Joe Grant, American (1909 - 2005)

Story artist Joe Grant's career at The Walt Disney Studios has come full circle. In 1940, he contributed to "Fantasia" and 50 years later, he fathered the flamingo with a yo-yo storyline for the "Carnival of the Animals" sequence featured in "Fantasia 2000," a continuation of the original animated classic.

In fact, Joe has enjoyed two separate careers at Disney. His first began in 1937, when he contributed to the story and character development of such animated classics as "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" and "Pinocchio." Then in 1949, he left Disney to pursue his own artistic ventures until 1989, when he received an unexpected phone call from feature animation, asking if he would consult on "Beauty and the Beast."

Since then, Disney animated films, such as "Aladdin," "The Lion King" and "Mulan" have benefited from Joe's talent and humor. Walt Disney Feature Animation president Thomas Schumacher said, "Joe is both a creative force and a touchstone. Not only is he among the most prolific artists in feature animation, but he's always willing to let me run an idea by him and I always get an honest assessment. I depend on him as a sounding board for what is appealing, charming and entertaining."

Born in New York City on May 15, 1908, the son of a successful newspaper art editor, Joe was educated in the newsroom by his father. His first professional break came when he was hired as a staff illustrator for "The Los Angeles Record," sketching weekly cartoons and caricatures of Hollywood celebrities. His drawings caught the eye of Walt Disney, who hired Joe to design caricatures for "Mickey's Gala Premiere," in 1933.

Then one day, Walt invited Joe to join the Studio and he soon became one of its top writers and gagmen. He also founded the Character Model Department, where characters were designed and visuals and stories developed. As head of the department, it was often said that no model sheet was official until it bore the seal "O.K., J.G."

Along with his writing partner Dick Huemer, Joe accompanied Walt and Leopold Stokowski on a retreat to select music for "Fantasia" and later, led its story development. He also co-wrote "Dumbo," which was inspired by a children's book. During World War II, Joe contributed to many patriotic-themed shorts including the Academy Award-winning "Der Fuehrer's Face." Other early credits include, "The Reluctant Dragon," "Saludos Amigos," "Make Mine Music" and "Alice In Wonderland."

After his return, Joe contributed to the visual and character development of "Pocahontas," "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" and "Hercules" and worked on a variety of other Disney animated projects.

Joe Grant died on May 6, 2005, in Glendale, California.

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