February 6, 2004 by

John Hench

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Categories: Artists

jhench.jpgJohn Hench, a senior vice president at Walt Disney Imagineering, died on Feb. 5 from heart failure. He was 95.
Hench joined the company in 1939 as a sketch artist. He did the coloring and background art for several Disney classics, including “Fantasia,” “Dumbo,” “Peter Pan” and “Cinderella.” In 1955, his team won an Academy Award for special effects for the film, “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.” He also painted the official portraits of Mickey Mouse for the character’s 25th, 50th, 60th and 70th birthdays.
In the 1960s, Walt Disney enlisted Hench’s help in creating the Disneyland amusement park in Anaheim, Calif. He designed “It’s a Small World” and the Space Mountain roller coaster, and oversaw the creation of Disney theme parks in Florida, Paris, Tokyo and Hong Kong.
Hench attended the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles and the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco. He researched motion picture color processes at Vitacolor Studios and designed sets for Republic Pictures before launching his six-decade career at Disney.
Hench shared his principles of theme park design and use of color in the book, “Designing Disney: Imagineering and the Art of the Show.” The longest tenured employee at The Walt Disney Company, he was presented with the prestigious Disney Legend award in 1990. The International Animated Film Society will honor him on Saturday with the Winsor McCay Award for lifetime achievement in the art of animation.

One Response to John Hench

  1. Jennifer

    John was above all a “class act.” I would see him most afternoons in the cafeteria sketching or chatting with other Imagineers. He always had a “hello” for me and was always interested in what I was working on. One of my prize posessions is a ailk scarf with “100 Mickeys” on it – all sketches done by John. He is missed.

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