Fans, friends, and colleagues are remembering the life and work of John Watkiss, a British painter, film concept artist, and comic artist who passed away from cancer on January 20, 2017. He was 55 years old.
In addition to his other work, Watkiss worked for a number of years in animation, including at Walt Disney Feature Animation, Fox Animation Studios, and Nickelodeon. His most prominent work in the industry was during the 1990s when he contributed visual development to the Disney features Tarzan, The Emperor’s New Groove, Atlantis, and Treasure Planet. Watkiss’ mature approach to the material rarely found its way into the final Disney films, though his large-scale painting were reportedly popular with Disney execs who enjoyed hanging them in their offices.
Among Watkiss’ admirers was film director Richard Williams, who attended anatomy and life drawing sessions that Watkiss ran in London during the 1980s. “I was very keen on John and his brilliant work,” Williams told Cartoon Brew. “He was a great fellow and a real original who kept developing. Awful to lose him.”