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John Wilson, British Animation Legend, RIP

British animation director, designer and studio owner John Wilson (above, left) passed away on Friday, June 21st, according to a report published by Michael Sporn. Wilson was born in 1920 in Wimbledon, London, England. Per his personal biographical notes:

He attended the Royal College of Art and was working by age 18 as a commercial artist with Willings Press Service. In WWII he served with the London Rifle Brigade in African where he was seriously wounded. Recuperating in hospital, he drew many cartoons of which several were printed. Eventually he would recover and get work at Pinewood Studios in the art department where he worked on Great Expectations and The Thief of Baghdad, among other films.

Wilson’s animation career began at the Gaumont British Animation studio in the late-1940s. He moved to the United States in the early-1950s, where he worked at UPA and Disney. His sole screen credit from this period was as a layout artist on the Disney short Pigs is Pigs (1954):

In 1954, he started his own studio Fine Arts Films. Among his well known projects from the period was a 1956 short film Petroushka that was arranged and conducted by Igor Stravinsky himself. The 16-minute film aired as part of the The Sol Hurok Music Hour, and is regarded as an early example of an animated TV special.

Wilson also directed this classic television spot voiced and written by Stan Freberg for Instant Butter-Nut Coffee (1958):

Other projects included directing the trailer for the live-action feature Irma La Douce (1963):

…directing the animated feature Shinbone Alley (1971):

…and directing the main titles for the 1978 musical film Grease:

A biography and full credit list can be found at John Wilson’s website A generous selection of his artwork is available at Michael Sporn’s website.