-Writings on Disney History, along with insights on other films, animation, and cartoons
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Friday, October 25, 2013

Tyrus Wong is 103

Happy Birthday Tyrus!           
Photo Source: http://www.kcet.org
           Times are busy for this writer, as they are for us all. But I will write a little regarding the importance of today’s date. It is October 25 of 2013; Tyrus Wong was born 103 years ago today in China. That same day just happened to be the 29th birthday of another prolific artist, Pablo Picasso. Tyrus came to California in 1920, passing through the Golden Gate when there was no bridge there. He would pursue a career in art, and become a renaissance man.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Tyrus about a week and a half ago at the Walt Disney Family Museum. It was a quiet Sunday afternoon in building 122, that which is currently housing the exhibit “Water to Paper, Paint To Sky: The Art of Tyrus Wong.” But soon Tyrus, accompanied by family and friends arrived in the little lobby to enjoy their exhibit.
 For the reminder of the afternoon, many happy guests spoke with Tyrus and family, sharing their praise and admiration. Towards the day’s end, he decided to go back through the exhibit again, and I soon found a quiet moment to ask him a question I’ve had for some time.
         It’s well documented that Tyrus never met Walt Disney, or at least never shook his hand in introduction. But I have seen, as I’m sure many others before me have, Tyrus’ name alongside Walt’s in records of story meetings on Bambi (1942). After asking him about this, he said he had indeed been in story meetings with Walt, but was never formally introduced. His impressions of Walt from these story meetings were quite consistent with others we have heard. Walt was indeed the story man of his generation.
          The fact that Tyrus wasn’t ever on a first name basis with Walt seems now a bit of a shame. Let’s hope it was simply due to Walt’s incredibly busy schedule and hectic pace at the time, and not any underlying racism in those who might have made an introduction. Tyrus’ career at Disney was far too short thanks to the strike of 1941. We fans and historians can only dream today of what incredible contributions he would have made to future films and perhaps even Disneyland.
         Regardless of what might have been, Tyrus Wong has thus had a life and career that any and all can derive inspiration from. And its end is not yet here, let’s hope far from here, for at this point, there’s no reason to think otherwise. Tyrus Wong lives on.

Photo Source: http://www.sfgate.com

Read more on Tyrus in a previous post: http://animstudies.blogspot.com

And visit the exhibit at the Walt Disney Family Museum: http://www.waltdisney.org/wong

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