Biography: Joe Grant

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Birth/Death

Birth: May 15, 1908 in New York, NY
Death May 6, 2005 in Glendale, CA at his drawing table

Occupation/Title

Animator, Story Artist, Character Designer

Bio Summary

Joe Grant was born in New York City and his family moved to Los Angeles when Joe was still young. His father was a newspaper editor. Grant was hired by the Los Angeles Record to draw cartoons of famous people.

Early Life/Family

Education/Training

Career Outline

Grant started working at Disney in 1933 as an animator on ‘Mickey’s Gala Premiere’ and ‘Who Killed Cock Robin’. He designed the Evil Queen for ‘Snow White’ and eventually became head of the character design department. No design was final until it was given the okay by Grant with a stamp of ‘O.K., J.G.’ . He wrote ‘Dumbo’ with Dick Huemer, did character design for ‘Pinocchio’, was story director on ‘Fantasia’, and selected the music to be used in the film. He also co-wrote the story for ‘Fantasia’s ‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’ and ‘Alice in Wonderland’. Grant and his wife, Jennie, came up with the idea for ‘Lady and the Tramp’ and developed it into production. He also wrote ‘Thru the Mirror’, ‘The Reluctant Dragon’, ‘Der Fuhrer’s Face’, and ‘Saludos Amigos’.

In 1949, he left Disney when the character design department was dissolved. He formed the greeting card company, Castle Ltd, and ran Opechee Designs, a ceramics studio, with Jennie.

He returned to Disney in 1989. He designed Mrs. Potts for ‘Beauty and the Beast’, Abu for ‘Aladdin’, Meeko, Flit, and Grandmother Willow for ‘Pocahontas’, and Cri-Kee for ‘Mulan’. In addition to his contribution to character design, he worked in visual development for the same four films. In 2004, he was nominated for an Academy Award for his short film, ‘Lorenzo’. His talent as a story man showed in films such as ‘Fantasia 2000′ since Grant came up with sequence of the flamingo playing with his yo-yo and set to the finale of ‘Carnival of the Animals’.

Comments On Style

“The drawings I make are not storyboard drawings. They are inspirational drawings. I always like to have an idea in each drawing, so if they look at it they can say that’s a possibility, we can build on that. I think that’s my function, always has been.”

Influences

Vladislav Theodor Benda
Wilhelm Busch
Heinrich Kley

Personality

Grant was described by Eric Goldberg as “…a nonstop flood of creativity and imagination…” He was always putting new ideas on paper and was known to be a charming and witty man. Grant was always excited for new projects and concepts. He was also known for a “B.S. detector”.

Anecdotes

Grant’s Springer Spaniel was the inspiration for Lady of ‘Lady and the Tramp’.

Over seventy of his caricatures are owned by the Smithsonian Museum.

The Evil Queen and her alter-ego were based off a woman who lived across the street from Grant, except her basket was filled with persimmons. Grant hesitated to reveal this information until several decades after the film’s release.

Miscellaneous

Filmography

Filmography

Parade of the Award Nominees (1932) (animator) (uncredited)
Mickey’s Gala Premier (1933) (animator)
Who Killed Cock Robin? (1935) (animator)
Thru the Mirror (1936) (writer)
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) (character designer)
Pinocchio (1940) (character designer)
Fantasia (1940) (story director) (uncredited)
The Reluctant Dragon (1941) (story) (segment “Baby Weems”)
Dumbo (1941) (story)
Der Fuehrer’s Face (1942) (written by)
Saludos Amigos (1942) (story)
Make Mine Music (1946) (production supervisor)
Alice in Wonderland (1951) (writer)
Lady and the Tramp (1955) (concept) (uncredited)
“Popeye” (1 episode, 1960)
Beauty and the Beast (1991) (visual development)
The Lion King (1994) (visual development)
The Lion King (1994) (character designer)
Pocahontas (1995) (visual development)
Pocahontas (1995) (story)
Pocahontas (1995) (character designer)
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996) (visual development)
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996) (character designer)
Hercules (1997) (visual development)
Mulan (1998) (story)
Fantasia/2000 (1999) (creator: original concept)
Lorenzo (2004) (story)

Honors

Annie Award: Winsor McCay Award 1985
Disney Legend – 1992
Ruben Award – 1996
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards – 2001

Related Links

Design: Reluctant Dragon and Pinocchio Model Sheets

Bibliographic References

Joe Grant’s work on ‘Lorenzo’

Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation
John Canemaker, Before the Animation Begins: The Life and Times of Disney inspirational Sketch Artists
Disney Legends – Joe Grant: http://legends.disney.go.com/legends/detail?key=Joe+GrantThe Legacy of Joe Grant: http://www.jakefriedman.net/writings/092005-grant_1.htmlNot Just Your Average Joe: Disney Legend Joe Grant: http://www.awn.com/mag/issue4.08/4.08pages/lyonsgrant.php3
Joe Grant, 96, Artist and Writer for Disney’s Most Beloved Films, Dies: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/05/11/movies/11grant.html

Contributors To This Listing

Kaitlin Sullivan

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