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Disney’s Most Longstanding Castmember, Burny Mattinson, Passed Away at 87

Published on February 28th, 2023 | Updated on February 28th, 2023 | By FanFest

On February 24th, the Walt Disney Company mourned the passing of Burny Mattinson–the longest-serving cast member in its history. At 87 years old, he passed mere months before his 70th-anniversary service award was set to be presented on June 4th – an honor that would have made him the first ever recipient of such a recognition from The Walt Disney Company.

On Monday, February 27th, Mattinson sadly passed away at Canyon Oaks Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Canoga Park after a brief illness. He had an incredible career with Walt Disney Animation Studios serving as story artist, animator, director and producer. His most notable achievement was directing the classic 1983 short film Mickey’s Christmas Carol which marked the beloved mascot’s return to screens after three decades! Moreover he co-directed 1986 cult hit The Great Mouse Detective alongside John Musker, Ron Clements and Dave Michener; a criminally underappreciated masterpiece of animation history!

“Burny’s artistry, generosity, and love of Disney Animation and the generations of storytellers that have come through our doors, for seven decades, has made us better-better artists, better technologists, and better collaborators,” Disney Animation Chief Creative Officer Jennifer Lee said in a statement. “All of us who have had the honor to know him and learn from him will ensure his legacy carries on.”

“For almost 30 years, I’ve had the privilege to work alongside Burny Mattinson, from Winnie the Pooh to Big Hero 6 to, most recently, Strange World,” director Don Hall added. “I have marveled at his artistry, enjoyed his good humor, and sat enraptured by his stories of Disney history. At 18 years old, he followed his dream of working at Walt Disney Animation Studios, and for almost 70 years he lived that dream every day, inspiring all of us who had the good fortune to follow in his footsteps. I love him dearly.”

On May 13, 1935, Mattinson was born in San Francisco and he fondly recalls seeing Disney’s Pinocchio as a 6 year old. From then on out he knew that animation would be his passion; so much so that after graduating high school, he managed to land himself a job at the very same place! His first project was Lady and The Tramp as an in-betweener. During the 1960s era of Disney magic, Mattinson had laid hands on works for 101 Dalmatians, Mary Poppins ,The Jungle Book . But it was his work with Winnie the Pooh shorts which truly inspired Hall enough to make him story supervisor for its 2011 feature film version!

Dedicated to the craft until his very last moments, Mattison worked on practically every Disney Animation feature in some capacity. He was employed full-time at the studio and gained recognition for his work as a story artist in Big Hero 6, Ralph Breaks The Internet, and Strange World.

When Mattinson heard a captivating Christmas Album from Disneyland Records, he proposed to Ron Miller–then-studio chief–the concept of producing an animated short film. To his surprise, the executive welcomed and approved his suggestion. Shortly afterwards, Mattison was given the reigns to direct and produce Mickey’s Christmas Carol; for which he would be nominated for Best Animated Short Film at The Oscars!

In 2008, Mattinson was officially recognized as a Disney Legend and in 2018 he entered the record books for being the longest-serving cast member of Disney. Mattinson leaves behind his beloved wife, son, daughter and four grandchildren who will cherish his memory forever.

“Burny was low-key, charming, inventive, and superbly gifted as a draftsperson and a storyteller,” Disney animator Eric Goldberg said. “His storyboards were beautifully acted and wonderfully atmospheric, which I first encountered when I joined the studio for Aladdin. The more I saw of his work, the more I became in awe of his breadth of talent. I value his cheerful friendship and lasting inspiration to me and so many other animation artists. He will be missed, but not forgotten.”

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