Animator Willis Pyle, whose long career saw him working on the Disney classics Pinocchio, Bambi and Fantasia as well as on the cartoon series Mr. Magoo, died June 2 in his New York Home. He was 101; his family made the news public.
Born in 1914 in Lebanon, KS, Pyle studied art at the University of Colorado, afterward moving to Los Angeles where in 1937 he found work as an office boy delivering supplies to animators at Disney. By 1940 he had moved up to assistant animator under Milt Kahl (one of Disney’s “nine old men”) on Pinocchio. He then worked on Fantasia and Bambi before leaving the Mouse House to embark on a successful freelance career.
Among the many animated productions he worked on, we worked for Walter Lantz on Woody Woodpecker, he animated the oscar-winning Dr. Seuss short Gerald McBoing-Boing, and United Productions of America’s Mr. Magoo. In his later career, he worked on Raggedy Ann and Andy: A Musical Adventure, Halloween Is Grinch Night, and several Charlie Brown specials.
During World Ward II Pyle served in the U.S. Army Air Force’s First Motion Picture Unit. He retired from animation in his late 60s and focused on painting for the rest of his life. He later donated his personal archives to the Lilly LIbrary at Indiana University. His family included his brother Denver Pyle, known as Uncle Jesse on CBS’ The Dukes of Hazzard, and his uncle, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ernie Pyle. He’s survived by extended family including his nephew.