Walt Peregoy, ’101 Dalmatians’ Color Stylist, RIP

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Walt Peregoy, the legendary artist who was the color stylist of Disney’s One Hundred and One Dalmatians and headed up Hanna-Barbera’s background department for a time during the late-Sixties, passed away yesterday at the age 89. The news was first reported by Disney’s official D23 Twitter account, which misidentified Peregoy as an animator.

Born Alwyn Walter Peregoy in Los Angeles in 1925, and raised on a small island in San Francisco Bay, Peregoy often described his background as “American white trash.” As a teenager, he attended Saturday art classes at Chouinard Art Institute. He dropped out of high school in the tenth grade, and was hired at Disney at the age of 17 in the position of “traffic boy,” the lowest-rung employees at the studio who ferried artwork and supplies between offices. He quit after just a few months, saying that the studio felt too much like a factory, and wouldn’t return for another eight years.

Following a short stint as a cowhand on the Irvine Ranch and a tour with the Coast Guard during World War II, Peregoy moved to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, where he studied painting and sculpture at the Escuela de Bellas Artes “under the influence of [David Alfaro] Siqueiros, Diego Rivera and [José Clemente] Orozco.” Later in the 1940s, he lived in Paris where he studied painting. A key influence on him at this time was the French painter Fernand Léger.

He was rehired at Disney in 1951 where “he started at the bottom again.” Peregoy worked for four years in the animation department as an inbetweener, assistant animator and clean-up artist, before production designer Eyvind Earle recruited him to become the first background painter on Sleeping Beauty in 1955.

The studio’s next feature, One Hundred and One Dalmatians, was the project that allowed Peregoy to apply his fine art training on a Disney film. As the film’s color stylist, Peregoy worked closely with production designer Ken Anderson to devise a new way of painting backgrounds. With the background linework printed on a separate cel level (thanks to the innovation of the Xerography process) and overlaid on top of the painted artwork, Peregoy designed the paintings as broad flat areas of color “with the awareness that it was not necessary to go in and render the hell out of a doorknob, or a piece of glass, or a tree.”

Color styling key by Walt Peregoy for "101 Dalmatians."

Color styling key by Walt Peregoy for “101 Dalmatians.”

“Peregoy in the 1950s was a true ‘Modernist’—a talented fine art painter who brought Modernism to Disney with strong abstractions in both layout and painting technique,” Pocahontas art director Michael Giaimo told me when I wrote the book Cartoon Modern: Style and Design in Fifties Animation. “His work was a purer abstraction of reality as opposed to, say, the beautifully designed but more grounded work of Eyvind Earle.”

From left to right: Vic Haboush, Tony Rizzo, Walt Peregoy, and Tom Oreb during the production of "101 Dalmatians," 1958. (Photo courtesy of Ray Aragon.)

From left to right: Vic Haboush, Tony Rizzo, Walt Peregoy, and Tom Oreb during the production of “101 Dalmatians,” 1958. (Photo courtesy of Ray Aragon.)

Peregoy made significant contributions to other films at Disney including Paul Bunyan, (1958), The Saga of Windwagon Smith (1961), The Sword in the Stone (1963), Mary Poppins (1964) and The Jungle Book (1967). While at Disney, he appeared in the famous Disney documentary 4 Artists Paint 1 Tree alongside artists Marc Davis, Eyvind Earle and Joshua Meador:

After being let go from the studio in the mid-Sixties, he started working in television on Format Film’s The Lone Ranger. On that show, he used a daring combination of grease pencil-on-cel with torn-construction paper underneath. Below, you can see a de-constructed background from the series that shows the grease pencil cel level and the separate color level underneath. “Powerful for Saturday morning, but you couldn’t say the backgrounds were Saturday morning crap because they weren’t,” Peregoy told interviewer Bob Miller.

Grease pencil-on-cel layer of background painting from "The Lone Ranger." Click to enlarge. (Courtesy of Van Eaton Galleries.)

Grease pencil-on-cel layer of background painting from “The Lone Ranger.” Click to enlarge. (Courtesy of Van Eaton Galleries.)

Construction paper level of the same background painting from "The Lone Ranger." Click to enlarge. (Courtesy of Van Eaton Galleries.)

Construction paper level of the same background painting from “The Lone Ranger.” Click to enlarge. (Courtesy of Van Eaton Galleries.)

His innovative work on The Lone Ranger led to being hired at the TV powerhouse Hanna-Barbera in 1968, where he headed the background department for five years. He either styled or supervised the background designs of The Perils of Penelope Pitstop, Scooby Doo Where Are You!, The New Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines, and Where’s Huddles?, among other series.

In the late-1970s, he returned to Disney’s theme park division WED, working on attractions for EPCOT such as Kraft’s The Land pavilion and Kodak’s Journey into Imagination. He continued freelancing in the animation industry during the Eighties and Nineties on projects that included My Little Pony: The Movie, Foofur, Tiny Toon Adventures, Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child, and The Specialists (below), a segment on MTV’s Liquid Television:

In later years, Peregoy was known as much for his colorful profanity-laced tirades against the industry as he was for his art. An interview with Peregoy (warning: very crude and offensive language) can be heard on the Animation Guild website. He was honored with an ASIFA-Hollywood Winsor McCay Award for lifetime achievement in 2012.

