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 Wolfgang (Woolie) Reitherman  (1909 - 1985)



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Lived/Active: California      Known for: Disney animation, painting

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from Auction House Records.
Special "going away" drawing for animator Joe Magro
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Wolfgang Reitherman (June 26, 1909 - May 22, 1985), also known and sometimes credited as Woolie Reitherman, was a famed Disney animator and one of Disney's 'Nine Old Men'.

Born in Munich, Germany, Reitherman's family moved to America when he was a child. After attending Pasadena Junior College and briefly working as a draftsman for Douglas Aircraft, Reitherman returned to school at the Chouinard Art Institute, graduating in 1933.

Reitherman began working for Disney in 1934, along with future Disney legends Ward Kimball and Milt Kahl. The three worked together on a number of classic Disney shorts, including The Band Concert, Music Land, and Elmer Elephant. In 1937, Reitherman worked on the first Disney feature-length film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

All in all, Reitherman worked on various Disney feature films produced from 1940, until his retirement in 1981, from Pinocchio (Monstro the Whale) to The Fox and the Hound (co-producer). He did the climatic dinosaur fight in Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring in Fantasia, the Headless Horseman chase in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow section in The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, the Crocodile in Peter Pan, and Maleficent as a dragon in Sleeping Beauty.

Beginning with 1961's One Hundred and One Dalmatians, "Woolie", as he was called by friends, served as Disney's chief animation director.  He also served as a producer and sequence director, and starred as himself in a 1941 short entitled "The Reluctant Dragon". All three of Reitherman's sons ? Bruce, Richard and Robert ? provided voices for Disney characters, including Mowgli in The Jungle Book, Christopher Robin in the "Winnie the Pooh" films, and Wart in The Sword in the Stone.

Reitherman directed several Disney animated films including One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961), The Sword in the Stone (1963), The Jungle Book (1967), The Aristocats (1970), Robin Hood (1973) and The Rescuers (1977).

He is also known for reusing animation in movies directed by him.  According to Floyd Norman, this was just one of his trademarks, and had nothing to do with time or cost savings: "Woolie was our director on The Jungle Book.  Reuse was just Woolie's thing. He never did it to save money. I really don't think the "Old Guard" ever had any interest in saving money.  I was never a big fan of reuse, but it wasn't my place to tell these old guys what to do. One final thought. It never seemed to bother Walt, and I never heard him complain about reuse."? "No disrespect to the talented old guys who worked on the movie, but Robin Hood was a truly dreadful film, and a lot of us knew it at the time.  Actually, it would have been easier to animate from scratch instead of reworking the older material.  Like I said, it was Woolie's thing -- and I mean no disrespect because I really liked Woolie."

He was killed in a single-car accident near his home in Burbank in 1985, at the age of 75. In 1989, he was posthumously named a Disney Legend.

Source: Wikipedia

These Notes from AskART represent the beginning of a possible future biography for this artist. Please click here if you wish to help in its development:
Born in Germany on June 26, 1909, Wolfgang Reitherman settled in Los Angeles in the late 1920s and studied at Chouinard Art Institute.  For 51 years he worked for the Disney Studios as a animator-producer-director.

He died in a car crash in Los Angeles on May 22, 1985.

California Watercolor Society, 1933.
Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
Death record; Los Angeles Times, 5-24-1985 (obituary).
Nearly 20,000 biographies can be found in Artists in California 1786-1940 by Edan Hughes and is available for sale ($150). For a full book description and order information please click here.

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