Bambi artist Tyrus Wong dies aged 106

Tyrus Wong, the artist whose works inspired the Disney film Bambi, has died aged 106.

2 January 2017, 8:23am
In his retirement, Wong took up the art of kite-making (Photo: BBC)
In his retirement, Wong took up the art of kite-making (Photo: BBC)
Tyrus Wong, the artist whose paintings became a visual inspiration for Disney’s animated classic Bambi, died Friday aged 106.

Wong’s death was announced on his Facebook page, saying, “With heavy hearts, we announce the passing of Tyrus Wong. Tyrus died peacefully at his home surrounded by his loving daughters Kim, Kay and Tai-Ling.”

A Chinese immigrant, Wong's vibrant paintings captured Walt Disney's eye and became the basis of the film's distinct style.

In a statement, the Walt Disney Family Museum said "his influence on the artistic composition of the animated feature Bambi cannot be overstated."

The painter was born in China in 1910 before immigrating to California at age 9 with his father, leaving his mother and sister behind, according to the museum. He attended the Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles on a scholarship and, later, accepted a low-level animation job in 1938.

He began working with Disney in 1938 as an "inbetweener", drawing hundreds of pictures between poses to create the illusion of motion.

When the film studio began pre-production on Bambi, "he went home and painted several pictures of a deer in a forest", the Disney museum said.

"Walt Disney saw that Tyrus was able to produce exquisite artwork that did not necessarily look like the forest - but rather, felt like the forest. Walt's vision for Bambi and use of Tyrus' work still influences films today," it said.

Tyrus Wong only worked at Disney for three years, moving to Warner Brothers as a concept artist, designing greeting cards for Hallmark on the side.

After retiring, he turned to creating hundreds of elaborate bamboo kites, received many awards in recognition of his work, and became the subject of a documentary about his life.