Below, a gallery of artwork by Peregoy:

Color keys from "One Hundred and One Dalmatians" (1961). Click to enlarge.

Color keys from “One Hundred and One Dalmatians” (1961). Click to enlarge.

"Paul Bunyan" (1958) background painting by Walt Peregoy. Click to enlarge.

“Paul Bunyan” (1958) background painting by Walt Peregoy. Click to enlarge.

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"The Sword in the Stone" (1963) background concept painting. Click to enlarge. (via Andreas Deja.)

“The Sword in the Stone” (1963) background concept painting. Click to enlarge. (via Andreas Deja.)

"The Sword in the Stone" (1963) background concept painting. Click to enlarge.

“The Sword in the Stone” (1963) background concept painting. Click to enlarge.

Concept paintings for a Disney industrial film "Steel and America" (1965). Click to enlarge.

Concept paintings for a Disney industrial film “Steel and America” (1965). Click to enlarge.

"The Jungle Book" (1967) concept painting. (via Andreas Deja.)

“The Jungle Book” (1967) concept painting. (via Andreas Deja.)

"The Jungle Book" (1967) concept painting. Click to enlarge. (via Andreas Deja.)

“The Jungle Book” (1967) concept painting. Click to enlarge. (via Andreas Deja.)

"The Jungle Book" (1967) background concept painting. Click to enlarge. (via Andreas Deja.)

“The Jungle Book” (1967) background concept painting. Click to enlarge. (via Andreas Deja.)

"The Jungle Book" (1967) concept painting. Click to enlarge.

“The Jungle Book” (1967) concept painting. Click to enlarge.

Concept paintings for Symphony of the Seed attraction at EPCOT's The Land pavilion. Painted ca. 1980. Click to enlarge.

Concept paintings for Symphony of the Seed attraction at EPCOT’s The Land pavilion. Painted ca. 1980. Click to enlarge.

"Railroad Non-Objective," a personal painting by Peregoy. Click to enlarge.

“Railroad Non-Objective,” a personal painting by Peregoy. Click to enlarge.

Personal drawing by Walt Peregoy. Click to enlarge.

Personal drawing by Walt Peregoy. Click to enlarge.


  • Rudy Agresta

    One of the masters…RIP.

  • Floyd Norman

    It’s the end of an era. Walt Peregoy was the last of a Disney Studio we read about in the history books. Peregoy was an artist first, and cartoon maker second. “Never sell your soul!” he often admonished us. I still remember our daily bitch sessions while working on “Sword in the Stone.” Peregoy pretty much painted that entire film by himself. Ralph Hulett and Bill Layne jumped in at the end to help wrap things up. In any case, Peregoy never took crap from anyone and that included the Old Man himself. I still remember him going toe to toe with Walt Disney and not backing down. Walt Peregoy was one of a kind. They don’t make ‘em like that anymore.

    • Thomas Lapsley

      I remember watching that Disney documentary back in high school. Such fine work. In Memory of Mr. Walt Peregoy.

  • Matt Jones

    Great article Amid, beautiful examples of his work.

  • James Madison

    So much living history passing. RIP

  • https://vimeo.com/channels/wharton Brett Wharton

    I loved the audio interviews he did on the Animation Podcast. Amazing artist and amazing personality.

    If you haven’t listened to the interviews, do yourself a favor and listen to them. I promise you’re not going to find anything that will make you laugh harder this week, probably this month. LINK: http://animationguild.org/interviews-n-s/

    Thank you for sharing your talents with us, Walt!

  • Joe Horne

    a true drag that time is against us…….love

  • OtherDan

    I had a chance to talk to him about his art. After hearing his ornery interview I was a bit intimated to speak to him. But, I thought he was a principled man who had some resentments. I loved how un-pc he was about expressing his disdains and calling out people by name. Without people willing to go there, we’d never have a true account of that “Golden Era” in animation. He was nice to me and encouraging. The surprising thing was that much of his art on display was free-form. He didn’t do much or any planning; he was exploring. I think that’s why his art has such an experimental quality. Jungle Book was one of my favorites and it was an honor to meet and talk to the man who made such an impression on me. RIP Walt.

  • Kusanagi

    Well, I listened to his interview posted on the TAG site. He certainly was one salty, old bastard. Parts of his ranting were quite funny. Some of it was insightful. Other parts of it just seemed like bitter gossip, especially the stuff about other artists that he worked with. The stuff about Walt Disney I could see. AFAIAC, the Boss is fair game, since all of them are generally terrible. The stuff about co-workers disturbed me more, because so much of it just seemed like unsupported gossip. Still, I guess I have to give him some modicum of credit for “speaking his mind”.

    RIP

  • Roberto Severino

    He had a lot of interesting, sometimes controversial things to say and I’m not sure what to think of how he ended up working on stuff like Scooby Doo but nonetheless, I feel bad for the loss.