Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The WED crew, circa 1965

Below, from left to right: Herb Ryman, Ken O'Brien, Collin Campbell, Marc Davis, Al Bertino, Wathel Rogers, Mary Blair, T. Hee, Blaine Gibson, X. Atencio, Claude Coats and Yale Gracey.
This is a group photograph of Disney artists in the WED (now Disney Imagineering) parking lot in Glendale, circa 1965. They were studio veterans who had moved over from Burbank to work on Disneyland attractions... Herb Ryman had been an art director on "Fantasia" and "Dumbo." In later years, most of his artistic expertise focused on Disneyland and Disney World. Ken O'Brien had been at Disney a quarter century. Designer Collin Campbell labored on the animation side of the Disney empire for the better part of a decade before coming to WED. Marc Davis needs no intorduction to Disney buffs. Marc had a long, glorious career in feature animation before joining the WED design team. Al Bertino labored in the 'toon vineyards a long time before joining WED. (He'd been an animator, storyman and writer at Disney's and a host of other studios. A bit of trivia: Bertino was the inspiration for "Big Al" in "Country Bear Jamboree." See a resemblance, now that we mention it?) Wathel Rogers came to the Disney studio in '39, and was (in '65), a little over halfway through his 48-year Disney career. Mary Blair had worked at the studio off-and-on since the middle thirties, and had designed "Small World" for the '64 New York World's Fair and then Disneyland. Thornton Hee was a renaissance man who never stayed in one place very long (this letter from T. Hee sort of explains why). Although a director on "Pinocchio," he was in and out of Disney's for years, doing lots of other things in-between. Blaine Gibson worked in effects animation at the studio before sculpting at WED. X. Atencio came to the studio while still a teenager and remained almost fifty years. At this period, he was probably writing the songs we hear in "The Haunted Mansion" and "Pirates of the Caribbean." Johnny Dep should thank him. Claude Coats had been a long-time background artist who shifted over to design Disneyland attractions after "Lady and the Tramp," his final animated feature. Claude worked for Disney for over fifty years before his death at age 79. Yale Gracey was a Disney layout artist for over twenty years before making the jump to WED in '61 (around the same time as Marc Davis.) I think what made this group so creative and able to think outside the usual amusement park box is, they all came from other disciplines. It must have helped, since much of their work is still on display at the Magic Kingdom half a century later.


Anonymous said...

Man, it seems like only yesterday. I remember this marvelous group. Before they moved over to Glendale, I believe they were in E-Wing on the first floor of the Animation Building.

They were everything that made Disney Imagineering great. Somehow, all that was lost over the years. Seems that happens with everything, doesn't it?

Jenny Lerew said...

Ken O'Brien was still at WED when I spent a day with him there in 1981...he had a nice office and was working(animating!)a crane flying for one of the EPCOT pavilions...come lunchtime, he asked if it was okay if he asked "Herbie" to sit with us--Herb Ryman! I knew who he was, but barely--I sure didn't know Herb! Ryman! Jeez. He was so friendly and the perfect old school gentleman, just like jovial Ken. Weird to think barely anyone's around now who worked with them both--Tony Baxter, I guess?

Aimee said...

Howdy, I ran across your site while looking for info about Yale Gracey. I came across a few original paintings of his that are signed done in 1952. I'm having a heck of a time finding out any valuation, or locating anyone who may know if any of his artwork exists outside of working for Disney for a number of years. Can anyone please help??????? I'd really appreciate it. email me at, my name is Amy and I live in MN. Thanks and all the best.

Anonymous said...

I am in possession of a couple of celluloids fished from the famous Disney dumpster in 1966 by a lesser cartoon employee Dick Haney(Haynie?). We lived in a boarding house on North Van Ness(Later used as a set in a James Earl Jones movie) in Hollywood and I suppose the celluloids were a low-budget christmas gift. Anybody know what happened to Dick? He was in lifelong awe of Walt Disney, but I suppose Walt's death in 1966 may have sent him drifting to a new career. I wanted to document Dick's story to pass along to my grandkids along with the celluloids. Thanks, Tim Ramage

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