Dave Michener, Animator on 'Sleeping Beauty' and 'The Jungle Book,' Dies at 85

Dave Michener Obit - Publicity - H 2018
Courtesy of Walt Disney Animation

Hired by Walt Disney himself, he also co-directed 'The Great Mouse Detective.'

Dave Michener, the veteran animator and story artist who worked on such films as Mary Poppins, Sleeping Beauty and The Jungle Book during his three decades with the Walt Disney Studios, has died. He was 85.

Michener, a nephew of Pulitzer Prize-winning author James Michener, died Feb. 15 at his home in Los Angeles due to complications of a virus, his wife, Donna, said.

Michener, who worked at Disney from 1956 through his retirement from the company in November 1987, also contributed to projects including One Hundred One Dalmations (1961), Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day (1968) and The Aristocats (1970) and served as a co-director on The Great Mouse Detective (1986).

Born in Los Angeles on Nov. 5, 1932 — his father was an architect who designed some of the iconic buildings in the Miracle Mile district — Michener caught a big break when Walt Disney saw his work at the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles. The studio head was so impressed, he called Michener to offer him a job upon graduation.

Within weeks of being hired, Michener did animation on TV's Mickey Mouse Club, then assisted Milt Kahl (one of Disney's "Nine Old Men") for seven years. He had a hand in nearly every animated feature the studio produced during the next three decades.

"I never really wanted to work anywhere else," Michener once said. "When you take an animated character and move an audience to tears, you've done a magical thing."

And while he worked on many well-known Disney classics, some considered Michener's most challenging task to be designing every piece of animation used in the creation of Disney's Epcot park, which opened in Orlando in 1982. He also performed similar duties for Tokyo Disneyland's "Meet the World" attraction.

After leaving Disney, Michener taught animation at the California Institute, served as a consultant for Hanna-Barbera on Jetsons: The Movie (1990) and worked on Charles Grosvenor's Once Upon a Forest (1993).

Michener's final project was illustrating the children's book How Butterbees Came to Bee in 2000.

In addition to his wife of 67 years, survivors include his daughters Suzanne, Cynthia and Donna Michelle; grandchildren Courtney, Jeffrey, Lauren, Kimberly, Gwendolyn and Joseph; and great-grandchildren Isaac, Evey and Levi Bea.