Jack Hannah directed some of the most outrageous animated shorts ever produced by The Walt Disney Studios. Among them were 65 Donald Duck shorts, which have been praised as the funniest of Disney’s animated duck tales. Jack’s work was honored on numerous occasions by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences; eight of the cartoons he directed were nominated for Oscars®, including Tea for Two Hundred, Toy Tinkers, and No Hunting. Not bad for a guy, who, as Jack said, was hired by Disney on “a two-week tryout that lasted 30 years.”
Born January 15, 1913, in Nogales, Arizona, Jack migrated to Los Angeles in 1931 to study at the Art Guild Academy. Among his first jobs was designing movie posters for Hollywood theaters.
Then, in 1933, during the Depression, Jack decided to leave his portfolio with The Walt Disney Studios. He was soon hired as an in-between and clean-up artist, working on Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Silly Symphony cartoons.
Jack received his first animation credit for Gulliver Mickey and, later, served as a key animator on the Academy Award®-winning short The Old Mill. In 1937, he first lent his wild imagination to Donald Duck as an animator on Modern Inventions, and, from then on, devoted much of his work to Disney’s duck star.
In 1939, Jack moved from animation to the story department, where he wrote and illustrated tales featuring his feisty, feathered friend. At one point, he even teamed up with Donald Duck comic book artist and fellow Disney Legend Carl Barks to create 27 of Disney’s most classic duck shorts. Among Jack’s story credits are Donald Gets Drafted, Donald’s Vacation, and Trombone Trouble.
He became a director in 1943, introducing the troublesome chipmunks, Chip and Dale, and other antagonists to Donald shorts. He was also instrumental in bringing Disney’s duck to television, directing 14 hour-long television shows. Many of these featured Walt Disney talking at his desk with Donald. Jack’s television credits include A Day in the Life of Donald Duck, At Home with Donald Duck, and Two Happy Amigos.
Jack retired from the Studio in 1959 to pursue his love for oil painting. His landscapes were exhibited in major art galleries throughout the West; he also had a yen for nurturing new talent and taught many painting classes.
Then, in 1975, he was asked by the Studio to develop and direct the School of Character Animation at the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), which Walt Disney helped found. He served at CalArts for eight years.
Jack Hannah passed away on June 11, 1994, in Burbank, California.