Background painter and stylist Ron Dias died in California on Tuesday, July 30th at the age of 76. Born in Honolulu, Hawaii on February 15, 1937, he first decided to pursue an art career after seeing Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at the age of 6.
A graduate of the Honolulu Academy of Art and the correspondence art program Famous Artists School, he was hired at the Disney Studios in 1956 after winning a nationwide stamp contest. He explains his unlikely path into the animation world in this video interview:
Starting in the inbetween department during the production of Sleeping Beauty, this would be the beginning of a forty-plus year association with the Disney Company that included illustrating their characters for Golden Books, art directing limited edition cels for Disney Art Editions, art directing The Little Mermaid TV series and creating artwork for Disney’s interactive CD-ROMs in the 1990s.
His background art was seen in the cartoons of many major studios during the animation industry’s silver age, including Hanna-Barbera (Hey There, It’s Yogi Bear, Jonny Quest, The Man Called Flintstone), DePatie-Freleng (The Pink Panther), Warner Bros. (Return of Duck Dodgers in the 24 ½ century), UPA (Uncle Sam Magoo) and Ralph Bakshi’s Lord of the Rings. He also worked as a color stylist on The Secret of NIMH (pictured above), Dragon’s Lair and Space Ace for Don Bluth, and the Toon Town sequence in Who Framed Roger Rabbit (below).
He retired to California’s Monterey Peninsula in 1999, focusing on fine art painting and advocacy for art in the school system. He is survived by his partner of thirty-five years, Howard, as well as two sons and three grandchildren. Go here to see a portfolio of Ron Dias’s artwork.