The Colorful Life of Disney Legend Mel Shaw

Written by Rick Wright. Posted in Features, Weekend Update

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MelShaw3

Published on March 02, 2013 at 4:03 am with 2 Comments

Scarlett Stahl attended a celebration of life for Mel Shaw at the Walt Disney Studios Main Theater. Shaw was an animator, writer, and artist. He was involved in the animation, story design, and visual development of numerous Disney animated films and was named a Disney Legend in 2004 for his contributions to the Walt Disney Company. ~~Rick

THE COLORFUL LIFE OF MEL SHAW

by Scarlett Stahl

The Shaw and Lounsbery families and the Walt Disney Studios invited guests to celebrate The Colorful Life of Mel Shaw on Tuesday, February 19th, at the Walt Disney Studios Main Theater in Burbank, California.

Billboards in the lobby of the Main Theater at the Walt Disney Studios.

Guests gathered with friends in the theater as they settled into their seats.

Kathryn Beaumont (voice of Alice in Alice in Wonderland and Wendy in Peter Pan) and Paula Sigman Lowery (historian, author and archivist)

Rick Farmiloe ( well known animator ) and his fiance, Amanda Raymond

Alice Davis (Disney Legend and Imagineer with a window on Main Street at Disneyland) and Tyrus Wong (Disney Legend and painter, muralist, ceramicist, lithographer, designer and kite maker, and 102 years young)

Fabrizio Mancinelli (Composer) and Linda Swisher (Collector)

Ted Thomas (director, writer, musician) with wife, Kuniko

Eric Goldberg (animator, director and recipient of the Annies Winsor McKay Award) with Ted Thomas

Mark Silverman (the voice of Rod Serling in the Tower of Terror and numerous other voices) with Jessica Haganey (dancer at Disneyland)

Charles Solomon (moderator of the second panel and animation historian as well as author) and Margaret Kerry (original reference model for Tinker Bell in Peter Pan as well as motivational speaker)

Steinunn Green and Howard Green (Vice President, Communications for Walt Disney Animations Studio and recipient of the Annies June Foray Award)

Don Hahn, famous producer, artist and director, was the moderator of the first panel, which consisted of Mel’s son- Rick Shaw, his daughter- Melissa Shaw Couch-Deranleau and grown stepchildren: Ken Lounsbery, Andrea Lounsbery Gessel-Sever and John Lounsbery.

Don Hahn (moderator) with the first panel of Mel’s son- Rick Shaw, his daughter- Melissa Shaw Couch-Deranleau and grown stepchildren: Ken Lounsbery, Andrea Lounsbery Gessel-Sever and John Lounsbery

Opening Film

Singers for the Event

A Sketch of Mel

Sculpture by Mel

Mel with his Sculptures

John Lounsbery and his wife Florence, who became the second wife of Mel Shaw when they both were widowed

More of Mel’s Art

Mel’s Return to Disney

Charles Solomon, well known author, critic and historian of animation, moderated the second panel of animators/artists: Andy Gaskill, Burny Mattinson, Ron Clements, John Musker and John Lefler.

Animation Panel

Animation Panel with Scene from “Rescuers Down Under”

Alladin

2nd panel of animators, Andy Gaskill, Burny Mattinson, Ron Clements, John Musker and John Lefler with Fox and the Hound shown on the screen

Also shown on the screen were pictures of Mel with his extended family as well as some of Mel’s art. Among the many pieces of his art shown on the screen at the Tribute were the title sequences from the 1977 movie, The Rescuers. These were done in pastels but were compelling.

John Musker said the frogs and the jazz music were concepts that he used for Princess and the Frog

Beauty and the Beast

Lion King…This painting particularly reminded me of the Impressionist paintings….the vibrant yellow is reminiscent of Van Gogh’s Sunflowers

Melvin Schwartzman, aka Mel Shaw, was born in Brookyn, N.Y. on December 19, 1914, the second son of four boys born to his parents. When Mel was twelve, he won a major prize in a soap carving contest for Proctor and Gamble and continued sculpting all his life. His family moved to California in the late 1920’s, when Mel was a teenager and he attended the Otis Art Institute.

