Disney Bambi Artist Tyrus Wong Has Died

by Matthew Mueller

The talented artist Tyrus Wong, who helped shape the Disney animation classic, Bambi, passed away on December 29th at the age of 106.

Wong only worked for The Walt Disney Studio for three years (1938 to 1941), but in that time he helped cultivate the visual style of one of the most beloved Disney films of all time. "Tyrus Wong had a gift for evoking incredible feeling in his art with simple, gestural composition," said a statement released by The Walt Disney Family Museum, and "his influence on the artistic composition of the animated feature Bambi cannot be overstated."

Wong was born in Canton, China in 1910, and at an early age, the young man traveled with his father to America, never seeing his mother or sister again. He developed a knack for calligraphy, dipping his brushes in water and painting on whatever he could find, including newspaper. That talent is what got him into the Otis Art Institute.

In need of a job, he joined the Walt Disney Company in 1938. He was hired as an "inbetweener", where he drew countless sketches of Disney's favorite mouse. The statement describes how he became involved with the Bambi project, saying "When he heard that the studio was in pre-production on the feature film Bambi, he went home and painted several pictures of a deer in a forest. The small, but evocative sketches captured the attention of Walt Disney and became the basis for the film’s visual style. Walt Disney saw that Tyrus was able to produce exquisite artwork that did not necessarily look like the forest—but rather, felt like the forest. Walt’s vision for Bambi and use of Tyrus’ work still influences films today."

After he left Disney he went on to work for Warner Bros. for the rest of his career, but he will always be intrinsically linked to Disney and Bambi. Our thoughts go out to Tyrus Wong's friends and family at this difficult time.

MORE: Carrie Fisher And Debbie Reynolds Joint Funeral And Burial Confirmed / Todd Fisher Describes Debbie Reynolds' Final Moments Thinking Of Carrie Fisher / Star Wars' Mark Hamill Shares Fond Memories Of Carrie Fisher And Debbie Reynolds / Beauty And The Beast: First Official Clip Of Emma Watson Singing As Belle