William Ito
Born (1934-07-17) July 17, 1934 (age 89)
Alma materChouinard Art Institute
Years active1954–1999
Employer(s)Warner Bros. Cartoons (1955–1958, 1961)
Walt Disney Animation Studios (1954–1955, 1985)
Bob Clampett Productions/Snowball Productions (1959–1961)
Hanna-Barbera (1963–1981, 1989)
Sanrio (1978)
The Walt Disney Company (1977–1999)
Known forAnimation
Notable workLady and the Tramp
What's Opera Doc?
One Froggy Evening

Willie Ito (born July 17, 1934)[1] is an American animator. He worked for Walt Disney Animation Studios in the 1950s, moved to Warner Bros. Cartoons and Hanna-Barbera Productions as a character designer, and later returned to Disney.


Ito was born in San Francisco, California to Japanese immigrant parents. Seeing Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in a cinema as a child inspired his love for animation.[1]

Ito's family was incarcerated during World War II due to Executive Order 9066, first at the Tanforan Assembly Center,[2] and later the Topaz War Relocation Center in Utah.[1] Following his family's release from Topaz, Ito and his family returned to San Francisco. After completing high school, Ito began to pursue an art career, attending the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles.[3]

In 1954, Ito began working for Walt Disney Studios as an assistant to animator Iwao Takamoto on the film Lady and the Tramp.[4] He later joined Warner Bros. Cartoons, where he worked with the animators Chuck Jones and Friz Freleng.[4][5] According to Ito, Freleng borrowed him from the Chuck Jones unit, resulting in his first screen credit as a layout artist for Prince Violent.[6]

In the 1960s, Ito moved to Hanna-Barbera Productions and continued working there for 14 years, contributing to shows including The Jetsons, The Flintstones, The Yogi Bear Show, and Josie and the Pussycats.[5] Ito returned to Disney in 1977, where he worked in its consumer products division. His work consisted of designing Disney merchandise.[7][5] Ito returned to the animation studio in 1985 for three months, working for The Wuzzles and Adventures of the Gummi Bears. He retired from animation on July 31, 1999.[6]

In addition to animation, Ito has illustrated several children's books.[1]

Ito received an Inkpot Award in 2014. In 2021, he received the Winsor McCay Award from the International Animated Film Society at the 48th annual Annie Awards, in recognition for his career accomplishments in the animation industry.[7]


  1. ^ a b c d Discover Nikkei (2016). "Willie Ito". Japanese American National Museum. Retrieved 2021-06-20.
  2. ^ Discover Nikkei (2015). "Willie Ito: Tanforan Assembly Center". Japanese American National Museum. Retrieved 2021-06-20.
  3. ^ "Illustration History: Willie Ito". Norman Rockwell Museum. 2020. Retrieved 2021-06-20.
  4. ^ a b Endo, Ellen (April 15, 2021), "Cartoonist Willie Ito to Receive Animation's 'Oscar'", Rafu Shimpo
  5. ^ a b c "Lambiek: Willie Ito". Lambiek. Retrieved 2021-06-20.
  6. ^ a b In His Own Words: Willie Ito on his Animation Career
  7. ^ a b Kashiwagi, Soji (April 29, 2021), "Animation legend Willie Ito receives industry's lifetime achievement award", Nichi Bei Foundation