Legendary Disney Animator Mel Shaw Dies at 97

Mel Shaw Portrait - H 2012

Mel Shaw Portrait - H 2012

The artist drew Bambi and helped craft the story for the 1942 film in addition to working on “Fantasia,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Lion King.”

Mel Shaw, an artist and writer who contributed to such Disney animation classics as Bambi, Fantasia and The Lion King, died Nov. 22 of congestive heart failure at Woodland Care Center in Reseda, Calif., his son Rick told the Los Angeles Times. He was 97.

Shaw was recruited by studio founder Walt Disney to join his team. He handed the artist a script for what would become 1942’s Bambi and said, “You like to draw animals; read this and see what you can do.”

Shaw was involved with practically every sequence of the film. He used pastels that “talked about the sequences and how colors would change … to fit the mood,” he said in Walt’s People, Volume 12, a collection of interviews with artists who worked with Disney that was published in August.

The Brooklyn native also did visual development or story work for the company on The Rescuers (1977), The Fox and the Hound (1981), The Black Cauldron (1985), The Great Mouse Detective (1986) and Beauty and the Beast (1991). He was named a Disney Legend in 1994.

Shaw got his start in the business creating title cards at the end of the silent-film era for Leon Schlesinger's Pacific Title and Art Studio. In the early 1930s, he helped Orson Welles create a storyboard for a version of The Little Prince that was never produced.

Shaw left Disney to serve as a combat photographer for the Army Signal Corps during World War II. Later, he opened a design business with former MGM Studios animator Bob Allen, and their company did a redesign of the marionette Howdy Doody for NBC.

In 1974, Walt Disney Studios asked Shaw to return to help mentor the next generation of animators. His last project for the company was The Lion King (1994).

Shaw’s second wife, Florence Lounsbery, was the widow of John Lounsbery, one of the pioneering Disney animators known as the “Nine Old Men.”