Tyrus Wong, a Hollywood production artist and designer, most notable for his delicate work that inspired Walt Disney’s Bambi (1942), has passed away at age 106. A Disney inspirational sketch artist from 1938 through 41 – and later a career film production illustrator for Warner Bros. from 1942 through 1968 – Wong’s work establishing the feel of Bambi was essential to its success as a work of art.
Hired by the Disney studio at first as an inbetweener on Mickey Mouse shorts, Wong became aware of the Bambi production and soon submitted his own landscape paintings as an audition for a job in that production. Walt immediately gave the 28-year-old Wong an opportunity to color key the whole film – make paintings that set the mood of the entire production.
At Warner Brothers (and other studios) Wong boarded sequences for such renowned live action films as The Sands of Iwo Jima (1949), Rebel Without a Cause (1955) and The Wild Bunch (1969). He also made a name for himself as a distinctive designer of Christmas cards for Hallmark – and painted elegant Asian-inflected designs on dinnerware, now highly sought after by collectors.
In retirement, Wong became a renowned kite maker – and was the subject of a 1995 award-winning documentary Tyrus directed by Pamela Tom. A Disney Legend and fixture at Disney anniversary functions in Los Angeles – Tyrus Wong will never be forgotten.
For more information on Tyrus Wong, I highly recommend the New York Times notice that appeared in today’s edition.