Wil­lis Pyle

An­i­ma­tor who helped bring Pinoc­chio and Bambi to life then moved on to ex­per­i­men­tal works

The Daily Telegraph - - Obit­u­ar­ies - Wil­lis Pyle, born Septem­ber 3 1914, died June 2 2016

WIL­LIS PYLE, who has died aged 101, was an an­i­ma­tor who worked on the Dis­ney clas­sics Pinoc­chio, Fan­ta­sia and Bambi and later helped to pi­o­neer a more Mod­ernist ap­proach to an­i­ma­tion.

Pyle was born on Septem­ber 3 1914 near Le­banon, Kansas, the son of a Dust Bowl farmer, and grew up in a sod house (made out of rect­an­gu­lar patches of sod and grass) in Colorado. Af­ter leav­ing school he stud­ied Art at the Univer­sity of Colorado, where he be­came art ed­i­tor of the univer­sity’s monthly mag­a­zine, the Colorado Dodo. In his fi­nal year, how­ever, he re­sponded to a Dis­ney Stu­dio ad­vert fea­tur­ing Pluto pup with the words “Draw me and earn $25,000 a year”, and dropped out of univer­sity to earn a liv­ing.

Mov­ing to Los An­ge­les, he worked as a “traf­fic boy” at the stu­dio for six months, de­liv­er­ing art sup­plies to the an­i­ma­tors for $16 a week. At night, he stud­ied draw­ing at Dis­ney’s art school on the stu­dio lot. Soon his skills landed him in a unit un­der Milt Kahl, the de­signer of Pinoc­chio, the pup­pet-turned-boy whose nose grows when he tells lies, and he was soon busily em­ployed fill­ing in the de­tails be­tween Kahl’s main pose draw­ings, mak­ing the char­ac­ters walk and talk, and giv­ing them dif­fer­ent fa­cial ex­pres­sions. Pinoc­chio, he re­called, “had to act – raise its eye­brows, turn and jump and re­act to other char­ac­ters. And the way you could do it was by look­ing at your­self in a mir­ror to see what that ex­pres­sion looked like.”

Pinoc­chio (1940) was fol­lowed by Fan­ta­sia (1940), for which he drew the cu­pids and cen­taurs for the Pas­toral

Sym­phony se­quence, and Bambi (1942) for which he drew the ti­tle char­ac­ter, his girl­friend, Fa­line, Flower, the skunk, and Thumper, the rab­bit.

In 1941, how­ever, Wil­lis joined an an­i­ma­tors’ strike, pro­voked, among other things, by in­equal­i­ties in pay, the non-pay­ment of promised bonuses for un­paid over­time and sim­mer­ing anger over Walt Dis­ney’s fail­ure to list any an­i­ma­tors other than him­self in the cred­its for Snow White (1937). Pyle had no prob­lems with the stu­dio, but felt he could not pass his friends on the picket line. Af­ter­wards, he re­turned to fin­ish Bambi be­fore join­ing the US Army Air Corp, and while wait­ing to be mo­bilised worked at Wal­ter Lantz’s stu­dio on Woody Wood­pecker shorts.

He spent the war years at the First Mo­tion Pic­ture Unit in Cul­ver City, Cal­i­for­nia, an­i­mat­ing train­ing and pro­pa­ganda films. Af­ter the war he moved to United Pro­duc­tions of Amer­ica (UPA), a new stu­dio formed by Dis­ney strik­ers and Pic­ture Unit veter­ans.

UPA trans­formed the an­i­ma­tion in­dus­try with de­signs very dif­fer­ent from Dis­ney nat­u­ral­ism, and Pyle was cred­ited as an an­i­ma­tor on sev­eral im­por­tant films, in­clud­ing The Magic

Fluke (1949), which was nom­i­nated for an Os­car, Rag­time Bear (1949), the first film fea­tur­ing the short-sighted and ac­ci­dent prone Mr Ma­goo, and the Dr Seuss adap­ta­tion Ger­ald McBo­ing

Bo­ing (1950), the story of a lit­tle boy who speaks through sound ef­fects in­stead of spo­ken words, which won an Os­car for Best An­i­mated Short.

By the time the film came out, Pyle had moved to New York, where he es­tab­lished his own stu­dio and found steady work as an an­i­ma­tor, con­tribut­ing to com­mer­cials, tele­vi­sion se­ries in­clud­ing Char­lie

Brown spe­cials, and fea­ture films such as Raggedy Ann & Andy (1977).

At the age of 68 he took up the paint brush and for more than 20 years ex­hib­ited his oils and wa­ter­colours at the Montser­rat Con­tem­po­rary Art Gallery in Man­hat­tan.

In 1946 Pyle mar­ried Vir­ginia Mor­ri­son, who pre­de­ceased him. There were no chil­dren of the mar­riage.

Pyle work­ing on Bambi and (above) the fin­ished prod­uct

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.