Tons of Disney Legends in One Photo

Ben Sharpsteen retirement party

If you’re a fan of conservatively dressed middle-aged white men, boy, do I have a treat for you today. This photo from February 24, 1959, was taken on the occasion of Ben Sharpsteen’s retirement from Disney. Sharpsteen, who is flanked by Walt and Roy, was the supervising director of Pinocchio and Dumbo, as well as Walt’s most frequently whipped “whipping boy,” among many other roles during a thirty-year career at the studio. Pretty much anybody who was a somebody at Disney showed up for his retirement soiree. It is an inspiring image from Hollywood’s Golden Age, and alternately, a sad commentary on how little diversity existed in the upper ranks of the Walt Disney Company during this period.

See the group party photo and identifications after the jump.


The man of the hour, Ben Sharpsteen, is seated in the center. Click for the large version:

Ben Sharpsteen

In this next version of the photo, I’ve attempted to identify as many of the artists as I could. There’s at least a half-dozen other artists that I thought I recognized, but didn’t label unless I was absolutely sure. If you can positively identify other people in the photo, please comment and I’ll update the identifications. [UPDATED: I’ve added more identifications based on your comments. Keep them coming.]

Ben Sharpsteen


  • http://www.blammoblog.blogspot.com mrgroh

    I see Gerry Geronomi above Kimball…and I see Clarence Ducky Nash beside him…and I see John Lounsbury beside Frank Thomas…..and I see….

  • Angry Anim

    I believe the skinny one between Frank Thomas and Ward Kimball is John Lounsbery…

    Excellent pic and story. I love this kind of stuff.

  • http://www.rustymillsanimation.com Rusty Mills

    Third from the right is Jack Hannah, two to the right of Ollie Johnston with the “V” over his head is Ham Luske, Clarence Nash and John Lounsbery have already been correctly identified.

  • amid

    Is Nash the short guy next to Hibler?

  • http://www.louromano.blogspot.com/ Lou Romano

    The man just above Marc Davis next to Les Clark looks like effects animator Joshua Meador. I recognize him from 4 artists paint 1 tree. And the man to his left looks like Jack Kinney. Great photo.

  • Dan Jeup

    Ub Iwerks is to the right of Roy Williams. Harry Tytle is behind Ben Sharpsteen. Wilfred Jackson is to the left of Walt Pfiefer. Roy E. Disney is giving the peace sign over Jackson. Oliver Wallace is to the left of John Sibley. Larry Clemmons is to the left of Jack Hannah.

    Yes Amid, Nash is in front of Frank Thomas.

  • gatebuilder

    Does anyone know where this was? Could it be Tam O’ Shanter, Smoke House or maybe even Chadney’s?

    • MichaelDair

      This is the Tam O’ Shanter

  • Dan Jeup

    Hey Rusty,

    Ham Luske is between Frank Thomas and John Lounsbery.

    Great pic!

  • http://thadkomorowski.com Thad

    Excellent photo!! Keep the IDs coming.

    Little did Jack Kinney and Jack Hannah know their asses too were just about on the way out, much less ceremoniously.

  • http://2dwannabe.blogspot.com robcat2075

    Where was it? I’m guessing an underground bunker due to the obvious peril to the industry of gathering so many talented people in one spot.

  • http://www.animationarchive.org Stephen Worth

    That’s the Smoke House

  • top cat james

    I hope someone drove Kimball home. LOL

    “Look out! Look out! Pink elephants on parade…”

  • Dan Jeup

    These are my best guesses on others: It looks like Tom Oreb between Ham Luske and John Lounsbery. I’m pretty sure Hal Ambro is to the right of Clyde Geronimi holding the glass. I knew him when he had a beard, but I’d bet money that’s him. My guess is that Bill Cotrell is between Dick Huemer and Larry Clemmons. Two heads to the right of Roy E. Disney I think is Bill Walsh (face obscured).

  • Dom

    Excellent photo!

    Amazing level of talents in that one room.

    Thanks for posting.

  • Scarabim

    Lack of diversity?

    What did you expect to see in a company picture from 1959, the cast from It’s A Small World?

    How many pictures from other companies in those days contained faces of color? Or faces of women, for that matter?

    It’s a nice picture. The indictment against Walt wasn’t really necessary.

    • amid

      Scarabim, It’s a valid comment because the “golden age” of animation wasn’t as golden as we often make it out to be and provided limited advancement opportunities for women, blacks, Hispanics, Asians and other groups who made up the rich societal fabric of southern California. And your comment that this was true of all companies is incorrect: there were numerous arts-oriented organizations around SoCal at the time that had more liberal hiring policies for upper-management positions than Disney did. I love the artists in this photo, but the image makes me uncomfortable, and reveals an ugly truth about classic animation.

      • http://thadkomorowski.com Thad

        Amid, while I agree with you that it’s an ugly side, it’s an ugly side of Hollywood, not just animation. Disney was really a movie studio at this point, over thirty years old, and most of the people present in this photo were there most of that time. I don’t think a black man hired in 1930 could have reached that kind of stature anywhere in town or that a photo of the top people with seniority at any Hollywood studio would have many non-white males. All of which to say is that the situation emphatically sucked, but that means Hollywood sucked, not just Disney’s.

        I don’t know which “arts-oriented organizations” you’re referring to, but I’m guessing they were remarkably smaller and fairly new (boutique animation shops) compared to any of the heavyweights, so it’s not like saying, “Warners had an Asian woman VP in 1959″. So that’s not really a valid comparison, it just shows that newer studios were rooted in less antiquated notions.

        The conversation is worth having, and I expect I’d agree with most of what you have to say, but I’d rather have it elsewhere – I came here to find out who’s who in a photo, not discuss racial profiling in Golden Age Hollywood.

