Peter Ellenshaw (1913-2007)

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Dave Smith reports that Peter Ellenshaw passed away yesterday, in Santa Barbara.

Ellenshaw is best known for his incredible matte paintings in Disney live action films ranging from The Story of Robin Hood through 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea and Mary Poppins (above). His work can also be seen in Spartacus, Superman IV and The Black Hole. He is the father of Harrison Ellenshaw (Star Wars).

(Thanks, Jeff Kurtti)


  • http://afrokids.com Floyd Norman

    I was lucky enough to see those wonderful Ellenshaw paintings on glass up close and personal when I worked at Disney. Somehow, digital matte paintings simply don’t compare.

    Ellenshaw’s work was brilliant, and his contribution to Disney’s “Mary Poppins” was considerable. What a joy it was to have worked with him on that great film.

  • Jenny Lerew

    Sad news.
    He was such a prodigiously talented artist–and always seemed an extremely classy gentleman as well.

  • Jeff Kurtti

    Amazing when you think that not a frame of Mary Poppins was shot outdoors. Mr. Bank’s lonely nighttime walk to the bank, Jane and Michael’s terrified run to the riverfront, that amazing pan down from Mary on a cloud to Bert in the park…all Ellenshaw…

  • http://www.thedisneyblog.com John Frost

    We were just watching Mary Poppins tonight and remarking on how amazing Ellenshaw’s paintings were. A real artist for the ages.

  • tom

    This is sad. Rest in Peace, Peter.

  • droosan

    A legend .. and a huge inspiration throughout my own career. He will be missed, but his work will continue to point the way for those of us who follow.

    I recently re-watched THE BLACK HOLE, mostly just to marvel at the sheer ‘scale’ Ellenshaw imparted upon the ‘Cygnus’ interiors. Whatever one may think of that movie as a whole, there’s no denying those matte paintings give the film a classy big-budget ‘look & feel’ ..

  • Paul

    I saw Ellenshaw speak once to a group of Disney fans. Someone asked him whether he still had any of the matte paintings from Poppins. He said no, they’d all been scraped off so the glass could be used again. The gasp from the audience was amazing. He added that the paintings weren’t done as “art”, but as part of the filmmaking process.

    His talent was astonishing, and I have the deepest respect for his work.

  • BJ Wanlund

    Ouch. How sad. I absolutely LOVE Mary Poppins. All the amazing backgrounds in the film: ALL Ellenshaw. I have such a deep respect for his work, it’s amazing.

    Rest in peace, Mr. Ellenshaw. You’ll be greatly missed.

    BJ

  • Brian Meyer

    I once saw one of Ellenshaw’s matte paintings for Mary Poppins framed behind glass at a now defunct attraction at the Disney MGM Studios in Florida. It was a bird’s eye view of London with various structures like Big Ben executed at slightly exagerated proportions so as to draw one’s eye to them in the vast panorama of streets and buildings. A masterful piece of artwork it was.

  • Brad Constantine

    One of my favorite Walt Disney stories is when introducing some visitors to Peter Ellenshaw during the making of Mary Poppins, he said “Do you know how I met Peter ? I was visiting London and I saw the most remarkable artist drawing pictures on the sidewalk,and I said “you’re quite good…do you know who I am? he said “sure, you’re Walt Disney”and I asked him if he’d like to come to America and work with me..”I sure would, guv’ner…he replied” and that’s how I met Peter Ellenshaw.” …classic story..Even greater was his talent and love for film making..He will truly be missed.

  • Tom Minton

    I was lucky enough to get a close look at Ellenshaw’s incredible matte paintings for “Spartacus” at a Motion Picture Academy Peter Ellenshaw program and art exhibit over twenty five years ago. Ellenshaw was equally adept at both atmospheric and linear perspective, while most matte painters tended to excel at either one form or the other. His stellar work came down to the fact that he was simply the best artist in his field for many, many years. At that long ago event, Ellenshaw himself told the capacity crowd that he was responsible for one line in “Mary Poppins”, recalled from his days growing up in a proper English household. When Walt Disney asked him if he could contribute any bit of authentic local color to the dialogue, Ellenshaw mentioned that his family maid always polished her “brasses” at a certain hour on a daily basis. This yielded the line uttered by Retta Shaw in the film: “No, Ma’am, I haven’t done me brasses, yet.”

  • http://www.briansibley.com/ Brian Sibley

    You can read my own tribute to Peter Ellenshaw and his incredible talents on my blog:

    http://briansibleysblog.blogspot.com/2007/02/glass-worlds-of-peter-ellenshaw.html

  • Christine Ellenshaw Logan

    I was blessed to be the daughter-in-law of Peter and Bobbie for 26 years, and the mother of his 2 grandchildren, Michael and Hilary. I was priveleged to spend many wonderful times with the Ellenshaws in New York, London, and especially Santa Barbara. I am so touched by all the wonderful stories and remarks by people who were touched by his beautiful artwork. The most touching was that the a castle in Ireland which has many of his Irish paintings, put their flags at half staff.