Burny Mattinson
Mattinson in 1983
Burnett Mattinson

(1935-05-13)May 13, 1935
DiedFebruary 27, 2023(2023-02-27) (aged 87)
Canoga Park, California, U.S.
Years active1953–2023
EmployerWalt Disney Animation Studios (1953–2023)
Sylvia Fry
(m. 1962; died 1986)
Ellen Siirola
(before 2023)

Burnett Mattinson (May 13, 1935 – February 27, 2023) was an American animator, director, producer, and story artist for Walt Disney Animation Studios, where he was employed from 1953 until his death in 2023.

Mattinson was honored as an inductee of the Disney Legends program in 2008.[1] Mattinson was the longest serving employee of The Walt Disney Company, with a career that spanned seven decades.[2]

Early life

Mattinson was born in San Francisco in 1935. His father, Bernie Mattinson, was a jazz drummer who toured with Horace Heidt's big band. His mother had resided in San Jose, California and was working at a theatre there, where she met the drummer. Both parents were of British heritage.[3] Before he was six, his mother took him to see Pinocchio (1940) at the Orpheum Theatre in San Francisco.[4] Mattinson became enamored of animation and began practicing drawing Disney characters throughout his school years. In 1945, the family moved to Los Angeles once his father's band had ended.[3]

After graduating high school, his mother had asked what he wanted to do professionally. Mattinson replied, "Maybe I will try Disney. I will go over there and see about getting a job."[4] His mother dropped him off at the studio gate, where Mattinson handed his portfolio to a security guard. Impressed, the guard immediately called Ken Seiling, the head of Personnel. At the time, there were no available job positions in the studio's animation department, but Mattinson took a job in the traffic department.[5]


Mattinson was mentored by Johnny Bond, an in-betweener. After a six-month stint in the traffic department, Mattinson began working as an in-betweener on Lady and the Tramp (1955).[6][7] Following its release, most of the character animators were laid off, but he joined Johnny Walker to work as assistant animators to Marc Davis on Sleeping Beauty (1959). Walker later left, and Mattinson was promoted to the position.[3] There, he worked on the character Maleficent. Reflecting on the experience, Mattinson stated, "We purposely kept her controlled and quiet and we let her dialogue do her acting for us. The reason for this was that we wanted to use those moments of when she exploded as accents that would frighten the audience. We kept her sweet, nice and controlled and then let her blow up on purpose."[8]

For One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961), Mattinson provided in-between animation; he also drew illustrations for the Little Golden Books adaptation for the film. After another lay-off, Mattinson, at the direction of Andy Engman, was reassigned to work as an assistant to Eric Larson.[9] Under Larson's unit, he animated Ludwig von Drake for The Wonderful World of Color television series.[10] This was soon followed with The Sword and the Stone (1963), Mary Poppins (1964), The Jungle Book (1967) and The Aristocats (1970).

By the 1970s, an internal training program had been initiated to train assistant animators. Mattinson enrolled in the program, delivering an animation test within eight weeks. His animation test of Prince John from Robin Hood (1973) was approved, and Mattinson became a character animator under Ollie Johnston.[11] He next worked on Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too (1974) animating Kanga, Roo, Tigger, and Rabbit.[12] Meanwhile, Frank Thomas had noticed Mattinson's thumbnail sketches and recommended he work on The Rescuers (1977). Mattinson then worked on storyboards and designed the titles on the film, which he repeated again on The Fox and the Hound (1981) and The Black Cauldron (1985).[13]

On The Black Cauldron (1985), he, Mel Shaw, and several story artists had boarded several sequences, compiling the first two books of The Chronicles of Prydain. During a storyboard meeting, the directors had criticized a sequence Mattinson had boarded—the introduction of Taran and Dallben—claiming that it wasn't ready to move forward into production. Mattinson, known for his congenial personality, then exploded at the directors, which made him feel he had jeopardized his career at Disney.[14] He returned home that night depressed, telling his wife, Sylvia, what had happened. Sylvia then reminded him of a project that Mattinson had been excited about, urging him to "stop talking and start doing".[15] Having long desired to produce a film starring the "Fab Five" (Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, Pluto), Mattinson remembered the 1974 Disneyland Storyteller album titled An Adaptation of Dickens' Christmas Carol Performed by the Walt Disney Players written by Alan Young (who also performed the voice for Scrooge McDuck).[16]

In March 1981, at his wife's urging, Mattinson sent a two-paragraph pitch letter and the LP record to then-Disney CEO Ron Miller. The next day, Miller called Mattinson into his office, where he angrily inquired about the letter. Mattinson defended his idea, to which Miller dropped the ruse, declaring it was "a great idea" and approved the project. Mattinson was eventually made director and producer on Mickey's Christmas Carol (1983).[14] According to Mattinson, the project was initially conceived as a "24-minute TV special to air annually" starting on Christmas 1982, but an industry-wide animators' strike that same year delayed production.[17] It was later released as a theatrical short attached with the 1983 re-release of The Rescuers (1977). The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film in 1984, but lost to Sundae in New York (1983).