      • Paul N

        We hear all the time about how mastering the art of animation takes a decade or more, yet we’re surprised that the top artists at Disney in the 50′s were all white guys?

        Many of these guys were hired in the mid-30′s to early 40′s, when hiring diversity was not a goal at most companies, not only Disney. It’s not surprising that in the late 50′s they’d be the top talent at the studio, and that there’d be a lack of diversity, given the time necessary to master the medium.

      • Brian O.

        Sometimes I think Amid just likes to have something to complain about. Must have been a slow news day to force him to look back fifty years for a petty grouse.

        I’d say keep fanning those flames but why bother when you’ve got a match and gasoline to manufacture a fire.

        Perhaps Disney should offer reparations?

  • Jorgen Klubien

    Grinning Lou Debney between Frank Thomas and Lounsbery.
    (Lou gave me a cool official photo of Walt when I started at the studio in 1979. Lou’s son John is very successful composing scores for movies today.)

  • Jorgen Klubien

    oops, no sorry that’s not Lou Debney… it’s Ham Luske of course. Nevermind.

  • holyduck

    Fine tailored suits? Worn by animation employees?!! BWAHAHAHAHAHAA!!!!

  • Norman

    What difference does it make what color the people are?

    There is only one race, the human race.

    Too bad the Beatles did not have a Japanese guy in the band. That would have made them a really good band. Makes me feel uncomfortable that they were all from Liverpool and all white.

  • http://www.rudyagresta.com Rudy Agresta

    That’s Larry Clemmens fourth from the right.

  • http://adreamer49.wordpress.com/ Jacob

    It is true that there were not very many blacks, Hispanics, Asians, who were in lead roles at Disney from the 1930′s through the 1950′s. However, Disney had a VERY diverse group of people working for him. Just look at the differences between the Nine Old Men and you will see how diverse it got. Disney worked with people who hadn’t even graduated from high school too people who came from some of the highest art schools in America (and Europe). I think one of Walt’s greatest talents was getting people, who would never even talk to each other in normal life, to work side by side with each other for the betterment of his stories.

    The reason there was a golden age in animation was because diverse people learned to work together for Disney.

  • http://n/a phil stapleton

    Great comment’s stated here. The race ‘thing’,is something that will always be discussed, when it comes to America? Most of us, now have a better understanding of what it has taken, to move past the past, into the future, as a creative people, as a whole.Let’s just hope that we as a people, have trully learned, from it all? Stay Creative people….towards better creative days.

  • greg m.

    Dan, you’re right, that does look like Hal! Wow, and look, Bill Clinton’s in the Pic near Roy Sr.!

  • Dan Jeup

    Yeah Greg, it does look a bit like Bill Clinton. I can hear him saying: “That’s a very slippery slope.”

    And if you look at the bald guy with glasses behind Milt Kahl, his twin brother is to the left of Eric Larson. Wonder who that is and if they were actually twins. If not, the resemblance is uncanny.

  • David Breneman

    Wow. This picture was taken just a few days after I was born, and most of these guys are old enough to be… …my siblings.

    Yes, it was hard for women or minorities to break into a lot of fields back then. Although, in fairness, most women in the 1950s didn’t want careers that entailed full-time office work once they were mothers. (My own mother was almost unique amongst my friends in that after my siblings and I were old enough to fend for ourselves a few hours after school, she went back to work managing the laboratory at a regional blood bank and teaching medical technology for local college as well.)

    But there’s nothing about Disney the man that made him a leader in the field of excluding minorities. There’s nothing to suggest he had a bigoted boan in his body. He was just caught up in and carried along by the culture of the times, and if you were a minority that culture sucked.

  • http://jimattulgeywood.blogspot.com/ Jim Fanning

    An astounding photo, Amid, and I’m impressed with the knowledge of everyone who wrote in. The man to the left of Ollie Wallace is Jim Algar. Dan Jeup is right about the partially obscured man two heads to the right of Roy E. Disney, that’s Bill Walsh.

  • Pedro Nakama

    Where was this photo taken?

  • http://www.afilmla.com Hans Perk

    Above Roy O., next to Harry Tytle is Bill Anderson (started in management of I&P, then became producer, like Tytle).

  • http://www.afilmla.com Hans Perk

    Is the gent between Dick Huemer and Larry Clemmons maybe Bill Cottrell?

  • http://animationwhoandwhere.blogspot.com Joe Campana

    Yes Has, that is Bill Cottrell between Huemer and Clemmons.

    The gentleman two people left of Ken Anderson (in the glasses) is Mclaren Stewart.

    The person listed as Jack Kinney is not him. I believe Kinney was gone from the studio by this point. (It might be Lou Debney. I’m not home or I could verify that.)

    Amazing photo, though! Where did it come from?

  • http://www.windowtothemagic.com MagicJoe-WTTM

    Though only a partial profile, it sure looks like Disney Legend BILL JUSTICE to Woolie Reitherman’s left and behind Milt Kahl on the left half of the photo. This is an awesome photo!

  • beanie

    Another thing to consider is that all these guys look to be in their 40′s – 50′s – 60′s … Can you find that nowadays at Disney or Pixar or Dreamworks? It’s either young age discrimination back then or old age discrimination now…
    Take your pick Amid…

  • Gunnar Andreassen

    Bill Justice behind Milt Kahl: Agree
    The man identified as Jack Kinney: not him
    The man – second to the right of Roy E. Disney: John Hench (?)
    The man identified as John Sibley reminds me of Floyd Gottfredson.
    The man identified as Bill Cottrell: Probably not him.
    The man to the right of Jack Hannah: Erwin Verity