Animation artist Ray Aragon passed away on Sunday, March 15, at the age of 83. He had been in poor health in recent months. Aragon was born in Boyle Heights, California on January 23, 1926, the second oldest of five children. After high school, he enlisted in the military for WWII, and served overseas in France and Germany for eighteen months beginning in March 1945. Following the war, he studied illustration on the GI Bill at Chouinard Art Institute.
Aragon was frustrated working in advertising illustration, and in the mid-1950s, he returned to Chouinard to take night classes. There he met instructor Marc Davis, who also happened to be one of Disney’s top animators. “I told him what I was doing,” Aragon said, “and he realized I wasn’t happy so he gave me a number and said, ‘Call Ken Peterson.’ I said, ‘Marc, I can’t draw Mickey Mouse. I can’t draw Donald Duck.’ But Marc said ‘Never mind.’ So I called Ken Peterson and they hired me in the layout department on Sleeping Beauty.
After Sleeping Beauty
, Aragon continued in the layout department on 101 Dalmatians
(1961) before moving on to a diverse career that included working at a wide range of LA studios (UPA, Fred Calvert Productions, Hanna-Barbera, TMS, Sanrio, Tom Carter Productions, Filmation and Warner Bros). Besides the two Disney features, his film credits include Gay Purr-ee, Mary Poppins, Yellow Submarine, Metamorphoses, Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland, The Iron Giant
and In the Heat of the Night.
On the latter film, he worked closely with director Norman Jewison as a storyboard artist. In a recent interview, Aragon reflected on the nature of his collaboration with Jewison and how he contributed to the shot set-ups in the film: