Burny Mattinson, Disney's Longest-Serving Castmember, Dead at 87

Burny Mattinson, the longest-serving cast member in The Walt Disney Company's history, died on Feb. 24, the company announced. Mattinson was 87. He died just months before he was set to become the first Disney employee to receive a 70th-anniversary service award on June 4.

Mattinson died on Monday, Feb. 27 at Canyon Oaks Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Canoga Park, California after a short illness. He worked at almost every level at Walt Disney Animation Studios, including story artist, animator, director, and producer. His greatest achievement was directing the 1983 short Mickey's Christmas Carol, which was Mickey Mouse's first film appearance in 30 years. Mattinson also co-directed the underrated 1986 classic The Great Mouse Detective with John Musker, Ron Clements, and Dave Michener.

"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," Disney Animation Chief Creative Officer Jennifer Lee 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."

"For almost 30 years, I've had the privilege to work alongside Burny Mattinson, from Winnie the Pooh to Big Hero 6 to, most recently, Strange World," director Don Hall added. "I have marveled at his artistry, enjoyed his good humor, and sat enraptured by his stories of Disney history. At 18 years old, he followed his dream of working at Walt Disney Animation Studios, and for almost 70 years he lived that dream every day, inspiring all of us who had the good fortune to follow in his footsteps. I love him dearly."

Mattinson was born on May 13, 1935, in San Francisco and remembered seeing Disney's Pinocchio at 6 years old. He instantly fell in love with the art of animation and managed to get a job at Disney right after graduating high school. His first job was as an in-betweener on Lady and the Tramp, then he worked on Sleeping Beauty. During the 1960s, he worked on 101 Dalmatians, Mary Poppins, The Jungle Book, and the first Winnie the Pooh shorts. His work on the Pooh shorts inspired Hall to make sure Marrinson was a story supervisor for the 2011 Winnie the Pooh feature.

Mattinson worked on almost every Disney Animation feature in some capacity until his death. He was still working full-time at the studio and was credited as a story artist on Big Hero 6, Ralph Breaks the Internet, and Strange World.

Mickey's Christmas Carol earned Mattinson an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Short Film. The project came about when he listened to a Disneyland Records Christmas Album and proposed the project to then-studio chief Ron Miller. The executive called Mattinson into his office, and the animator thought he was in trouble. Surprisingly, Miller agreed with the idea and Mattinson was assigned to direct and produce the film.

Mattinson became a Disney Legend in 2008 and he became the longest-serving Disney cast member in 2018. He is survived by his wife, his son, his daughter, and four grandchildren.

"Burny was low-key, charming, inventive, and superbly gifted as a draftsperson and a storyteller," Disney animator Eric Goldberg said. "His storyboards were beautifully acted and wonderfully atmospheric, which I first encountered when I joined the studio for Aladdin. The more I saw of his work, the more I became in awe of his breadth of talent. I value his cheerful friendship and lasting inspiration to me and so many other animation artists. He will be missed, but not forgotten."