Friday, 11 February 2011

Justice for Disney - The Passing of Bill Justice

"Bill Justice loved his work at The Walt Disney Company, whether it be programming Audio-Animatronics figures for the theme parks or animating Mickey Mouse. Once, when asked if he ever got bored drawing Mickey Mouse, Bill replied, "Have you seen me draw Mickey upside down?" He then did so - effortlessly."

I've been sitting here for  a few hours on the computer listening to some of the music and shorts that Bill Justice was involved in - and at the moment I'm sitting here just surprised and upset by the fact that one of the Disney legends Bill Justice has passed away yesterday on Thursday 10th February aged 97 - he died just the day after his birthday. He lived to a very good age and almost the age of 100.

This is very sad news for those who are interested in the Animation industry - because Bill was a very inspiring man to me - and sadly his life has come to an end and that's heartbreaking. Recently, a few weeks ago - I wrote a letter (typed on computer, my handwriting is too messy), and I sent it to America as I found the address on the Cartoon Brew website - and I was hoping to hear a reply on him and hear his experiences and I kept my fingers crossed.
Although I knew that he was very old and probably would be too ill for reply - but as I heard about his death on Brian Sibley's blog and Cartoon Brew website - it left me to think "Did I write that letter too late?" - and maybe I was having too much pressure. I hope that Bill got the letter on time - I know that he would loved to have replied - he sounds like a marvelous man. I now wish that I knew him.

I feel bad now that while he was still alive, he was an animator that I never really paid attention to and I even knew that he was still alive - and I was starting to get real interested into him by writing him the letter and hoping for reply. I mean, the man has brought so many brilliant things into the Disney screen, he directed the opening credits for the original Mickey Mouse Club series and created Chip n' Dale for crying out loud. He was more than an animator - he was a director for Disney and title designer for some of the films (brilliant title designer) and also an Imagineer at Disney. He was a marvelous man who loved the Disney job so much and was never tired of it - and his career lasted 42 years 1937-1979.

William Justice was born on February 9, 1914 in Daylton, Ohio - and he attended the John Herron Art Institute in Indiana where Bill Peet attended - and both Justice and Peet would later have a career at Disney. He eventually went to Indiana University and graduated in 1935. In 1937 when it was a bad time to have careers since it was still the Great Depression - but Bill got a job as an animator for Disney and started as an in betweener for Walt Disney's first upcoming-feature Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

Bill was soon promoted to animator and he first worked on Fantasia where he was the animator on "The Pastoral Symphony", one of his scenes he animated included the scene of the centaur picking of the petals of the flower on the river and the centaurette relaxes - a beautiful scene. He mainly worked on some centaurette scenes - and also worked on a few scenes of the cherubs splashing on a puddle with the rainbow reflection. Bill was busy working on Bambi at the time and working on the likable rabbit Thumper. One of Bill Justice's cartoons was on Der Fuhrer's Face which is a very funny cartoon on what the would would be like in a "Nazi world", and it shows Donald Duck as a Nazi - and Bill animated Donald as a Nazi and the struggles it had living in a German world.

Bill was also well-known for creating the two adorable chipmunks Chip n' Dale and their mischevious adventures - you could say that Bill was also another "Duck man". In the 1950's, his career had HUGE highlights, Walt Disney had promoted him as a director at Disney, and he worked on one of my all-time favourite Disney shorts - A Cowboy Needs a Horse. It's a short about a boy who dreams of being a cowboy and finding indians - I always find the song in it brilliant - and at the time, Bill Justice was working closely with a another Disney artist called Xavier Attencio.

Bill Justice went on to direct one of my favourite all-time opening sequences for a television show which is the Mickey Mouse Club and the song is very cheerful and fun - and jolly music - and the animation is good, so Bill Justice really put a lot of effort on the opening credits. I wish that the Mickey Mouse Club would be voted as one of the greatest opening tunes instead of the usual Simpsons (mind you I like the Simpsons too).

Another career at Disney Bill also had was an Imagineer at Disney and worked on many stuff like the Pirates of the Caribbean.

What I do like a lot by Bill Justice (and Xavier Attencio), is his job by designing special titles for films on The Parent Trap, and one of my favourites that he's done is for the underrated Disney film The Misadventures of Merlin Jones - and the opening tune may be very cheesy but I like it very much and it's one of my favourites - and Bill designed the titles of the animation and it was achieved by cutting pieces of paper and slowly making it move - it would look like it would take forever and difficult to achieve - but Bill had a lot of justice for it and that's what makes him a hero. The animation in the opening of Merlin Jones is very good and also very funny. It reminds me of one of the earliest prototypes of the animation like Wallace and Gromit or Morph.

"At last it works, I wonder what it's for?"

"We call him Merlin Jones,
The scramble egghead Merlin Jones,
The campus cook, but everyone's whirling,
She's that girl in love with Merlin Jones.

Although I know his "way-up" brain is on Cloud 9,
His kisses make me want to be his Mrs...FRANKENSTEIN!"

(My favourite part of the Merlin Jones song - thanks the Sherman Brothers)

Bill Justice was also the director of the film The Truth About Mother Goose which tells a bit about English history of Mary, Queen of Scots - London Bridge falling down by the Vikings, etc. he co-directed it along with Woolie Reitherman.

Part One.
Part Two.

Bill Justice retired from Disney in 1979 - and now he died on February 2011 - and his survived by his wife Kim and his two daughters. REST IN PEACE BILL, it's been a fun ride. I hope that you are smiling down on us.

Now that Bill Justice is gone - there is only a few Disney animators from the Golden Age with us left: Don Lusk, Tyrus Wong, Blaine Gibson, Mel Shaw, Xavier Attencio, Dickie Jones, Burny Mattinson, Floyd Norman, Dorse A. Lanpher (those are the people I can think at the top of my head), I'm afraid that soon the end of the era will have to come to an end...

Perhaps we should sing a little verse that I quickly made up, as Bill Justice was a brilliant title designer:

Who's the leader of the titles, that's great for you and me?
B-I-L-L  J-U-S-T-I-C-E


Brian Sibley said...

Nice tribute, Steven!

Steven Hartley said...

Thanks Brian - I feel proud of my tribute at the end of my post of the Mickey Mouse Club spin-off verse.

I will miss Bill very much (even though I never met him).

Eric Noble said...

Well-done Steven. First-rate job!

RB (Caterwaul Studios) said...

Yes, very well done indeed!

Very enjoyable Steven! In particular, I always appreciate the addition of the clips.

I always take something away from my visits here, Steven.

Steven Hartley said...

Thanks guys for the compliments!

I now feel proud of my tribute - I feel that I did a good job myself. Thanks for the support.

Brian Sibley said...

Hi, Steven, here's my obituary to Bill Justice in The Guardian.

Steven Hartley said...