Burny Mattinson, Animator, Director, and Disney’s Longest-Serving Employee, Dies At 87

Burny Mattinson, a legendary Disney animator who worked for more than 70 years, died at the age of 87. Mattinson began his career in uncredited roles during Disney’s Silver Age of animation, working as an inbetweener on Lady and the Tramp six months after graduating from high school. Mattinson went on to work on some of the most popular animated Disney films of all time, including Aladdin, The Beauty and the Beast, Mulan, and many more.

Mattinson died on February 27 at Canyon Oaks Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Canoga Park, California, according to a news release from The Walt Disney Company. Mattinson was 87 years old when he died after a brief illness. Mattinson was slated to receive Disney’s first-ever 70th anniversary service award on June 4 as the company’s longest-serving animator. Jennifer Lee, chief creative officer of Walt Disney Animation Studios, said below:

“Burny’s artistry, generosity, and love of Disney Animation and the generations of storytellers that have come through our doors, for seven decades, has made us better—better artists, better technologists, and better collaborators. All of us who have had the honor to know him and learn from him will ensure his legacy carries on.”

Mattinson was still working as a narrative consultant and mentor for Walt Disney Animation Studios at the time of his death. Mattinson’s final film was 2022’s Weird World, on which he worked as a narrative artist. While his most recent projects include Tinker Bell, Big Hero 6, and Ralph Breaks the Internet, Mattinson is most recognized for his work on the Disney Renaissance narrative team. Mattinson worked on renowned films such as Aladdin, The Lion King, Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Mulan, and Tarzan as a narrative illustrator.

Mattinson remembered falling in love with Disney animation after seeing Pinocchio in cinemas in 1940, and after graduating from high school, taking his portfolio to Disney in the hopes of landing a job. While his portfolio pleased the Disney security guard, no vacancies were available, so Mattinson accepted a position in Disney’s traffic department. He was trained by other Disney employees from there, and he ascended through the ranks to become the well-known animator, narrative artist, and director he is today.

Mattinson not only worked on some of Disney’s most popular films of all time, but he is also the first Disney employee to have a seven-decade career with the corporation. Mattison was recognized a Disney Legend in 2008, and in 2018, he broke the previous employee longevity record of 64 years. Burny Mattinson will be remembered not just as an extraordinarily skilled animator and artist, but also as an integral element of the Walt Disney Company’s historic success.