Vance Gerry, a veteran Disney animation story developer, layout artist, and visual development artist since 1955, passed away Saturday, March 5th in Pasadena, California, of complications from cancer. He was 75 years old.
Regarded as one of the most talented and creative story artists in the animation biz, Gerry contributed to such classic Disney animated features as 101 Dalmatians, The Jungle Book, The Aristocats, Robin Hood, The Rescuers, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, The Great Mouse Detective, Oliver & Company, Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules, Tarzan, Fantasia/2000, and Home on the Range. Up until his death, Gerry continued to work closely with 96-year-old Disney legend Joe Grant (who co-wrote Dumbo, and designed the Queen/Witch character for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs), and colleague Burny Mattinson. The trio self-deprecatingly called themselves the Geriatricals.
“Vance was one of the finest graphic artists of our times, and he also was a great storyteller," says Grant. "I wish I had known him sooner and worked with him longer. I loved working with him. He made an enormous impact in the art world of animation and he made coming to work a lot of fun.”
Born in Pasadena in 1929, Gerry studied at the Chouinard Art Institute before joining Disney in 1955. He began his career as an assistant in-betweener. Moving on to layout artist, he contributed to such Disney television shows as The Goofy Success Story, Goofy’s Cavalcade of Sports and How to Relax. As a layout artist, he worked on the features, 101 Dalmatians, and The Sword in the Stone.
"He was a writer’s writer and his sense of storytelling and influence on all of us was profound. He was one of the smartest and most charming storymen the industry has seen," says Don Hahn, producer of such animated blockbusters as Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King.“
Pictured above: Vance Gerry’s GRIFFITH PARK
***This contemporary California Scene painting depicts a horse trail and greenspace at Griffith Park near the Disney Studios in Burbank.