Disney’s Longest-Serving Cast Member Passes Away at 87

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Burny Mattinson standing in front of his Disney Legend handprints

Credit: Disney

Disney Legend Burny Mattinson has passed away on February 27, 2023 at 87, as Disney reported in a statement.

Burny Mattinson with a still from Mickey's Christmas Carol
Credit: Disney

Mattinson worked as an animator, director, producer, and story artist at Walt Disney Animation Studios throughout his unprecedented 70-year career. This makes him the longest-serving Cast Member in Disney history, and he was set to receive his 70th anniversary service award on June 4, the first one to ever be awarded.

His first role with Walt Disney Animation Studios was in the mailroom, which he landed as a teenager by bringing his resume to a security guard at the gate. Six months later, with no formal art training, he began working as an in-betweener for Lady and the Tramp (1955), a role which involved creating the intermediate frames in between keyframes in animation.

Burny Mattinson coaching a voice actor
Credit: Disney

He went on to be promoted to assistant animator to Disney Legend Marc Davis to work on Sleeping Beauty (1959), where he played a key role in animating Maleficent, followed by One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961). In the 60s, he began a 12-year working relationship with Disney Legend Eric Larson, and worked on projects like Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color series (1961-1979), where he animated the eccentric Ludwig Von Drake, The Sword in the Stone (1963), Mary Poppins (1964), The Jungle Book (1967), and The Aristocats (1970).

Mattinson then went on to become a character animator and key animator on projects like Robin Hood (1973) and Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too (1974), where he animated Kanga, Roo, Tigger, and Rabbit. He was recommended to storyboard for The Rescuers (1977), and continued this work for The Fox and the Hound (1981) and The Black Cauldron (1985).

Perhaps one of his greatest achievements was his solo directing credit for Mickey’s Christmas Carol (1983), marking Mickey Mouse’s first appearance on the silver screen in over 30 years. He also went on to co-direct The Great Mouse Detective (1986).

Burny Mattinson at a storyboard
Credit: Disney

Some of his other credits include work on Strange World (2022), Big Hero 6 (2014), Aladdin (1992), Beauty and the Beast (1993), The Lion King (1994), Pocahontas (1995), The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996), Tarzan (1997), and Mulan (1998).

He was named a Disney Legend in 2008 and set the Cast Member longevity record on March 5, 2018, breaking the previous record held by Disney Legend John Hench of 64 years. Jennifer Lee, chief creative officer, Walt Disney Animation Studios, said,

“Burny’s artistry, generosity, and love of Disney Animation and the generations of storytellers that have come through our doors, for seven decades, has made us better—better artists, better technologists, and better collaborators. All of us who have had the honor to know him and learn from him will ensure his legacy carries on.”

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