Ann Sullivan, the longtime animator who worked on iconic Disney films including The Little Mermaid and The Lion King, has died. She was 91.
Sullivan died from complications due to COVID-19, her retirement community, the Woodland Hills-based campus of the Motion Picture and Television Fund, confirmed Monday to The Hollywood Reporter. Sullivan is the third member of the industry retirement home to die as a result of the coronavirus.
Originally from Fargo, North Dakota, Sullivan matriculated at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena — the alma mater of Zack Snyder and Michael Bay, among other famous alums — and, after graduation, entered the workforce in the 1950s as a member of the animation paint lab at The Walt Disney Company.
After taking leave from work to become a mother to four children, Sullivan re-entered the business in 1973, when she started at Filmnation and Hanna Barbera. She later returned to Disney, landing credits on studio titles from the late-1980s to the mid-2000s. Sullivan worked in the paint lab on 1988's Oliver & Company, 1989's The Little Mermaid, 1991's Rover Dangerfield and 1992's Cool World. She painted for the 1990 short The Prince and the Pauper; 1994's The Lion King; 1995's Pocahontas; 1997's Hercules; 1999's Tarzan and Fantasia 2000; 2000's The Emperor's New Groove; and 2002's Lilo & Stitch and Treasure Planet. Sullivan also is credited as having worked as a cel painter on 1994's The Pagemaster and for performing additional caps and painting on 2004's Home on the Range.
Per her daughter Shannon, Sullivan loved painting the California coastline when she was younger and listening to birds at the Nancy's Garden bird sanctuary at MPTF, dedicated to Nancy Biederman, later in life. She was a "beach" mom, Shannon says, and loved the water.
At MPTF, Sullivan was nicknamed "Giggles" by staff, with chaplain Dina Kuperstock saying in a statement, “She had the best laugh of any person I’ve ever known. Ann didn’t just laugh with a sound. When she giggled, her whole body would shake and light up with joy, and it was contagious for everyone in the room.”
Sullivan is survived by four children, eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.