Art Stevens

Active - 1953 - 1985  |   Born - May 1, 1915   |   Died - May 22, 2007   |   Genres - Children's/Family, Fantasy, Comedy, Adventure

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Biography by Nathan Southern

Though not one of Walt Disney's legendary "Nine Old Men" animation team, animator Art Stevens did work closely with members of that cadre, such as Wolfgang "Woolie" Reitherman, and made key illustrative contributions that helped Disney Studios continue to reshape the landscape of popular entertainment, both before and after Walt's death. Born in Montana, Stevens demonstrated an early aptitude for pen-and-ink artistry. He also grew extremely fond of Lewis Carroll stories at a young age -- to such an extent that in 1939, when he learned of Walt Disney's plan to adapt the Alice in Wonderland books into a feature, that discovery prompted him to apply for an animation job with Disney Studios and to submit sample illustrations of Alice. An enthusiastic response came back six months later, and Disney offered Stevens a job.

It would be at least 12 years before the studio realized its 1951 version of Alice in Wonderland, but in the interim, Stevens drew illustrations for a far more pressing endeavor: the 1940 launch of Fantasia. (On that project, he specifically contributed to Night on Bald Mountain, Nutcracker Suite, Pastoral Symphony, and Toccata and Fugue in D Minor.) Over the ensuing decade, Stevens contributed to Bambi and other 1940s features before graduating, within the company, to full-fledged animator on Peter Pan (1953). From that position, Stevens worked on such Disney classics as 101 Dalmatians (1961), Mary Poppins (1964), and Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971). He worked under the aegis of director Ward Kimball on the shorts Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom (1953) and It's Tough to Be a Bird (1969).

Stevens spent much of the 1970s working on title sequences for live-action Disney films, then received a promotion to feature director (alongside Wolfgang Reitherman and others) on the 1977 Rescuers and the 1981 Fox and the Hound. He also co-scripted the 1985 animated feature The Black Cauldron.

After a lengthy retirement, Stevens died in 2007, at age 92, of a heart attack in Studio City, CA.

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