April 26, 2004 by

Harry Holt


Categories: Artists, Hollywood

Harry Holt, an influential Disney animator, died on April 14. Cause of death was not released. He was 93.
In 1936, Holt applied for an artist position with Disney. During his try-out period, he wrote and illustrated stock Disney characters into comic strip storyboards. The company was so impressed with his talent that Holt was hired as an apprentice. He eventually worked his way up to designing several legendary scenes in “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” and “Lady and the Tramp.”
After 20 years with Disney, Holt took a brief hiatus to work in television production and art direction in Chicago. He returned to Los Angeles a few years later and joined Hanna-Barbera Studios to animate “Flintstones” and “Tom and Jerry” cartoons.
In the 1960s, Holt rejoined Disney as a designer of sculptural forms. He sculpted the original models of characters for the Country Bear Jamboree and Haunted Mansion rides at Walt Disney World, and developed attractions at Epcot and Disneyland in California and Japan. Until his retirement in the early 1990s, Holt greeted guests and signed drawings at the Disney/MGM Studio Preview Center in Orlando.

21 Responses to Harry Holt

  1. Helen Stephens

    Harry penned our first piece of animation art at Disneyworld Florida on our honeymoon in 1992.
    Since then we have become avid Disney Cel collectors from original production prints to sericels.
    He was a gentleman with a huge talent, one not likeley to be replaced for a long time.

  2. Paul Beckmann

    I waited in line at WDW long before Mr. Holt was due to start his generous day of drawing characters and personalizing them for visitors. 1988 was a long time ago, our sons were children, not adults as they are now. I recall Harry’s wonderful sense of professionalism and wonder. Our moment in time with him was a highlight still not forgotten.

  3. Kerryann Houghton

    While on our honeymoon in Jan 1993, my husband Brian and I had the great fortune to meet Mr Holt. He was penning drawings in the Disneyana Building. At the time, he was only doing 10 drawings then his shift was up. He saw my husband and I standing there watching, and asked us which picture we would like. We were lucky enough to be #11 that day! Jasmine and Aladdin have had a prominent place on our bedroom wall ever since.

  4. John

    I remember stopping by to visit Mr. Holt at his art desk in the old “Disney Story Building”. He would pencil in details on various animated character pictures from Disney’s Feature Films of yester-year.
    He had done for me a Bambi Scene, then signed his sginature to it.
    I could tell that Mr. Holt was one of those old fellows that did not want to be forgotten, he loved animation art and it showed through his animated talent that not only he knew he had but such men as Walt Disney, Hannah-Barbera.
    When you went into the Old Disney Story building on Main Street USA inside the Magic Kingdom, you felt like you were almsot meeting Walt Disney, cause you knew the man setting there at the art table, actually had opportunities in his early life to speak to Walt, shake hands with the man, look directly into the very eyes of the “Dreamer” himself.
    So there was that special atmosphere in the room where Harry Holt drew for the guests.
    Thank you Harry Holt! We Miss You Dear Friend!
    Orlando, Florida

  5. Mark A. Radzely

    In 1988 we made a family visit to Disney World with our then 11 and 8 year old sons. We had the pleasure of meeting with Harry Holt. He asked my wife who were her favorie Disney Characters. When she replied Lady & the Tramp, Harry immediately proceeded to draw Lady & The Tramp being seranaded by Joe and Tony while they sat by the famous bowl of spaghetti. He then personalized this beautiful drawing with the following inscription:
    “Greetings & Best Wishes
    To Our Friends & Pals
    Anne, Adam & Todd
    Lady & The Tramp
    Harry Holt
    Today, this framed drawing hangs in our home in a place of prominence, surrounded by more that a dozen other Lady & The Tramp serigraphs, lithos, giclees, tiles, paintings, etc.
    Thank you Harry for your warmth, charm & consideration and for instilling in us a love for animation art.

  6. Wendy Selvig

    I have a drawing of Donald Duck done by Harry Holt in the ’60s. My dad won the William Allen White award in journalism and gotto interview Walt. My mom and dad got to meet Harry and he drew them a wonderful Donald. We cherish the drawing even today!

  7. M Corbett

    I remember meeting Mr. Holt in August of 1991, and we currently have two of his souvenir sketches. He carried a great sense of warmth and dignity. One has to wonder how many people are left in the Disney company who were so aligned with Walt and his visions. Folks like Mr. Holt were invaluable for their vision, and those of us who love and enjoy the Disney experience hope that folks in charge of future Disney activities will share the same spirit and vision of these early pioneers. Thanks for everything, Mr. Holt.

  8. David E. Williams

    While on our honeymoon at Disney in May of 1990 I had the pleasure of meeting Harry and he drew a picture from Lady and the Tramp for us.We are animation collectors and I am an amateur cartoonists.I will miss Harry and he told me about working on The Flinstones and The Jetsons.
    What a great person-I still have a picture of me shaking hands with him and hopefully some of his wit and artistic talent rubbed off.He will be missed.

  9. Debbie Coffey

    My husband and I met Mr. Holt on a trip to Disney in February 1994. He was very gracious to us and we have 101 Dalmations framed that he signed: 101Dalmations send 101 greeting to their friend Debbie. We love the picture and have bought several cels since. We will always remember the meeting and the wonderful time we had with him. He will be missed.

  10. Craig Holt

    Thank you all for your kind remarks regarding Harry Holt. He was my father. I miss him since his passing in 2004 and it’s very heartening to read your kind posts here.

