AnimatorsDisney

Happy 104th Birthday, Disney Legend Don Lusk

It’s not often that we have the privilege of celebrating the 104th birthday of an animation legend, so we can’t let the day pass without acknowledging the birthday of Don Lusk, the last living animator from the first Golden Age of the Walt Disney Company. And yes, that means the first feature the company ever produced: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937.

Don started at Disney in 1933 and worked there continuously (with the exception of the Disney strike and military service) until 1960. Of the seventeen animated features produced by Disney from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to 101 Dalmatians, Lusk animated on 13 of them. He animated Cleo and Figaro in Pinocchio, the Arabian Fish Dance in the “Nutracker Suite” of Fantasia, the title character in Alice in Wonderland, and Wendy in Peter Pan, to name but a few.

Here’s a short reel of some of his greatest hits:

When Lusk was laid off from Disney after twenty-seven years of employment, recalled colleague Floyd Norman, he quipped, “I thought this job was steady.” After Disney, Lusk jumped around different studios, including UPA (where he worked on Gay Purr-ee), Walter Lantz, DePatie-Freleng, and Bill Melendez Productions, where he animated on at least ten Peanuts specials.

But he spent the bulk of his post-Disney years working at Hanna-Barbera, where he timed and directed hundreds of episodes of tv series including The Smurfs, Snorks, Yo Yogi!, The Pirates of Dark Water, and Captain Planet and the Planeteers, before retiring from the animation industry at the age of eighty.

The Walt Disney Company has never honored Lusk with its Disney Legend award, while presenting it to individuals in the entertainment industry who have contributed far less to the company’s historical legacy. But even that failure on the part of the Disney Company can’t obscure Lusk’s obvious legendary status. There is no doubt about the contributions he’s made to the development and growth of the animation art form, both at Disney and beyond, and we’re delighted that he’s still with us today.

Happy birthday to a Disney Legend, Don Lusk!
Don Lusk animating on Cleo the goldfish in "Pinocchio."
Don Lusk animating on Cleo the goldfish in “Pinocchio.”
Don Lusk animating on "Pinocchio," ca. 1940.
Don Lusk animating on “Pinocchio,” ca. 1940.
Don and wife Marge Lusk, 1944. Don served in the Marine Corps during World War II.
Don and wife Marge Lusk, 1944. Don served in the Marine Corps during World War II.
Don attempted an acting career in the mid-1930s. The Depression diverted his focus to a more steadily paying job in animation.
Don attempted an acting career in the mid-1930s. The Depression diverted his focus to a more steadily paying job in animation.
Don and family, ca. mid-1950s.
Don and family, ca. mid-1950s.
Don playing the same piano that he played when he was fourteen years old. His father was a concert pianist.
Don playing the same piano that he played when he was fourteen years old. His father was a concert pianist.

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