Disney’s Longest Tenured Employee Has Passed Away
Disney Legend Burny Mattinson passed away today at the age of 87, following a short illness.
Mattinson was the longest-serving cast member in the history of the Walt Disney Company and was due to receive the first ever 70th-anniversary service award on June 4. He began his tenure with the company in 1953.
A Storied Career
Burny Mattinson was hired by Walt Disney Animation when he was just 18 years old. He would subsequently work on Disney classics such as Lady and the Tramp, One Hundred and One Dalmatians, The Sword in the Stone, The Jungle Book, and The Rescuers.
Later in his career, Mattinson was an instrumental team member on the story team for Disney Renaissance films such as Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, Tarzan, and Mulan.
In 2011, Burny was the story supervisor for Disney’s Winnie the Pooh. He was also the director of the fan-favorite Mickey’s Christmas Carol in 1983, which he personally pitched to Ron Miller.
A True Disney Legend
Famed Disney director Don Hall recalled his close friendship with Mattinson saying, ” “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.
“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.”
In recent years, Mattinson contributed to films such as Big Hero 6 and Strange World. He was also instrumental in passing along the Disney legacy to new animators. Mattinson was one of the last employees to have personally worked with Walt Disney.
Burny was the Renaissance man of Disney Animation,” said legendary Disney animator Eric Goldberg, a close friend and colleague of Mattinson’s. “He literally did everything that could be done at the studio—assistant animator, animator, story artist, producer, and director of many films that made an indelible mark on our collective appreciation of the Disney ethos. He was also, when he started, traffic boy to Walt, giving Walt his weekly spending cash.”
Inspired By Walt
Interestingly, it was Walt Disney’s film Pinocchio that inspired Mattinson to become an animator.
“Ever since I saw that film, this was my dream—to work in this business,” Mattinson recalled. “So, I worked every day, drawing.”
While working at the Walt Disney Company, Mattinson learned under Disney Legends Marc Davis and Eric Larson. Then, when working on with Ollie Johnston of Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too, fellow Disney Legend Frank Thomas asked for Burny’s help on The Rescuers.
“Storyboards are as close to direction as you can get,” Mattinson later said. “You’re telling cameras where to go, what’s happening onscreen, where to cut, and really making a blueprint for the film.”
As previously noted, Mattinson was the longest-tenured employee in the history of the Walt Disney Company. The record had previously been 64 years, eight months, and 29 days by John Hench.
Mattinson is survived by his wife, Ellen Siirola; his son, Brett Mattinson, and his wife, Kelly, and their two children; and his daughter, Genny, her husband Larry Ellena, and their two children.
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