Thursday, 28 October 2010

Happy Birthday Don Lusk...

Today - Joe Campana has sent me some more info on an animator that most of you people may have heard of named Don Lusk - perhaps I should say a bit about him...
Don Lusk is an animator that worked for Disney for many years: best known for his work on the "Arabian Fish Dance" in The Nutcracker Suite in Fantasia, Cleo the goldfish in Fantasia, The title character in Alice in Wonderland, worked on multiple segments in Melody Time (inc Johnny Appleseed), later worked on Wendy in Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp, Sleeping Beauty and 101 Dalmatians.

Don Lusk in later years of his life
The reason why I'm talking about him is because today (I only found out today) is his 97th birthday, and he's one of the fewer artists of the Golden Age of Animation, who is still with us. According to Joe Campana, he told me that he heard that he was still in good shape and he currently lives in the Los Angeles County.
Donald R. Lusk was born on 28th October 1913, in the Los Angeles Country by his parents Percival "Percy" Knox Lusk (1881-1918) and Louise O. Ross (Parish) (1888-1948), I believe that he had an older brother named William P. Lusk who is four years older than Don and I believe that he is still alive.
Don's father Percy (I believe was an organist or rancher) died when he was only four years in 1918 (MAYBE in the First World War, I haven't a clue!). During Lusk's childhood, he lived with his brother and mother in their grandparents' home.
In 1933, he first came to the Walt Disney Studios as an in-betweener - and then later became an assistant animator to become the assistant to Eric Larson, Milt Kahl and James Algar on the animals in Snow White along with Jack Bradbury and Ken Hultgren cleaning up the animator's drawings, according to Jack Bradbury. Don and Jack Bradbury did some animation tests to become an animator - and eventually showed it to Ham Luske, and Don Lusk was promoted to animator in about 1938. One of Don's first assignments was animating a few scenes on the Academy Award winning short Ferdinand the Bull and animated some of the scenes with Ferdinand at the arena and smelling the Matador's flowers until he goes mad! Don went on to become busy animating Cleo the goldfish in Pinocchio as well as animating the pesky boys in Pleasure Island and some of the fish creatures under water.
Perhaps, Don Lusk's most well-known comes from Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite segment in Fantasia and the section is the Arabian fish dance with all that beautiful animation and it shines, it moves so well, and it was Lusk at his best:According to an article on Vanity Fair about Disney Ink & Painters, Don Lusk mentioned about his work that the Ink and Painters put a practical joke on him "They put a fish underneath my board-it had a horrible smell"!

(Such a beautiful, glossy effect and Don Lusk successfully achieved it!)
Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston mentioned in their book "The Illusion of Life": The scenes of the glowing white fish in the Arabian Dance section of "Nutcracker" Suite" amazed the whole Studio. No one had ever seen such a gossamer effect and very few knew how it had been achieved." They also added "The stack of drawings was far more than one man to could carry--the scene was over 100 feet long-and it looked like a small mountain, for it included not only separate drawings for the fish but for all of the sparkles, the effects, the shading on the tails and the fins. Each level added another group of drawings. In fact, the scene had been so unusually large that the animator, Don Lusk, and his assistants had been the subject of several gag drawings showing them dwarfed by the scene of buried under layers of paper. The action everntually was broken into three scenes, which made it easier to carry, but it still took just long to shoot."

Don Lusk left Disney in 1942 (probably to join the military - unknown??), but returned to Disney Burbank in 1945 and went on to work on Melody Time, Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp, Sleeping Beauty and 101 Dalmatians. In 1946, he married a Marjorie G. who'd become "Marjorie G. Lusk", and they are still alive, I believe. The couple are not known to have had any children.
After 101 Dalmatians, he left Disney and worked on the UPA film Gay Purr-ee as an animator. He later worked for Hanna-Barbera where he had a new career and he was directing new series for Scooby-Doo, The Smurfs, The Smorks and The Tom and Jerry Kids Show.
Don retired in 1990 after a 57 year in animation - and he is still alive and currently living in the Los Angeles County with his wife.


Eric Noble said...

Happy Birthday Don Lusk!!! Someone should find him and interview him. I would like to hear the stories he has to tell about working at Disney.

Steven Hartley said...

Joe Campana is set to interview him next week - I asked him some of my questions I'd like to hear from Lusk in the interview.

I heard that he's still in good shape.

Megan Meenan said...

Does Don remember an Aileen Mack? She is my grandmother and dated Don for a couple of years after they met at the Palomar Ballroom where she was a dancer in the show. She is 95 and currently living in Hermosa Beach, Ca. We were watching the original Snow White and she was reminiscing about a cartoonist she dated. if anybody knows his whereabouts please let us know.

Stewart said...

I talked to Don Lusk for about 1 whole minute today. He was running out of the house to go somewhere. He said to call back.

Anonymous said...

Hi Stewart- Would it be possible to share Don's contact info with me, or can offer any tips on how I may be able to reach him?

I wanted to give a special 1 year anni gift to my boyfriend and he is really into Fantasia. My idea was to ask Don if he could sign an animation cel addressed to my bf.

If you could contact me at I would greatly appreciate it.