LONDON (Reuters) - British-born animator and producer John David Wilson, famed for the “Grease” and “Lady and the Tramp” films, has died at the age of 93, his wife told Reuters on Wednesday.
The World War Two veteran animated the opening sequence for the 1978 high school musical film “Grease” that starred John Travolta, and in a long career at Disney worked on much-loved characters Mickey Mouse, Goofy and Donald Duck.
Wilson, who honed his talent for cartoons while recovering from wounds sustained during the African campaign in 1941 with the London Rifle Brigade, joined the art department of Pinewood Studios after the war.
There he worked on films such as “Great Expectations” and “The Thief of Bagdad” before moving to another studio and eventually to the United States in 1950 to work for Walt Disney Studios, where he was involved in animating the 1955 dog romance “Lady and the Tramp”.
Wilson, who suffered from Alzheimer’s in his last four years, also worked on projects with other studios such as “Mr. Magoo” for UPA and “The Flintstones” for Hanna-Barbera.
He also founded his own animation company, Fine Arts Films, in 1955, where his greatest early success came with “Petroushka”, an adaptation of Igor Stravinsky’s famous ballet.
Stravinsky himself conducted the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra for the cartoon film, which debuted in prime time on American television. “Petroushka” went on to become the first animated film accepted by the Venice Film Festival.
In 1960, using the latest technology, Wilson created “Journey to the Stars” for the NASA Space Pavilion at the Seattle World’s Fair. The Cinerama film was seen by over seven million visitors.
Wilson is credited as the creator of the conceptual music video and his five-minute animated shorts, featuring the most popular music of the 1970s, were highlights on CBS-TV’s weekly “Sonny and Cher Show”.
Songs he worked on included Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” and Jim Croce’s “Leroy Brown”.
A painter as well as an animator, Wilson exhibited oil paintings, watercolors and pastels worldwide and some were hung in the Summer Exhibition at London’s Royal Academy.
He died on June 20 in Blackpool, England, his wife said.
Reporting by Paul Casciato; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky