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Posted at 9:00 PM ET, 02/10/2011

From Peter Pan to Pirates: RIP, Disney legend BILL JUSTICE

By Michael Cavna

billjustice.jpg (Image: Walt Disney Studios)

If you ever watched a rambunctious Thumper slide memorably along the ice beside Bambi, you knew the gifted man's work.

If you ever saw the high-pitched chipmunks Chip 'n' Dale flit and scamper in fluid motion, you witnessed his elegant craft.

And if you ever strode through Disneyland's Haunted Mansion or floated through the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, you experienced his lively audio-animatronic art.

For more than 40 years, official "Disney Legend" BILL JUSTICE poured his estimable talent into the House of Mouse, whether he was animating scenes in everything from "Peter Pan" to "Fantasia," or reanimating ghosts and ghouls that come electronically to life at the theme parks.

Bill Justice died this morning one day after turning 97, according to the Walt Disney Company. But my, do the inspiration and influence of his work live on.


The Dayton native joined Disney in the '30s as an artist and soon found himself whisked away in working on the studio's landmark "Fantasia." According to a Disney press release, Justice was once asked whether drawing Mickey Mouse ever bored him. His reply: "Have you seen me draw Mickey upside down?" -- before he proceeded to do so effortlessly.

As an animator, he also worked on such films as "Saludos Amigos," "The Three Caballeros" and "Alice in Wonderland," but he was perhaps best known for his sidekick "Bambi" rabbit and the comic twitterings of Chip 'n' Dale.


In the '50s and early '60s, Justice directed the short-subject cartoons "The Truth About Mother Goose," " Noah's Ark" and "Symposium on Popular Songs" -- all of which received Academy Award nominations. (During that time, his work was also piped into millions of living rooms, as he directed the Mickey Mouse March from TV's "Mickey Mouse Club.") And during this period, he created stop-motion animation for the feature films "Mary Poppins" and "The Parent Trap."

Justice joined Walt Disney Imagineering in 1965, programming such Disneyland audio-animatronic figures as Abraham Lincoln, Haunted Mansion spectres, carousing Caribbean swashbucklers and the furry critters that fiddled their way through Country Bear Jamboree. "One of the most enjoyable Disneyland projects was the Pirates of the Caribbean," Justice once said, according to Walt Disney Studios. "Manipulating the figures in each vignette was a multiple challenge."


From floats to costumes, Justice also designed park parades, including one of Disneyland's first Christmas showcases in 1959. Twenty years later, Justice retired, having left his joyous mark on both classic celluloid and enduring attractions.

Today, a good Caribbean pirate might even raise his rum and toast the great man's mastery. An arm raised, of course, by Bill Justice's leading animatronic talent.

RIP to a true Disney Legend.


By Michael Cavna  | February 10, 2011; 9:00 PM ET
Categories:  General, The Animation  | Tags:  Bambi, Bill Justice, Chip 'N' Dale, Pirates of the Caribbean, Walt Disney Studios  
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