Amidst the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, we want to pause for a brief moment and recognize that the Disney community has lost a few of its beloved members in the past few weeks, including some true company icons.
Some of their illustrious careers are deeply rooted in Disney’s history, while others had brief but meaningful encounters with the company. Regardless of their association with Disney, their passing is a reminder of how precious life is. Let’s remember some of the artists and dreamers we’ve recently lost.
A prolific artist, Ann Sullivan was a Disney Animator whose work spans multiple decades and several of Disney’s most iconic films. Her career with Disney began in the 1950s where she worked in the animation paint lab at the Disney Studios. She passed away on April 13, 2020 due to complications from COVID-19.
Her body of work includes massive hits like The Little Mermaid, The Lion King, Pocahontas, and Lilo & Stitch.
In addition, Ann Sullivan worked on Oliver & Company, Hercules, Tarzan, The Emperor’s New Groove, Treasure Planet, and The Prince and the Pauper.
You can read a moving tribute for Ann Sullivan from the President & CEO of the Motion Picture Television Fund here
Hal Willner was a music producer who served as the sketch music producer on Saturday Night Live starting in 1980. He was also well known for his collection of tribute albums he produced. He passed away on April 7, 2020 due to complications from COVID-19.
In 1988 he produced Stay Awake: Various Interpretations of Music from Vintage Disney Films, a tribute album that includes covers of famous Disney songs like “Baby Mine” from Dumbo featuring Bonnie Rait and James Taylor.
He also produced “Second Star to the Right” from Peter Pan, which featured James Taylor.
A singer-songwriter, Adam Schlesinger created a body of work that many of us know and love. Some of his most recognizable works include “Stacy’s Mom” and “That Thing You Do.” He also wrote songs for the TV show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. He passed away on April 1, 2020 due to complications from COVID-19.
Schlesinger worked on more than one occasion with Disney; he wrote a song for Good Luck Charlie as well as the song “Did I Mention” for the film Descendants.
Andrew Jack was a dialect coach and over the course of his career, he worked with over 200 actors. He was also the supervising dialect coach for The Lord of the Rings film franchise, creating the various dialects of Middle Earth himself and teaching them to the cast of actors. He passed away on March 31, 2020 due to complications from COVID-19.
He made an appearance in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Star Wars: The Last Jedi as Caluan Ematt. He also voiced the character of Moloch in Solo: A Star Wars Story. Andrew Jack served as a dialect coach for each of these films, in addition to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
Actor Mark Hamill wrote in a statement on Twitter, “He was such a kind gentleman who was deeply gifted and beloved by all who knew him.”
Brian Dennehy was an acclaimed film and stage actor who left an indelible mark both in Hollywood and on Broadway. One of his many notable performances was as Willy Loman in Death of A Salesman, which he performed on stage as well as onscreen. The role earned him a Drama Desk, Tony, and Golden Globe Award. Brian Dennehy died from cardiac arrest on April 15, 2020.
Disney fans may recognize Brian Dennehy’s voice in the Pixar film Ratatouille, where he played the role of Django, Remy’s father.
Actor, writer, and host of the hit Bravo TV series Inside the Actor’s Studio, James Lipton amassed a resume that spanned across film, television, and stage. He died of bladder cancer on March 2, 2020.
He lent his voice to the Disney film Bolt, where he played the role of “The Director.”
Perhaps one of the last remaining actors synonymous with Hollywood’s Golden Age, Kirk Douglas’ acting career is historic in its own right. Appearing in countless classics films and plays, just a few of his notable roles include the title role in Spartacus, Champion, and Paths of Glory. He died of natural causes on February 5, 2020 at the age of 103.
In 1954 he starred as Ned Land in the Disney Studios film 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, which at the time was one of the Studio’s most successful live-action films.
All of our thoughts are with the families and loved ones of those we’ve lost this year. In ways both large and small, each of these individuals has enriched the legacy of the Walt Disney Company in ways we will remember for years to come!
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What are your fondest memories of these individuals? How have they left an impact on your own life? Share with us in the comments.