  11. kathy

    My husband and and I started cleaning out some of the rooms in our home since our children have grown and moved out. I came across a “Beauty and the Beast” sketch signed by Harry Holt, which he did for my 13 year old daughter, Julia, on June 23 1992, while visiting Disney Orlando with family friends. I was thrilled to phone her today and tell her what a wonderful treasure she owns. She proceeded to tell me her memories of that special day almost 15 years ago.

  12. Paul

    Just today I was talking about past Disney experiences with a friend… I had worked for Disney as a college student in 1993 and remembered going to Main Street with some friends to see a historical animator. I couldn’t believe the turn out for this guy to schetch a penciled cell of old cartoons. After waiting in line I got up to the story board table and there was Harry, a great character with a ton of heart and stories (with the history to back it up). I didn’t realize at the time how long that moment would stay with me. Anyway, after remembering this day (of 14 years ago) I spent hours looking through old boxes (as well as for information on-line) and finally found my Peter Pan schetch signed by Harry on 8-16-93. (It read “With greeting and love to our friend – Paul… Peter Pan, Captain Hook & Tinker Bell”)
    That moment in time and the personalization of the work just pours out heart and passion, things none of us could live without! Just priceless…
    Thanks for this page and a great memory of a special man who worked in an incredible place specializing in creating memories!!!!

  13. Kathy Thomas

    Hi, I am sad that Mr. Holt passed on, was he one of the animators of the 1961 101 Dalmations? If so, I have 13 in-betweens, not of any of the main characters per se, but of a Dalmation puppy that is running. They are of course, in running sequential motion, and I have 13, is there anyone at this site who would be interested in them? I have 13, they are black and white, and have been authenticated by to art conservation experts. They say they are worth $80-$100 each. Please advise, I am sorry for your loss, Kathy Thomas

  14. Josslyn

    On a trip to California in August of ’87, to visit an Aunt, we were fortunate to meet Harry and his gracious wife who lived next door. My daughter was 12 and I can rmember Harry just doting on her. He did a sketch of Mickey Mouse and then presented her with 2 of his “How to Draw” books that he had published for children. He captured our hearts and our dreams. His stories of the old days will certainly be with us the rest of our lives. So Harry, rest in a place where dreams do come true. To his family, thank you for sharing this wonderful man.

  15. Alec Rollo

    What a wonderfull warm man. I spoke to him in 1989 and 1992, my youngest was just four.
    I remember him talking about Disney and working on cartoon characters.
    We have two of his sketches one of mickey and his gang and one of the Little Mermaid. Both signed by harry and addressed to my youngest, Teri.
    What a sad loss even at such a senior age.
    God Bless you, and look after you!
    Alec Rollo. Kent. England. UK.

  16. Laura

    I just saw that Harry Holt passed away in 2004. I remember my mother and I meeting him in Disney World and I got to choose a scene for him to draw. My favorite ever is “Lady & the Tramp”. The movie came out the same year I was born. I still have the sketch. My mother passed away in 2006 so the memory of that meeting that day is extra special.

  17. Ed

    In the old days (1980’s), I lugged my 2 piece, 20 pound camcording outfit into Disney World and videotaped Mr. Holt, from start to finish, drawing Minnie Mouse for my daughter. I could appreciate his talent then, and we all treasure his memory now. When admirers ask me about the framed personalized drawing in our animation collection, I put on the video, now on DVD, and tell them to watch true talent at work.

  18. Corry Kingsbury

    Strange. Sitting at work today. Harry Holt came to my mind. Looked him up on google and saw that today was the anniversary of his death. To Twilight Zone.
    His son, Craig Holt and I were boyfriend and girlfriend from 1960 to 1965. I had the wonderful pleasure in knowing Harry all that time. Going over for dinner a lot of the time. Having sleepovers at his home. It was OK in those days since the parents were home. I heard from Craig in 2004 through an email that Harry passed away.
    I feel very fortunate that I got to know him and almost had him for a father-in-law.

  19. Joanne deMarrais

    Just was looking up some quimper that i bought at Disney. Harry and his wife Barbara were friends since we moved back to Orlando in the 80’s. Barb and I were friends even longer, before she married HArry. I treassure the picture Harry drew for us. His wife Barb, was also a very talented artist and I have saved all her Christmas cards that she drew.

  20. Alan Smith

    It is a pleasure to read so many wonderful tribute to Harry Holt. I have a great memory I’d like to share. My wife and I were in Orlando at a business function and I had the morning free as I waiting for my wife to be available. Two mornings I went early to the Disney Story building to sit in a quiet area and read. For two days Mr. Holt would come by and sit next to me and talk, not one time letting me know who he was and how successful he was. He was kind, interested in my story, and could just sit and enjoy the time without much conversation – like sitting with family. On the last day, I told him how much I enjoyed sitting and watching the Disney story over and over and how enspired I was with Disney & Co. At that moment he asked me if he could draw a picture for my son (9 months old at the time back in Texas with his grandparents for the week) – to my amazement I saw Pinocchio come to life on paper and he signed it to my son. I was fortunate enough to take his picture as he was drawing it – that picture and the drawing are in the same frame and is one of our most important art collection.
    He was a wonderful man – may God bless his soul and his family.

  21. Raechal Dempsey

    I inherited an entire box of original Harry Holt drawings, some disney and some Goebel? amerikids? I also have personal photos and letters that came from him. I have his name plaque. If anyone is interested in contacting me feel free to email me at raechalbamdead2@yahoo.com or call me at 321-536-5147 All sketches are signed and dated and 100%$ original!

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