson got an interview and a job, beginning in the mailroom. Six months later, and with no formal art training, he started work as an in-betweener on Lady and the Tramp.
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The Walt Disney Company confirmed the revolutionary artist’s death. According to Disney, Burny Mattinson passed away on February 27 after a “short illness” at 87 years old. Even at the time of his death, Mattinson was working full-time at Walt Disney Animation Studios.
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Mattinson worked as an artist on classic Disney films such as Lady and the Tramp (1955), One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961), The Sword in the Stone (1963), The Jungle Book (1967), and The Rescuers (1977). Not only that, but he worked on the story team during the Disney Renaissance, contributing to films such as Aladdin (1992), Beauty and the Beast (1993), The Lion King (1994), Pocahontas (1995), The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996), Tarzan (1997), and Mulan (1998).
Burny Mattinson was scheduled to receive the first-ever “70th-anniversary service award” in June, after being named a Disney Legend in 2008. He is survived by his wife (Ellen Siirola), his son (Brett Mattinson) and his wife (Kelly), his daughter (Genny) and her husband (Larry Ellena), and his grandchildren.
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According to the Walt Disney Company, Mattinson will be laid to rest in Forest Lawn, Hollywood Hills. “In lieu of flowers,” the Walt Disney Company writes, “donations can be made to the MPTF (Motion Picture and Television Fund) in Woodland Hills, California.”
Burny Mattinson’s legacy has touched the lives of thousands, and his Disney legacy will live on to inspire more. Not only with his contributions to classic films but with his inspiring story.
Read the Walt Disney Company’s official announcement here.