Marc Davis was a veteran animator and storyteller whose career at the Walt Disney Studios spanned over 45 years. He is probably one of the most famous of the "Imagineers" at the studio and justly so, because he contributed greatly to Disney’s animation classics as well as to many of Disneyland’s themed attractions. Bambi, Cinderella, Tinker Bell, Sleeping Beauty, Maleficent, Cruella de Ville, Brier Rabbit and dear little skunk Flower were all characters created by Marc Davis.
Born on March 30, 1913 in Bakersfield, California, Marc traveled across most of America with his family before settling back in California where he attended various art institutes honing his love for drawing. During his years at college he would spend hours visiting the local zoo to sketch the animals and this practice came to good use later when he began work at Walt Disney Studios in 1935 as an apprentice animator for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and later for the exceptional character studies he created for Bambi.
During the 1940s he was busy doing more of the same work on such features as Song of the South, Fun and Fancy Free, So Dear to My Heart, and later on Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Sleeping Beauty and 101 Dalmations, as well as working on many of the animated shorts released through Disney during the 1950s and 60s.
Marc Davis also played a key part in the development of Disneyland’s most famous attractions. In 1961 he became an Imagineer after Walt realized that a man with his creative blend of humor and storytelling skill was greatly needed at Disneyland, even more so than at the Studio. This came about one day when Walt asked his top character designer to take a trip to the park and “take a good, hard, critical look” at the Mine Train through Nature’s Wonderland ride to see what the ride was lacking and how it could be improved. Marc did just that, and came back thoroughly disappointed with not only that ride but with most of the other attractions at Disneyland too. He gave his report to Walt and then, with his approval, took his trusty little pencil and began to redesign all of the attractions to include what he thought they strongly lacked – a compelling story and humor.
To this day his distinctive use of comical characterizations and visual “sight gags” can be seen throughout Disneyland and are the reason that many of the famous attractions are as beloved as they are now. The Jungle Cruise, The Enchanted Tiki Room, The Pirates of the Caribbean ride, The Haunted Mansion and many, many others all bear the stamp of the inventive genius of Marc Davis.
In 1978 he retired from the Walt Disney Studios and only occasionally returned to work as consultant on major projects the Imagineers were developing such as Epcot and Toyko Disneyland. He was later honored, in 1989, with the Disney Legends award which is the highest achievement for a Disney artist. Marc Davis passed away in January 2000.