Animation artists require a rich understanding of everything there is in life so they can create The Illusion of Life.
I would like to speak to the magic that Bill Matthews brought to thousands of professional artists during his time with Walt Disney Animation. His Artist Enrichment Program through lunchtime lectures brought the kind of cross over knowledge from so many aspects of life that paralleled and spoke directly to our ability to create full animation. Bill was always, friendly, outgoing, approachable, and part of the creative family but mostly he was the portal to a world of things that influenced and empowered our craft.
I found him most consequential in that he shaped our minds and opened our eyes on so many levels. It simply was one of the singular things that made us all better artists during that amazing period affectionately known as the second Golden Age of Animation.
Bill's deep understanding of the needs of Disney artists played a pivotal role in shaping that era's epic films. He was more than an educator; he was a catalyst for creativity.
Every studio needs a department like this: a person like this. If not, we can at least carry it on ourselves through our memory of Bill, and in his name.
Written by Tina Price
23 year Veteran of Walt Disney Animation and Owner of the Creative Talent Network
Being a Visual Storyteller puts you on a journey of learning. Whether working in animation, film, or illustration, there is so much to learn. Learning to see, and understand, and then do. This pattern repeats for a lifetime. In honor of that learning spirit we dedicate this year to Bill Matthews. The theme is “We are all a Work in Progress”.
William Nelson Matthews loved being a teacher. It was his life’s blood, his passion. He loved teaching students the fundamentals of Animation more than anything in the world. He devoted his life to it. His students became his friends, often lifelong friends, and he was known as Uncle Bill and Gramps to many of them.
Born in Los Angeles, California in 1931, Bill was a child extra in the movies of the early 1940’s. He appeared in such classics as “King’s Row” and “Yankee Doodle Dandy”. Bill served in the Navy during the Korean War. In 1956 he joined Walt Disney Studios to learn the art and craft of Animation on “Sleeping Beauty”. He became a one-man Animation Department at JPL, Jet Propulsion Laboratories in 1959, creating short films that visualized NASA’s goals to reach the stars.
In 1969 Bill moved to Canada and joined Sheridan College in Ontario as a teacher in the very first Classical Animation Program ever offered. This is where Bill discovered his true calling. He loved people, and he loved to bring them together. He loved to introduce new ideas to people, and he loved to help students in any way he could. He knew this was his purpose in life.
In 1979 Bill returned to Los Angeles and in the mid-1980’s he once again joined Walt Disney Studios in the Animation Department. His greatest years were spent as the Manager of Creative Personnel Development. Bill was a beloved member of the Walt Disney Animation family during the “Second Golden Age of Animation”. His greatest joy was helming the annual Disney Animation Hallowe’en Costume Contest. Who can forget seeing Bill dressed rather appropriately as King Henry VIII and holding court. He was even caricatured in several Disney animated features during this time.
After Bill’s retirement he continued to teach at Woodbury University in Glendale. There was nothing he loved more than being surrounded by students eager to learn. In 2016 he developed Alzheimer’s disease and moved to the Regency Park Astoria in Pasadena where he remained till his passing from Covid in 2022.
Bill Matthews led a full and gregarious life as a teacher of Animation. He loved his students, and they became his extended family. He is someone who truly followed his passion and fulfilled his life’s purpose.
Written by Darrell Rooney
A Canadian animator, storyboard artist, and director for The Walt Disney Company, best known for directing The Lion King II: Simba's Pride and Mulan II at Disneytoon Studios. He started at Disney in 1978, and worked as a visual effects animator on Tron.
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