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Tyrus Wong Interview

We want to wish Tyrus Wong a belated happy birthday. He turned 98 years old on October 25, 2008. Wong is best known for being the chief architect of Bambi‘s visual style though he had an even longer career (25+ years) working at Warner Bros. as a storyboard artist and illustrator for live-action films. Below are excerpts from a video interview conducted with him last year by students at Otis College of Art and Design, the school that Wong attended in the 1930s back when it was known as Otis Art Institute. His energy and enthusiasm for life that comes through in this interview is truly inspiring. The entire conversation can be viewed by going to the Otis school’s library in LA.

  • Chuck R.

    Thanks for this post! I’m absolutely thirsting for more stuff of Ty Wong’s to be published. I’d especially love to see more of his figurative art and ceramic pieces.
    If anyone out there knows of any sources, I’m all ears.
    BTW, how can we order the DVD showing the entire Otis CAD interview?

    Mr Wong, happy birthday —you are an inspiration and an American treasure!

  • Happy birthday Tyrus! Bambi is my favorite animated film, and I’m very appreciative of the beauty and direction that Tyrus Wong gave to it.

    98. Wow.

  • Awesome. I saw another video about a year ago that was just as good(was it posted here on the Brew?). Its amazing how sharp he is at his age, I can only hope to have a life as full as his, thanks for posting Amid.

  • Jules

    Tyrus Wong has outlived them all!

  • Frank

    I would have never thought that he was never introduced to Walt. So sad and such a shame…

  • Sara

    Happy (late) Birthday, Mr. Wong! I heard a piece about him a couple of months ago on NPR and was very happy to learn that he was alive and well and making beautiful kites.

  • Chuck Busby

    I have two beautiful water color paintings by Mr. Wong, one is entitled Winter and the other is entitled Summer> I obtained both in 1961. How can I have these paintings appraised? Thank you.

  • charlie

    i have two paintings summer winter by tyrus wong

    • Connie

      Are your paintings prints of the originals?

  • It was wondeful knowing Tyrus wong over the last 10 years and corasponding with him and his wonderful positive influance /Im disabled and was always saying in his letters over the years with his nice writing and cute song birds he drew on the letters and beautiful cards he sent me and book he signed for me when we met and he even wrote lettter explaining some figurins no more the half inch in size and I sent him one my mom had about 5 he called the one I sent him the wood gather meaning it was coming fall time my father was born in december 26 1910 he was a carpenter and I had an art of training animals which I still pertakwe in on occasion and love horses as is a passion of Tyrus wongs ne ver met in person would be a dream come true but I hope he continues his great health and happiness with the kites they are so pretty as is his art and pottery my brother was a non recognizes arist but did beautiful sculptures in stanless/racoo ceramic/and bronz hope he is getting my letters of the different horses they do in art here in Florida where I now live he was a wondeful nice gentalmen and very nice of him to write to me over the years thank yuo Tyrus wong yuor friend chas Rosenberger as he would call me and keep up your good health

  • Thank you for posting our interview here. It was such an honor talking with him and hearing his honest perspective on all of his artistic endeavors.

    What I love most about him is how he continues to find new outlets for his creative pursuits. It truly is his key to vitality.
    In the full interview he mentioned that he received a full scholarship to OTIS at the age of 15. He left early and worked as an illustrator for some smaller companies, one being a bra manufacturer, he blushed.
    After that, he left for Disney and worked as an in-betweener where he later applied for the position as artist on the feature Bambi. From there, he worked with WB for 30 years, RKO, and several other studios before he retired. Around 1995, Disney approached him with Mulan, asking him to be the art director on the film, but he declined saying he had “finished animation”.
    He later painted calligraphy on porcelain dinnerware that was sold in Bloomingdales. He also designed and constructed kites, which he still does to this day.

    If you want to find more on him, OTIS’ library has the full interview along with some other fascinating interviews with other influential alums. The professor who put this whole thing together was Joan Takayama-Ogawa who did an amazing job. The project was called The OTIS Legacy Project.

    Some things that Tyrus had mentioned off camera was how he felt that digital art could never capture the essence that traditional media can. I remember wanting to argue with him by throwing out examples of popular CG movies but all my brain could think about was the April Showers scene from Bambi and I was speechless.

    He flies his kites in Santa Monica every weekend. I’d love to talk with him again.

    Thanks Cartoon Brew!