Disney Legends Class of 1989
The 1989 Disney Legend inductees include all of Walt's Nine Old Men and pioneer animator Ub Iwerks.
To learn more about the Nine Old Men (Les Clark, Wolfgang Reitherman, Eric Larson, Ward Kimball,
Milt Kahl, Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston, John Lounsbery, and Marc Davis) click HERE.
Iwerks (whose birth name was Ubbe Ert Iwwerks) was a two-time Academy Award winning American animator, cartoonist and special effects genius. He first met Walt Disney in Kansas City in 1919 and the two worked as illustrators for the Kansas City Slide Newspaper Company. A growing interest in animation led Disney to start his Laugh-O-Gram cartoon series, and Iwerks joined him as chief animator. This was the beginning of a relationship that would last until Walt's death in 1966.
Among Iwerks' early achievements as an animator:
-Alice Comedies - a mix of live-action and animation featuring a young girl in a cartoon world -Oswald the Luck Rabbit - a series of animated shorts featuring a hare who would later influence a certain mouse
-Plane Crazy & Steamboat Willie - the first appearances of Mickey Mouse (Iwerks became Disney's right hand
man in the creation of the early Mickey shorts)
-The Skeleton Dance - the first of many "Silly Symphony" shorts
Unfortunately Iwerks and Disney had a falling out around 1929 and their friendship and working partnership
were severed when Iwerks was lured away, leaving Disney to start an animation studio under his own name. The
Iwerks Studio was never a major commercial success and he returned to the Disney studio in 1940.
Iwerks mainly worked on developing special visual effects. He is credited as developing the processes for
combining live action and animation used in Song of the South (1946), as well as the xerographic process
adapted for cel animation. He also worked at WED Enterprises (now Walt Disney Imagineering) helping to
develop many Disney theme park attractions during the 1960s (along with his son Don Iwerks).
A documentary film, The Hand Behind the Mouse: The Ub Iwerks Story was released in 1999, followed by a book written by Leslie Iwerks (Ub's granddaughter) and John Kenworthy in 2001. The documentary was later released as part of The Walt Disney Treasures, Wave VII series.
Among Iwerks' achievements as a technician:
-Inventor of the Wet Gate process - allowing 16mm film used for the True-Life Adventures series to be blown up to 35mm without loss of quality
-Creator of Circarama - the 360 degree film process for Disneyland which was later enhanced through the use of mirrors to become the seamless Circlevision
-Developer of a traveling-matte process - allowing animated characters to move from the background to the foreground in live-action settings for realistic interaction (such as Mary Poppins)