These past 12 months, we had to say goodbye to many talented men and women who made our favorite art form, and our world as a whole, so much richer with their contributions. We honor their memory here, and thank them for giving us some many wonderful moments of entertainment, artistry and introspection. We are also grateful to animator, historian and author Tom Sito, who produces an animation Afternoon of Remembrance each year to celebrate the lives and art of these individuals. This year, the event will be held on February 29 (Leap Day) at the Animation Guild in Burbank.
Patricia Alice Albrecht. Actress and poet known for voicing Pizzazz, the antagonist of ‘80s cartoon classic Jem and the Holograms. Animation credits also include Batman: The Animated Series, Snorks and Tom & Jerry Kids. Died Dec. 25 in Nashville, TN.
René Auberjonois. Honey-voiced stage and screen actor who is best known for his roles in the movie M.A.S.H. and TV series such as Benson, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Boston Legal. He lent his voice to Chef Louis in The Little Mermaid and numerous other characters in Ben 10: Omniverse, Pound Puppies, Archer, The Looney Tunes Show, Young Justice, Avatar: The Last Airbender, Family Guy, Duck Dodgers, Justice League, The Legend of Tarzan, The Wild Thornberrys, Men in Black: The Seriesand Batman: The Animated Series. Died Dec. 8, age 79.
Robert Axelrod. Veteran actor who voiced Lord Zedd and Finister (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers) and Wizardmon (Digimon). Died Sept. 7, age 70.
Edle Bakke. Pioneering woman who was the first person at Disney to train as a live-action script supervisor. Worked on Old Yeller, Davy Crockett, The Hardy Boys, Zorro, The Mickey Mouse Club, Escape to Witch Mountain, TRON and Something Wicked This Way Comes. Died March 10, age 91.
Bruce Bickford. Seattle-based indie claymation director, who collaborated with Frank Zappa on videos and movies such as The Amazing Mr. Bickford and Baby Snakes. Other works include Prometheus’ Garden, Monster Road and Cas’l. Died April 28, age 72.
Bradley Bolke. Actor best known for voicing Chumley the Walrus in the Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales series. Died Jan. 15, age 94.
Gordon Bressack. Three-time Emmy-winning writer best known for shows such as Pinky and the Brain, Animaniacs and Pinky, Elmyra and the Brain. Also wrote for Jimmy Neutron, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and The Smurfs, and co-wrote the feature CarGo with his son James Cullen Bressak, who directed the film. Died May 25, age 68.
John Carl Buechler. Special effects artist, director, producer, writer and actor who was best known for directing Troll, Friday the 13th Part VII, Dolls, A Nightmare on Elm Street 4, Halloween 4 and Hatchet. Died March 18, age 67.
James Frawley. Prolific TV and film director, who helmed the 1979 Henson pic The Muppet Movie and won an Emmy for directing the pilot episode of The Monkees. Died Jan. 22, age 82.
Rutger Hauer. Popular Dutch character actor, best known for portraying the replicant Roy Batty in Ridley Scott’s 1982 classic Blade Runner. He had many memorable roles in titles such as Soldier of Orange, Ladyhawke, The Osterman Weekend, The Hitcher, Hobo with a Shotgun, Escape from Sobibor and Sin City. Died July 19, age 75.
Kyoto Animation Arson Victims. The 36 employees of Kyoto Animation studio who died because of the fire set by an arsonist on July 18. In a show of resilience, the studio announced that it will continue to offer training programs for aspiring animators in 2020.
Art Lozzi. Veteran background artist who worked on numerous Hanna-Barbera shows and movies including Quick Draw McGraw, The Huckleberry Hound Show, Snagglepuss, Top Cat, The Jetsons, The Flintstones, A Man Called Flintstone, Space Ghost, The Archies and The Batman/Superman Hour. Died Nov. 4, age 90.
