Tyrus Wong

Remembering Disney Legend Tyrus Wong

By D23 Team

Tyrus “Ty” Wong, inspiring visual artist and Disney Legend, passed away on December 30, 2016. He was 106 years old.

“It’s hard to imagine a world of animation without the inspirational works of Tyrus Wong,” Walt Disney Archives Director Becky Cline said. “Through his delicate and sophisticated creations—from pastels and watercolors to complex and colorful kites—Tyrus’ art helped to shape and inspire numerous projects and artists during his lifetime. He was a true legend of the craft–an artist who was bound only by the limits of his own imagination. We are deeply saddened to hear of Tyrus’ passing, but take solace in knowing that his art will forever remain a pillar of creativity to help inspire future generations. Our deepest sympathy and condolences go out to his family and colleagues.”

Born in Taishan (then Xinning), China, on October 25, 1910, Tyrus moved to America with his father in 1919, eventually landing in Los Angeles, California. After graduating from Otis Art Institute in 1935, Tyrus exhibited his watercolors and participated in a W.P.A. project before finding steady work at The Walt Disney Studios in the animated shorts department.

The artist soon transferred to feature films, after submitting landscape paintings featuring deer as early concepts for Bambi, which was in pre-production at the time. Tyrus’ simple, mysterious sketches caught Walt’s eye. Although Tyrus left the studio before Bambi was released in 1942, his work profoundly influenced the artistic direction of the film, devising stunning atmospheres never before attempted in animation.

Tyrus worked for Warner Brothers for more than 25 years before taking an early retirement, but the legend never truly stopped working. Tyrus exhibited and sold watercolors, designed Christmas cards, illustrated magazine covers, painted ceramics, and designed, constructed, and flew kites. At an incredible 105 years old, Tyrus was known to fly kites at beaches along the coast of Southern California. Tyrus received several awards and accolades in his lifetime, and in 2001 was recognized by The Walt Disney Company as a Disney Legend.

While Tyrus only worked for Disney from 1938 until 1941, his legacy will live on as Disney fans continue to enjoy the dramatic beauty of Bambi for generations to come.