B. January 25, 1912, Danville, Illinois, USA
D. February 15, 1973. USA
John Sibley was known to be able to animate life into his animations by adding a caricature quality to them that was truly believable and ironically more real than if the action was performed in reality.
John Sibley for many years was best known for his animating of Goofy at Disney. For this, he was nicknamed the “Goof Master.” He animated Goofy in more than 40 shorts. He brought out Goofy’s personality and life in every action. Many believe that Sibley was not as recognized for his work as he deserved.
John Sibley was born on January 12, 1912 in Danville, Illinois. At an early age he became interested in art and began animating as early as high school. He moved where his school and work took him; to Washington and Chicago, and then to Los Angeles, California. Soon after, has girlfriend Jane Crockett also moved to California and they got married.
John Sibley at an early age became very engrossed in art and had a particular interest in animation. He would animate on notepads or stacks of paper. He gained his education at Corcoran School of Art located in Washington, and he also trained at the Chicago Institute of Arts.
He then came upon an advertisement from Disney Animation Studios asking for artists. He moved to Los Angeles, California where he was interviewed and started working as an inbetweener at Disney.
John Sibley started his animation career as an inbetweener towards the end of the production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. He continued working for three years as an assistant animator and then for the first time got his screen credit as an animator on the How to Ride a Horse segment in the Reluctant Dragon.
He moved on to animating many Goofy shorts through the 1940’s and 50’s. He then animated the Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad. He did many of the best scenes such as Ichabod introducing himself to Katrina and the animation on the Headless Horseman. He put life into Ichabod and made him a character that the audience quickly fell in love with.
He continued his animation on projects like Lady and the Tramp where he animated the Siamese cats, Sleeping Beauty, and Horace and Jasper in 101 Dalmations.
Sadly, for reasons unknown, the quality of Sibley’s work began a decline. He came to work less, and the caricature life in his animations were evidently absent in his later work. He was laid off in 1965. His last credit was Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree.
He stopped doing magazine gags which he was very successful in, and stayed in low profile until his death of a stroke on February 15, 1973.
Comments on Style
John Sibley brought life in his animation through caricatured movement to express emotion and feeling. His work was cartoony and not physically realistic in any way but was completely believable because of the emotion he was able to represent in action and movement.
He animated straight-ahead, and was particularly focused on detail and draftsmanship. In his animation was life and energy.
His influences were the other top talents at the studio including Marc Davis, Wolfgang Reitherman, and Fred Moore.
The Reluctant Dragon (1941)
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1949)
Goofy Gymnastics (short) (1949)
Lady and the Tramp (1955)
One Hundred and One Dalmations (1961)
The Sword and the Stone (1963)
Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree (1966)
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