Winston Hibler is probably best known as the friendly voice that narrated Walt Disney’s True-Life Adventures films. The veteran producer, however, contributed in many other ways during his nearly 35 years with The Walt Disney Studios.
Affectionately called “Hib” by staff, he produced and co-produced more than 150 films and shared credit on nine Academy Awards® and an Emmy®. Hib also contributed to Disney’s rich entertainment legacy as a writer, director, lyricist, and actor. He was inspirational during story meetings; as his colleague Jack Speirs recalled in 1976:
“Hib would very likely be acting out the scene in detail. I think, sometimes, we should have filmed those story conferences because he was such a good actor.”
Born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on October 8, 1910, Hib planned to seek his fortune in the theater from the time he was 12. In 1930, he graduated from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York and performed on Broadway and in summer stock. A year later, he moved to Hollywood to pursue a motion picture career and took up freelance writing for magazines and radio to help supplement his income.
In 1942, Hib joined The Walt Disney Studios as a camera operator, and soon became a technical director on armed service training films that were being produced by Disney for the U.S. government during World War II.
His first pure entertainment work was writing the “Johnny Appleseed” segment of Melody Time. Walt took notice of his talents and assigned him to work on the stories of such animated features as The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, Alice in Wonderland, and Cinderella.
Along with his writing partner Ted Sears, Hib also composed lyrics for Disney songs, including “Following the Leader” from Peter Pan and “I Wonder” from Sleeping Beauty.
In 1946, when the Studio began producing nature films, Walt cast Hib (and his smooth voice) as narrator of Seal Island, which won an Academy Award. Hib then went on to write and narrate other True-Life Adventures, including The Vanishing Prairie and The Living Desert.
He combined his talent for writing, narrating, and directing on Men Against the Arctic, which won an Academy Award, as well as Operation Undersea, a television special that dramatized the filming of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, which won an Emmy in 1955. He also narrated Disney’s “People and Places” travelogue series.
Among his other credits, Hib co-produced such films as Perri, Those Calloways, and The Island at the Top of the World.
Winston Hibler passed away on August 8, 1976, in Los Angeles.