Legendary animator for Walt Disney and the man who helped provide the animatronics for such Disneyland features as The Haunted Mansion and The Hall of Presidents, Bill Justice passed away yesterday of natural causes at the Arbor View nursing home in Santa Monica, California, one day after his 97th birthday.
Bill Justice was born in Ohio in 1914. He was raised in Indianapolis, Indiana, and studied to be a portrait artist at Indiana's John Herron Art Institute. Following his graduation in 1935, Justice moved to California where The Walt Disney Studios hired him as an animator in 1937.
Justice served as the animator for some legendary Disney films including "Fantasia", "Alice In Wonderland", and "Peter Pan". He is perhaps most widely known for his work with Disney characters Chip n Dale and as the animator of Thumper in the Disney film "Bambi".
In 1965, Walt Disney tapped Justice to join its Imagineering team. There, he helped program the animatronics for The Haunted Mansion, The Country Bear Jamboree, Mission to Mars, The Hall of Presidents and--a personal favorite of his because of the challenges involved--The Pirates of The Caribbean. And Bill also painted the huge mural of characters for the Exposition Hall at Walt Disney World.
Bill never tired of drawing characters such as Mickey Mouse and was known for drawing on linen napkins at functions he attended whenever anyone would ask. "Have you seen me draw Mickey upside down?" he would say, and then he would do so.
Bill also never tired of sharing his memories and reminiscing about his years with Disney. He was a frequent guest at Disneyana Conventions. In his final years at the Arbor View Wellness and Rehabilitation Center, Justice was said to have a failing short-term memory, but any mention of a name from "the old days" would bring the light to his eyes, a smile to his face, and suddenly the memories he could relate were as clear as a bell.
Among the 57 shorts Bill Justice worked on while with Disney is "Pluto's Christmas Tree", a classic from 1952 that you'll find at the top of this post.