Don Lusk. Animator and director who worked on many Disney classics, from Ferdinand the Bull to Pinocchio, Bambi, Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp, Sleeping Beauty and One Hundred and One Dalmatians. After leaving Disney in 1960, he directed many TV toons, including Peanuts specials and series such as The Flintstones, The Jetsons, Scooby-Doo, The Smurfs and Tom and Jerry. Died Dec. 24, 2018, age 108.
Peter Mayhew. English-American actor best known for portraying the much-loved Chewbacca character in the Star Wars series from 1977 to 2015. Died April 30, age 74.
Syd Mead. Conceptual artist, industrial designer and self-described “visual futurist” known for iconic sci-fi films Blade Runner, Tron and Alien. The recipient of the 2020 William Cameron Menzies Award from the Art Directors Guild as well as 2017 VES Visionary Award in recognition of his 60+ year career. Died Dec. 30, age 86.
J. Mike Mendel. Emmy-winning animation producer who worked on The Simpsons and Rick and Morty. Died Sept. 27, age 54.
Lee Mendelson. Twelve-time Emmy Award-winning writer and producer of Peanuts animated specials, including A Charlie Brown Christmas. In addition to Charles Schulz’s beloved characters, Mendelson created animated specials and series inspired by popular comic strips Mother Goose and Grimm, Garfield and Cathy as well as children’s book series Babar. Died Dec. 25, age 86.
Ron Miller. Former president and COO of Walt Disney Productions from 1978 to 1984. Miller was married to Diane Disney, Walt’s elder daughter. He worked as producer and exec producer of Disney pics such as The Fox and the Hound, The Black Cauldron, TRON, That Darn Cat!, Escape to Witch Mountain and Freaky Friday. Died Feb. 9, age 85.
Ram Mohan. Indian animator, title designer and educator who was known as the father of Indian animation. He was chairman and CCO at Mumbai-based Graphiti Multimedia and the founder of Graphiti School of Animation. Among his best-known films were You Said It, Fire Games, This Our India and Ramayana: The Legend of Prince Rama. Died on Oct. 11, age 88.
Kaj Pindal. Danish-born Canadian cartoonist, animator and educator who worked at the National Film Board of Canada who directed the Oscar-nominated What on Earth! and the 1988 NFB short Peep and the Big Wide World, which inspired the PBS TV series. Died June 28, age 91.
Suzan Pitt. Celebrated American animator, painter and educator (CalArts), who also created animated pieces for operas. Her best-known film, Asparagus debuted as part of an installation at the Whitney Museum of American Art and screened with David Lynch‘s Eraserhead for two years. Other shorts included Joy Street, El Doctor and Pinball. Died June 19, age 75
Monkey Punch. Born Kazuhiko Katō. Japanese manga artist best known for his globally popular series Lupin III. Died April 11, age 82.
Milton Quon. Disney animator, artist and actor, who worked on Fantasia and Dumbo. He was also the first Chinese-American art director at a national ad agency, BBDO. He appeared as an actor in Speed and Sweet Jane. Died June 18, age 105.
Chris Reccardi. Acclaimed animation director, graphic designer, character designer, musician, producer, writer and storyboard artist who worked on shows such as The Ren & Stimpy Show, Samurai Jack, The Powerpuff Girls and Tiny Toon Adventures, directed episodes of SpongeBob SquarePants, was supervising producer for Regular Show and creative director of Secret Mountain Fort Awesome. Died May 2, age 54.
Børge Ring. Danish animator and director who worked on the animated movie The Tinderbox, worked for Disney in London and directed the Oscar-nominated short Oh My Darling (1978), the Oscar-winning Anna & Bella (1985), and the UNICEF award-winning short Run of the Mill. He also worked on It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, Heavy Metal and We’re Back! A Dinosaur’s Story. Died Dec. 27, 2018, age 97.
Stu Rosen. Voice and casting director, actor and exec producer, who created and hosted the Emmy-winning children’s puppet show Dusty’s Playhouse. Credits included MASK, Fraggle Rock, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, 2 Stupid Dogs, Biker Mice from Mars, Batman: The Animated Series and Superman: The Animated Series. Died August 4, age 80.