The success of Mickey's Christmas Carol led to Mattinson's hiring as a director on The Great Mouse Detective (1986).[1] During production, in 1984, Miller, who had been the film's producer, was forced out as CEO and president, and replaced by Michael Eisner and Frank Wells. Roy E. Disney, who had been the animation department's chairman, promoted Mattinson as producer to replace him. However, Mattinson found both duties as producer and co-director much too laborious, and decided to remain as producer. Ron Clements, by then a story artist, was brought on board as a co-director.[18] During production on Oliver & Company (1988), Mattinson moved to Orlando to briefly work at the newly opened Feature Animation Florida studio in the Disney-MGM Studios theme park to head up the shorts department. There, in search of a new project, the crew decided to complete an unfinished Mickey Mouse short titled Plight of the Bumblebee. Years earlier, in 1981, several elements (including the recorded soundtrack) had been discovered by Daan Jippes. Using the assembled elements, an animatic was filmed and screened to Disney executives, but then-studio chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg declined to complete it.[19][20]

Throughout the 1990s, Mattinson worked as a storyboard artist on nearly every subsequent Disney theatrical animated film, including Beauty and the Beast (1991), Aladdin (1992), and The Lion King (1994). Around this time, he began working closely with Joe Grant, whom he first met on Beauty and the Beast (1991). Together, along with storyboard artist Vance Gerry, the trio were comically referred as the "Geriatricals", who would pitch adaptations of children's books and develop original story ideas.[21] One of those discarded ideas Mattinson co-developed with Grant was Bitzy, which centered on an Indian elephant who leaves home to start a Hollywood career but ends up working in a used-car lot and falling in love.[22] Mattinson then worked as head of story on Dumbo II, which was later cancelled by John Lasseter.[23]

In 2008, Mattinson was awarded the Disney Legend Award.[1] A year later, directors Stephen J. Anderson and Don Hall enlisted Mattinson to work as a story supervisor on Winnie the Pooh (2011), due to his earlier involvement with the 1960s featurettes.[24] In March 2011, Mattinson announced that he was pitching an idea for a full-length animated feature with Mickey Mouse as the main protagonist.[25] He further worked as a story consultant on Big Hero 6 (2014) and Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018).[26]

According to Hall, during a story meeting, Mattinson suggested adding a dog character for the Clades in Strange World (2022), which became the character Legend.[27] He appeared in the Disney short Once Upon a Studio (2023), which was released posthumously and dedicated to Mattinson. This short celebrates the Walt Disney Company's 100th anniversary in October 2023.[28][29] Mattinson also worked as a story artist for Wish (2023), which was also dedicated to his memory.[citation needed]

Personal life and death

Mattinson married Sylvia Fry, who also worked as an in-betweener on Sleeping Beauty (1959).[3] They have three children and four grandchildren.[1] At the time of his death, he was married to Ellen Siirola.[30]

On February 27, 2023, Mattinson died in Canoga Park, California, at the age of 87.[30][31] On June 4, 2023, the Walt Disney Company presented a sculpture, featuring Winnie the Pooh characters, to Mattinson's family on the anniversary of his seventh decade-long career.[32] The film Wish is dedicated to his honor, as well as the short film Once Upon a Studio.


Year Title Role
1955 Lady and the Tramp Inbetweener (uncredited)
1958 Paul Bunyan Character Animator (uncredited)
1959 Sleeping Beauty Character Animator (uncredited)
1960 Goliath II Character Animator (uncredited)
1961 One Hundred and One Dalmatians Inbetweener (uncredited)
1963 The Sword in the Stone Character Animator (uncredited)
1964 Mary Poppins Inbetweener (uncredited)
1966 Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree Animator
1967 The Jungle Book
1968 Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day
1970 The Aristocats
1971 Bedknobs and Broomsticks Inbetweener (uncredited)
1973 Robin Hood Character Animator
1974 Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too Animator
1977 The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
The Rescuers Story
Pete's Dragon
1978 The Small One
1981 The Fox and the Hound
1983 Winnie the Pooh and a Day for Eeyore Animator
Mickey's Christmas Carol Writer/Director/Producer
1985 The Black Cauldron Additional Story Contributions
1986 The Great Mouse Detective Writer/Director/Producer
1987 The Brave Little Toaster Additional Story Contributions
1988 Oliver & Company Special Thanks
1990 The Prince and the Pauper Storyboard Artist
1991 Beauty and the Beast Story
1992 Aladdin
1994 The Lion King
1995 Pocahontas
1996 The Hunchback of Notre Dame
1998 Mulan
1999 Tarzan
2008 Tinker Bell
2011 Winnie the Pooh Story Supervisor / Senior Story Artist
2014 Big Hero 6 Story Artist
2018 Ralph Breaks the Internet Additional Story Artist
2022 Strange World Story Artist
2023 Once Upon a Studio Posthumous Live-action cameo, dedicated
Wish Story Artist, dedicated, released posthumously


