Dave Michener, a veteran Disney animator, story artist, and director from 1956 up until his retirement from The Walt Disney Studios in 1987, passed away on February 15, 2018. He was 85 years old.

Michener died at his home in Los Angeles, California from complications due to a virus.

Michener was among the relatively few artists who bridged the classic era when Walt Disney was alive and the post-Walt era. His credits in animation (and later, story) include Sleeping Beauty, One Hundred and One Dalmatians, Mary Poppins, The Jungle Book,, Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day, The Aristocats, Robin Hood,, The Rescuers, and The Fox and the Hound.

Among his final projects at the studio, he co-directed The Great Mouse Detective (1986) alongside John Musker, Ron Clements, and Burny Mattinson.

During the production of “Robin Hood,” from left to right, Woolie Reitherman, Milt Kahl, Ken Anderson, Dave Michener, Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston, and Larry Clemmons. Photo courtesy of The Walt Disney Company.

Michener was born in Los Angeles on November 5, 1932 into a creative family. His father was an architect who helped design many of the iconic buildings in the Miracle Mile district of the city, while his uncle was the bestselling author, James Michener. Following his graduation from the Chouinard Art Institute, Michener was personally selected by Walt Disney to work at the studio.

Disney, who had been impressed by an art exhibit of Michener’s at Chouinard, personally called the 24-year-old artist to tell him that he had been hired. His first job was working on the Mickey Mouse Club tv show, and soon after, he was assigned to work on features, where he became a trusted assistant to Milt Kahl for seven years.

“I have always felt privileged to work for Disney,” Michener once said in an interview. “As a small boy of five or seven years old, my dad brought me out to the studio, and it was instant love. I never really wanted to work anywhere else. When you take an animated character and move an audience to tears, you’ve done a magical thing.”

Dave Michener, Burny Mattinson, John Musker, and Vincent Price review the character Ratigan during the production of “The Great Mouse Detective.” Photo courtesy of The Walt Disney Company.

Michener also contributed to the development of EPCOT Center, producing and directing nearly all of the character animation for the various pavilions. He performed similar duties for Tokyo Disneyland’s “Meet the World” attraction, and for a PSA pre-show on the history of aviation at Disneyland. He officially retired from Disney on November 30, 1987.

Starting in 1989, Michener taught animation at Cal Arts. He also worked for Hanna-Barbera for a number of years post-Disney, racking up credits as storyboard artist, animation director, and other roles on projects like Jetsons: The Movie, Once Upon a Forest, Tom & Jerry Kids, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventures, and Gravedale High, among others.

Michener is survived by his wife, Donna, who shared his life for 67 years. He also leaves behind three daughters – Suzanne Gerhardt, Cynthia van Houten, and Donna Michelle Michener. His survivors also include six grandchildren and three great grandchildren.

L to r: John Musker, Dave Michener, and Burny Mattinson during the production of “The Great Mouse Detective.” Photo courtesy of The Walt Disney Company.

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