Disney Legend Burny Mattinson Dies at 87

The Walt Disney Studios Celebrates 90 Years Of Disney Animation

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CANOGA PARK (CNS) - Animator, director and producer Burny Mattinson, a "Disney Legend" who was the entertainment giant's longest-serving employee, died Monday at age 87.

"Burny's artistry, generosity, and love of Disney Animation and the generations of storytellers that have come through our doors, for seven decades, has made us better -- better artists, better technologists, and better collaborators," Jennifer Lee, chief creative officer of Walt Disney Animation Studios, said in a statement. "All of us who have had the honor to know him and learn from him will ensure his legacy carries on."

During his nearly 70-year career with Disney, he worked as an artist on classic films including "Lady and the Tramp," "One Hundred and One Dalmatians," "The Jungle Book" and "The Rescuers." He helped develop the story lines for films such as "Beauty and the Beast," "The Lion King," "Mulan" and "Aladdin," according to Disney.

Mattinson in June was scheduled to receive a 70th anniversary service award from Disney, the first in the history of the company.

He died Monday at Canyon Oaks Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Canoga Park following a short illness, according to Disney.

In addition to his animation and story work, he was the director of the 1983 animated featurette "Mickey's Christmas Carol" and was a producer and co-director of the 1986 feature film "The Great Mouse Detective."

He was working as a story consultant and mentor at the time of his death. He most recently worked on the 2022 film "Strange World."

According to the company, Mattinson began dreaming of a career with Disney when he was 6 years old and saw the film "Pinocchio." He held onto that dream through high school, and in 1953, his mother dropped him off at Disney's studio in Burbank, where he managed to get an interview and a job in the mailroom. Although he had no formal art training, he was working six months later on "Lady and the Tramp."

That work led him to a role as assistant animator on films such as "Sleeping Beauty" and "One Hundred and One Dalmatians," moving later to projects including "Mary Poppins" and "The Aristocats," then to "Robin Hood" and "Winnie the Pooh and Tigger, Too."

When he reached 50 years with the company, Mattinson said it had been "a long time, but I still feel like that 18-year-old kid that came here back in '53, you know? I never feel like I've gotten old."

Mattinson is survived by his wife, Ellen Siirola; son Brett, daughter Genny, daughter-in-law Kelly and son-in-law Larry Ellena, and four grand children.

A private funeral will be held at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills. According to Disney, donations in his name can be made to the Motion Picture and Television Fund in Woodland Hills.

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