Rosto. Dutch artist and filmmaker best known for his award-winning short trilogy and online graphic novel Mind My Gap. Among his acclaimed animated projects where No Place Like Home (2008), The Monster of Nix (2011), Lonely Bones (2013) and Reruns (2018), all of which played in festivals around the world. Died March 7, age 50.
Dave Smith. Beloved Walt Disney Archives founder who spent 40 years cataloging and preserving the studio’s rich legacy of entertainment. Was named a Disney Legend in 2007. Author of numerous books including the company’s official encyclopedia Disney A to Z, Disney: The First 100 Years, The Quotable Walt Disney, Disney Trivia from the Vault and The Ultimate Disney Trivia Books. Died Feb. 15, age 78.
Caroll Spinney. Beloved Emmy-winning actor and puppeteer who played Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch from 1969 to 2018 on TV’s Sesame Street and in movies such as The Muppet Movie, The Great Muppet Caper, Follow That Bird and The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland. Died Dec. 8, age 85.
Ted Stearn. Creator of the alternative comic Fuzz & Pluck and art director and storyboard artists on many primetime animated series. Credits included Rick and Morty, Daria, Beavis and Butt-Head, King of the Hill, Futurama, Drawn Together, Animals, Squirrel Boy and The Simpsons Movie. Died Feb. 1, age 57.
Danny Gordon Taylor. Animation supervisor and VFX professional who worked at ILM, WETA and Digital Domain on numerous acclaimed VFX-laden studio movies. He earned an Oscar nomination for his work on Real Steel. Among his other works: The Mask, Jumanji, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Terminator 3, Transformers, The Hobbit, The Jungle Book, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Alita: Battle Angel. Died July 10, age 69.
Russi Taylor. Voice actress and Disney Legend, best known for voicing Minnie Mouse for 30 years). She was also the voice of Strawberry Shortcake and many other characters from shows such as The Flintstone Comedy Show, The Smurfs, My Little Pony, Muppet Babies, DuckTales (in which she played all three nephews) and The Simpsons (as Martin Prince and Sherri & Terri). Other credits include The Rescuers Down Under, TaleSpin, The Little Mermaid, Buzz Lightyear of Star Command, Kim Possible, Sofia the First, The Lion Guard and Tangled: The Series. Taylor was predeceased by her husband, Wayne Allwine (the third voice of Mickey Mouse), who died in 2009. Died July 26, age 75.
Richard Williams. Renowned Canadian-British animator, director and writer best known for serving as animation director on Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1998), for which he won two Oscars, and for his unfinished feature The Thief and the Cobbler (1993). He also created the title sequences to What’s New Pussycat, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and two of the later Pink Panther movies. He directed the Oscar- and BAFTA-nominated short Prologue. Author of The Animator’s Survival Kit. Died Aug. 16, age 86.
John Witherspoon. Actor and stand-up comedian who played Ice Cube’s grouchy father in the Friday movies. He voiced Gramps on the animated series The Boondocks. Died Oct. 29, at age 77.
Alan Zaslove. Animator, producer and director of animated series who worked at UPA, Hanna-Barbera and Disney. Zaslove worked on cartoons such as Gerald McBoing-Boing, Mr. Magoo, Popeye the Sailor, Roger Ramjet, A Charlie Brown Christmas, The Phantom Tollbooth, Fractured Fairy Tale and George of the Jungle. At Hanna-Barbera, his credits included The Smurfs, Yogi’s Treasure Hunt and The Jetsons (1985). At Disney, he produced and directed DuckTales, Aladdin, Adventures of the Gummi Bears, Darkwing Duck, Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers, The Return of Jafar and Pocahontas 2: Journey to a New World. Also produced and directed The New Woody Woodpecker Show. Died Oct. 2, age 91.