When a friend couldn’t make a scheduled interview with Walt Disney because of a toothache, 19-year-old Fred Moore seized the opportunity and went in his place. A natural draftsman, with no formal art training except for a few night classes he earned in exchange for janitorial work at Chouinard Art Institute, Fred won the job. His animation genius would subsequently be imprinted on Disney films and an entire generation of fledgling artists, whom he inspired through his impeccable drawings.
Storyman Larry Clemmons once recalled, “He was such a help to other guys. Guys would come in his room and say, ‘Fred, how would you do this?’ Fred would say, ‘Well, here!’—and he’d show them—he didn’t lecture, he just did it.”
Born Robert Fred Moore on September 7, 1911, he attended Polytechnic High School in Los Angeles. While growing up, Fred often submitted drawings to the Los Angeles Junior Times, a magazine for young people. Each time a drawing of his was published, Fred earned what he called “bright Junior Times buttons,” in lieu of cash.
Fred earned a lot of buttons by the time he joined Disney. While there, he transformed the look of Mickey Mouse from the traditional “rubber hose and round circle” school of drawing, which used a “squash and stretch” technique that made the character appear more elastic, to the beloved character still in design today.
The hallmark of Fred’s drawing style, however, was his uncanny ability to give emotion, charm, and appeal to his characters, while also making their actions more convincing.
When he animated the pigs in Three Little Pigs, for instance, Fred also won Walt’s highest praise that “at last, we have achieved true personality in a whole picture.” Fred contributed to nearly 35 shorts in all, including Pluto’s Judgement Day, Three Orphan Kittens, which won an Oscar®, and Brave Little Tailor, which was nominated for an Academy Award®.
In 1934, Walt named Fred directing animator of the Dwarfs in the Studio’s first feature-length animated film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The Dwarfs were among Fred’s crowning achievements, according to animators Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston. In their book Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life, they wrote, “In the public’s mind there have been no more memorable characters than the Dwarfs.” Other characters Fred brought to life included Lampwick in Pinocchio, Timothy in Dumbo, and the Centaurettes in Fantasia.
Fred Moore passed away on November 25, 1952, in Los Angeles.