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Disney Legend Bill Justice Dies at Age 97

13 February 2011 No Comment

Legendary Disney animator Bill Justice died last Thursday in California of natural causes.  He was 97 years old.

The list of Justice’s professional accomplishments are wide and varied, and are recognizable to any Disney fan.  Justice began his career with the Walt Disney Studios in 1937, not long after he had graduated from art school.  While with Disney, Justice animated classics such as Thumper from “Bambi” and Chip and Dale.  He contributed to many well-known works, such as “The Three Cabelleros” and “Peter Pan.”  Justice also worked on three Disney animated shorts that would go on to be nominated for Oscars:  “Noah’s Ark,” “A Symposium on Popular Songs,” and “The Truth About Mother Goose.”  In addition, Justice provided stop-motion animation within live-action Disney features, including “The Parent Trap,” “Mary Poppins,” and “Babes in Toyland.”

Justice expanded into other roles for Disney throughout his career.  Disney fans of a certain age may know his name from the credits on the original Mickey Mouse Club, for which Justice directed the animated opening.  According to film critic and historian Leonard Maltin, his work on the popular show was quite a legacy.  “If he’d done nothing else but direct that unforgettable Mickey Mouse Club opening, he’d have a place in the hearts of baby-boomer Disney fans everywhere,” said Maltin.

It was that same creativity that eventually led Justice to other roles within the company.  In the 1960s and 70s, he became an Imagineer, and went onto work on the programming of many animatronic elements within Disney attractions, like Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, Country Bear Jamboree, and Pirates of the Caribbean.  He also designed elements for the first Disneyland Christmas parade, and provided sketches for the Main Street Electrical Parade.

Justice wrote about his 42-year career with Disney in his memoir, Justice for Disney.  He is survived by his wife, Kim, his daughter, Melissa, and one granddaughter.

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