Celebrating A True Renaissance Man: Marc Davis

Marc Davis is truly one of the legends in the Disney Company.  Not only was he one of Walt’s “Nine Old Men”,  he animated some of the biggest scenes in Disney history and even helped to design some of the most beloved attractions.  The Disney Insider did a write up about the book that was released about Marc and was able to get each contributor to write a little bit about Marc.

It’s not everyday that we have the opportunity to brush elbows with legendary historians, authors, and animators—which is why we were absolutely thrilled to have the chance to visit the Walt Disney Studios and chat with the team behind the fabulous book, Marc Davis: Walt Disney’s Renaissance Man. We caught up with a few friends, new and old, to find out more about this true Disney legend.

“Marc was a guy who had so many sides to him,” said producer Don Hahn. “He had so many different lives at Disney and beyond. It’s almost like writing a book about these multiple artist personalities. It was great to be able to celebrate Marc, hear all of the stories from Alice [Davis], and gather together as a group to write this book. It was a great celebration.”


Although showcasing the breadth of Marc’s talent was one of the primary objectives of the book, each contributor really wanted to bring their personal memories and reflections of Marc’s life to light. “All of the authors and people at the Walt Disney Animation felt like they really wanted to tell part of this big story about an incredible man,” said Lella Smith, former creative director of Disney’s Animation Research Library. “This is a story that not only celebrates Marc’s art, but him as a husband, his hospitality, and his friendship.”

“I just can’t say enough about how extraordinary his talents are,” said Bob Kurtz, a former student of his, and now an Emmy award-winning animator. “He always constantly surprised me but he was such a gracious human being and so giving with his time and support.” “I am amazed at how extremely gifted an artist Marc was, and really, still is,” said Fox Carney, the ARL’s art history director. “To look at the variety of Marc’s work, the scope of his work and the immense craft of his work is so inspirational. He truly was a renaissance man.”

Click for a larger image
Click for a larger image

To celebrate the release of the book, we asked each contributor to share with us their favorite memory of Marc and the incredible impact that he has bestowed upon all.

Don Hahn (producer, Maleficent):
“There was a night we were up at a fellow animator’s house together, and at the end of the night, we ended up sitting on the floor like kindergarteners, surrounding Marc and Alice, while they were telling us stories of Walt, Hyperion,” the location of Walt Disney Studios prior to 1939, “and what it was like working on Pinocchio. It was one of the most memorable nights of my life. Marc wasn’t just a great artist, he was a great storyteller, husband, and friend.”

Mindy Johnson (author, Tinker Bell: An Evolution):
“I never knew Marc personally, but, I had the great pleasure of seeing Marc and Alice speak at Walt Disney Imagineering many years ago, and to hear them speak together, what stood out to me was the great sense of humanity and the wonderful dynamic between he and Alice. I remember someone leaning over to me during the lecture and saying, ‘That’s the guy that made Tinker Bell.’ Knowing Marc through the eyes and words of these amazing people has been a joy.”


Lella Smith (former creative director of Disney’s Animation Research Library):
“I think one of my favorite memories of Marc was watching him with his fans. It didn’t matter how long they wanted to talk, how long they wanted to pick his mind, he was patient and sweet. It was such a surprise for me because he was such an important Disney artist.”

Alice Davis (imagineer, animator, wife of Marc Davis):
“Marc lived and ate art. He would get up in the morning, see what was in the paper about art, and we would talk about it over breakfast. He would come home from work after he had been drawing all day, and want to draw even more! He would sketch anything and everything; things that were on the TV, our dogs, things in pop culture. He was constantly drawing and creating, and he loved every second of it. He enjoyed making people laugh, and you can see it in the book.”

Bob Kurtz (animator):
“When I first came to Disney, I acted like a bit of a fool sometimes. I would go down to the second floor, just walked in, and say ‘Hi, Marc!’ He would always put his pencil down and talk to me for 10 or 15 minutes. Later, when I grew up, I realized you don’t just walk into an artists studio and start chatting!”

Charles Solomon (animation critic and historian):
“I still remember many times sitting at Alice and Marc’s dining room table at lunch or dinner, and feeling odd that the man who animated Maleficent, whose work did so much to stimulate my interest in animation, was asking for my opinion on an animated film. I think one lesson that Marc imparted on everyone is that a real artist never stops learning and growing. This is a man that would spend eight hours at work, come home, and sketch what was on the TV, whether it was a ballet, an animal show, or a circus. He would study art books, he would bring sketch pads into the jungle. He never stopped drawing.”

Fox Carney (historian, Animation Research Library):
“I am amazed at how extremely gifted an artist Marc was and really still is. So, too is his wife, Alice! To look at the variety of Marc’s work, the scope of his work, and the immense craft of his work is so inspirational. He truly was a Renaissance man. Through working on this book, I have had the wonderful consolation getting the chance to know Alice a little better. To sit with her and hear her stories of Marc and see the joy and sparkle in her eyes as she related Marc’s stories made me feel I was right there with the two of them together. It truly was a team effort working with everyone involved on the book—from the teams here in the ARL, to the the team at WDI, to the guest essayists, to Alice herself. Every piece of art we uncovered was a treasure. It was such a joy to be a part of it.”

Tamara Khalaf (designer, Animation Research Library):
“I was most taken by how incredibly generous Marc and Alice are in all that they are and all that they do. I was so taken by how magnanimous their spirit of generosity was and is. Aside from their collective generosity, there is such a passion and love for people from all backgrounds and walks of life. You can see that reflected in Marc’s artwork—a celebration of life and a true joie de vivre that shows not only his amazing and diverse talents as an artist, but a real enjoyment of the world around him, and he desired to capture as much of it visually as possible for others to enjoy. Theirs is truly a life well lived. It was an honor to work on and design this book!”

To learn more about Marc Davis: Walt Disney’s Renaissance Man, head to the official Disney Publishing Wordwide website and get your copy today.

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