Animator, artist, Imagineer. Marc Davis dedicated his creative genius to helping Walt Disney realize his dreams, from helping perfect the animated story to creating Disneyland, the world’s first theme park. About his years at Disney, Marc once said, “I rarely felt confined to the animation medium. I worked as an idea man and loved creating characters, whether they be for animation or any other medium.”
Marc is probably best known as the father of some of Disney’s most memorable animated women, including Cruella De Vil from One Hundred and One Dalmatians, Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty, and Tinker Bell from Peter Pan. When once asked to choose a favorite among his bevy of grand Disney dames, he replied, “Each of my women characters has her own unique style; I love them all in different ways.”
The only child of Harry and Mildred Davis, Marc was born on March 30, 1913, in Bakersfield, California, where his father was engaged in oil field developments. Wherever a new oil boom developed, the family moved with Harry and, as a result, Marc attended more than 20 different schools across the country while growing up.
After high school, he enrolled in the Kansas City Art Institute, followed by the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco and Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles. While studying, Marc spent hours at the zoo drawing animals, which became one of his specialties.
His story drawings for Bambi are considered some of the finest studies of animal characters ever created at the Disney Studio.
Marc joined Disney in 1935 as an apprentice animator on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and moved on to story sketch and character design on Bambi and Victory Through Air Power. Over the years, he animated on classic Disney features such as Song of the South, Cinderella, and Alice in Wonderland, as well as shorts, including African Diary, Duck Pimples, and Toot, Whistle, Plunk, and Boom.
He later transferred to Disney’s design and development organization, today known as Walt Disney Imagineering. As one of Disney’s original Imagineers, Marc contributed whimsical story and character concepts for such Disneyland attractions as the Enchanted Tiki Room, it’s a small world, Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion and Jungle Cruise.
After 43 years with the Studio, Marc retired in 1978, but continued to lend his expertise to the development of Epcot Center and Tokyo Disneyland. He and his wife, Alice, who designed costumes for the Audio-Animatronics® characters featured in Pirates of the Caribbean and it’s a small world, were also long-time supporters of the California Institute of the Arts, which was founded by Walt Disney.
Marc Davis passed away on January 12, 2000, in Glendale, California.