The NY TIMES posted this sad news today:
John Parr Miller, an early animator for Walt Disney whose later art adorned best-selling children’s books, including those in the popular Little Golden Books series, died on Oct. 29 on Long Island. He was 91 and lived in Manhasset, N.Y.
Best known as J.P. Miller, the illustrator of several incredible Little Golden Books, Miller’s art is still influential to a new generation of animators artists. His “Little Red Hen” is still in print and considered a classic. “Lucky Mrs. Ticklefeather,” “Little Pee Wee” “The Little Golden Funny Book”, “The Marvelous Merry-Go-Round”, “Tommy’s Wonderful Rides”, “The Circus ABC” and many others, define the Little Golden Book style. These books, all done in the late 1940s and early 50s, are prime examples of the stylized modern commercial art of the era – and a huge influence on many of today’s best animators (including Spumco), leading cartoonists and commercial designers.According to the Times obit:
John Parr Miller found himself in Hollywood during the Depression, with a widowed mother, need of a job and a portfolio from Grand Central Art School, which he had attended for a little more than two years. He found work in the story department at Disney Studio in 1934… In 1937 he was one of only three artists asked to start the studio’s character model department. According to studio archives, he helped create characters for Disney “Pinocchio,” “Fantasia” and “Dumbo.” He left Disney for military service in World War II, when he made training films for the Navy. After the war, Golden Books recruited him and several other Disney veterans to enliven children’s books for a mass market, to go beyond the bland Dick and Jane primers of yore. Mr. Miller continued his work as a freelance artist until about 10 years ago.