Mel’s first job was lettering movie titles at Pacific Title, owned by film producer, Leon Schlesinger. Next Mel helped create a storyboard for an Orson Welles film, The Little Prince, but it was never filmed. After that he worked for animation directors Hugh Harman and Rudolph Ising at their studio for several years.

As his grandfather had owned a stable, Mel had become an accomplished horseman. In the 1930’s while playing polo, he met Walt Disney, who was also a polo player. By 1935, he was working for Disney and was playing on one of Walt’s teams, the Donald Ducks, which beat the President of Mexico’s team in Mexico. Needless to say the Disney team left Mexico rather quickly!!!

Mel worked in animation, story design and visual development, beginning with Bambi, released in 1942. World War II interrupted his career at Disney when he enlisted in the U.S. Army as a filmmaker, producing films as well as acting as an art director and cartoonist for the Stars and Stripes newspaper in Shanghai. He even worked on Lord Mountbatten’s film crew during the war!

After the war, Mel, along with Bob Allen, who had been an MGM Studios animator, went into business together at Allen-Shaw Productions. One of their redesigned creations was the Howdy Doody marionette for NBC.

During the transition at the Walt Disney Studios between the original animators and the new young Turks in 1974, Mel was called back to mentor the new generation and assist with animation design and story. He worked on The Rescuers in 1977, The Fox and the Hound in 1981, The Black Cauldron in 1985, The Great Mouse Detective in 1986, Beauty and the Beast in 1991, and The Lion King in 1994. For his body of work, he was named a Disney Legend in 2004, with his handprints and signature cast in bronze and placed on a pillar at the Walt Disney Studios Legend Plaza.

In private life he married his wife, Louise, within a month of the time that they met. His children said that their parents were like gypsies and would take them away for the entire summer, visiting museums throughout Europe. Mel and Louise were married from 1938 until her death in 1984. According to Mel’s grown children, Louise had suggested that after her death Mel should marry Florence Lounsbery (widow of John Lounsbery, a Disney animator and a family friend.) And in 1985 Mel and Florence indeed were married and remained together until her death in 2004. Both the Shaw and Lounsbery grown children agreed that they all made up one happy family. After Florence’s death, Mel lived with his son in Woodland Hills, California until he passed away on November 22, 2012 at age 97 years.

After the celebration in the theatre, the guests, panelists and family retired to the Studio Commissary for desserts, beverages and lively conversation. All in all everyone agreed that it was a lovely celebration, befitting an incredibly talented Disney Legend, Mel Shaw.

Margaret Tinker Bell Kerry, Don Hahn and Scarlett Stahl 

Steve Vagnini (Walt Disney Studio Archives), a group of friends and far left, Dave Smith (former director of the Walt Disney Studio Archives)

Dessert Buffet in the Commissary

David Derks and Tom Sito (both Board members of ASIFA-Hollywood)

Fabrizio Mancinelli and Bruce Reitherman (the voice of Mowgli in Jungle Book)

Charles Solomon, Steinunn and Howard Green ( in the far back left is Don Hahn)

Andreas Deja (famous animator) and Paula Sigman Lowery

Scarlett Stahl, Mike Peraza (art director and concept artist) and his wife

Photos from the Legends Plaza

Please note: The Shaw family plans to publish Mel’s autobiography, “Animators on Horseback,” posthumously. The pictures and article above were published with the permission of Howard Green of the Walt Disney Animation Studio and the Shaw family.

About Rick Wright

Rick has been a long term MiceChat author and co-founder of the Weekend Update. You will often find Rick in the position of "Greeter" at official events due to his warm and welcoming spirit. If you've got photos, news or trip reports to share, Rick would love to hear from you: [email protected]

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  • http://micechat.com Dusty Sage

    Wonderful tribute. Thank you for sharing this with us Scarlett.

  • Asterix

    I wasn’t aware of his beautiful work, thank you for this. I’m looking forward to the upcoming book!