Don Lusk, an animator who worked on many of Disney's classic films, has passed away at the age of 105. Lusk's career spanned more than sixty years, beginning when he was hired by Disney in 1933 and later going on to include 23 years at Hanna-Barbera, where he worked until his retirement in the early 1990s. According to the Disney Animation Research Library, which confirmed the news of his death in a post on Instagram, Lusk was considered the last surviving artist from the early days of Disney Animation.
Born October 18, 1913, Lusk worked on many Disney animated films that are now considered classics - including Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Bambi, and Pinocchio. For Pinocchio he worked on animation for Gepetto's pet goldfish, Cleo, and not long afterwards he went on to single-handedly animate the 'danse arabe' portion of Fantasia's Nutcracker sequence, in which a collection of fish perform a hypnotic and kaleidoscopic underwater dance. He took part in the 1941 Disney animators' strike, and took a break from his career at Disney during World War II for military service with the U.S. Marines, returning in the late 1940s to work on titles like Song of the South and The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad.
In the 1960s and 1970s Lusk worked on many of the Charlie Brown TV programs, including What a Nightmare, Charlie Brown! and You're a Good Sport, Charlie Brown. Later in his career he was an animation director for the children's TV show Captain Planet and the Planeteers, and he directed more than 100 episodes of The Smurfs during the 1980s.
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We are saddened by the loss of veteran Animator, Don Lusk; who passed away on the 30th of December. Don was considered the last surviving artist from Disney Animation’s early period. Don’s professional career started when he was employed by the Studio in 1933. Some of his more notable work included the feature films SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS, PINOCCHIO, FANTASIA, BAMBI, SONG OF THE SOUTH, CINDERELLA, ALICE IN WONDERLAND, PETER PAN, LADY AND THE TRAMP, and SLEEPING BEAUTY. His other work for Disney included character animation on FARMYARD SYMPHONY, HOW TO FISH, FUN AND FANCY FREE, MELODY TIME (“Once Upon a Wintertime", "The Legend of Johnny Appleseed" and "Trees" sequences), SO DEAR TO MY HEART, THE ADVENTURES OF ICHABOD AND MR. TOAD (“The Wind in the Willows" sequence), LAMBERT THE SHEEPISH LION, TRICK OR TREAT, BEN AND ME, the DISNEYLAND episodes "The Donald Duck Story", "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow", "A Day in the Life of Donald Duck", and "The Great Cat Family", and ONE HUNDRED AND ONE DALMATIANS. With the exception of military service and the animators strike, Don finished his work at the Studio by 1960. He continued to work as an animator during the 1960s and 1970s, most notably for the Hanna-Barbera studio. Don was 105 years young. Our sympathies and condolences go out to Don’s family, friends, and colleagues.
Despite the fact that his work on Fantasia is now acclaimed as one of the great early works of animation, Lusk revealed in a 2013 interview with The Animation Guild Blog that the final work was rushed and he was so dissatisfied with the finished version that, at the premiere, he wanted to "crawl under the seats, it was so bad." He also commented on his long life, saying, "I never thought I'd be 101, but I feel OK. I just need a new pair of legs!"
Lusk finally retired in 1995 at the age of 80, following his work on the children's TV show The Pirates of Dark Water, and in 2015 received the Winsor McCay Award for lifetime achievement at the Annie Awards. His son, Skip Lusk, presented the award and Don Lusk accepted it in a video message, saying, "It's certainly a great, great honor. If someone is to have a peak in their career, then this is it."