  1. ^ a b c d "Legend Bio: Burny Mattinson (animation)". D23. 2008.
  2. ^ "The Walt Disney Company Honors its Longest-Serving Employee". The Walt Disney Company. June 18, 2018. Retrieved June 20, 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d Stahl, Scarlett (January 8, 2003). "An Interview with Burny Mattinson". Laughing Place. Retrieved February 24, 2022.
  4. ^ a b Kaytis 2006, p. 417.
  5. ^ Vagnini, Steven (February 27, 2017). "5 Fascinating Facts—Disney Legend Burny Mattinson". D23. Retrieved February 24, 2022.
  6. ^ Kaytis 2006, pp. 419–420.
  7. ^ Clay Kaytis (June 26, 2006). "Show 016 – Burny Mattinson, Part One" (Podcast). The Animation Podcast. Event occurs at 09:51. Retrieved August 11, 2022.
  8. ^ Noyer, Jérémie (October 9, 2008). "Once Upon A Dream: Burny Mattinson on Sleeping Beauty's Maleficent". Animated Views (Interview). Retrieved February 24, 2022.
  9. ^ Kaytis 2006, p. 424.
  10. ^ Kaytis 2006, pp. 425–426.
  11. ^ Kaytis 2006, p. 429.
  12. ^ Noyer, Jérémie (October 22, 2011). "Winnie the Pooh and Burny, too: a chat with animation legend Burny Mattinson". Animated Views (Interview). Retrieved February 24, 2022.
  13. ^ Kaytis 2006, p. 430.
  14. ^ a b Clay Kaytis (September 4, 2006). "Show 017 – Burny Mattinson, Part Two" (Podcast). The Animation Podcast. Retrieved August 11, 2022.
  15. ^ Cain, Scott (December 2, 1983). "Mickey makes a comeback". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. pp. 1P, 3P. Retrieved August 11, 2022 – via Newspapers.com. Open access icon
  16. ^ Korkis, Jim (December 25, 2020). "'Mickey's Christmas Carol' (1983)". Cartoon Research. Retrieved August 11, 2022.
  17. ^ Ashton, William H. (December 25, 1983). "Slipping moviegoers a new Mickey". The Miami Herald. pp. 1L, 4L. Retrieved August 11, 2022 – via Newspapers.com. Open access icon
  18. ^ Korkis, Jim (February 23, 2011). "How Basil Saved Disney Feature Animation: Part One". USA Today. Archived from the original on July 12, 2014. Retrieved August 11, 2022.
  19. ^ Clay Kaytis (May 16, 2007). "Show 018 – Burny Mattinson, Part Three" (Podcast). The Animation Podcast. Event occurs at 24:34. Retrieved August 12, 2022.
  20. ^ Korkis, Jim (August 19, 2019). "Mickey Mouse in 'Plight of the Bumblebee'". Cartoon Research. Retrieved August 12, 2022.
  21. ^ "Vance Gerry". Variety. March 8, 2005. Retrieved August 11, 2022.
  22. ^ Gettleman, Jeffrey (May 27, 2000). "Hollywood's 'Grays' Defy Culture Fixated on Youth". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 11, 2022.
  23. ^ Armstrong, Josh (April 22, 2013). "From Snow Queen to Pinocchio II: Robert Reece's animated adventures in screenwriting". AnimatedViews. Retrieved August 11, 2022.
  24. ^ King, Susan (July 13, 2011). "New 'Winnie the Pooh' movie goes back to its Hundred Acre Wood roots". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 11, 2022.
  25. ^ Connelly, Brendon (March 24, 2011). "SCOOP: Mickey Mouse's First Feature Length Film Being Developed At Disney". Bleeding Cool. Archived from the original on March 25, 2011. Retrieved March 24, 2011.
  26. ^ Flam, Charna (February 27, 2023). "Burny Mattinson, Disney's Longest-Serving Employee and 'Beauty and the Beast' Animator, Dies at 87". Variety. Retrieved April 20, 2023.
  27. ^ Stateman, Alison (March 3, 2023). "The Legacy of Burny Mattinson". D23. Retrieved April 20, 2023.
  28. ^ Croll, Ben (June 11, 2023). "Annecy Opens on Note of Artistic Defiance as Disney Premieres Centenary Short Once Upon a Studio". Variety.
  29. ^ "Honoring Disney Legend Burny Mattinson's Legacy in Disney Animation's 'Once Upon a Studio'". The Walt Disney Company. October 13, 2023.
  30. ^ a b Barnes, Mike (February 27, 2023). "Burny Mattinson, Animator and Disney's Longest-Serving Employee, Dies at 87". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved February 27, 2023.
  31. ^ "Remembering Disney Legend Burny Mattinson". The Walt Disney Company. February 27, 2023. Retrieved February 27, 2023.
  32. ^ Betti, Tony (June 5, 2023). "Walt Disney Animation Studios Celebrates 70th Service Anniversary of Late Disney Legend Burny Mattinson". The Laughing Place. Retrieved June 14, 2023.