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Biography: Pete Burness


Pete Burness was born in Los Angeles, California, on June 16, 1904. He died of pancreatic cancer on July 21, 1969.


Animator, Animation Director

Bio Summary

Wilson D. “Pete” Burness was an American animator and director. He’s best known as the writer/producer of Mr. Magoo, animator on looney toons, director on Rocky and Friends, Hoppity Hooper and George of the Jungle.

Early Life/Family

Wife named Juana.


Career Outline

His animation career started in 1931 where he worked for Romer Grey and Ted Eshbaugh on Goofy Goat Antics. Burness was hired at Van Beuren Studios in 1933, where he animated a film adaptation of The Little King. He transferred to the Harman-Ising studio in 1936 and on to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1938.

While at MGM, Burness worked on Tom and Jerry until 1945 then went to work for Warner Brothers from 1948-1949 on a number of Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies shorts. He left Warner Bros. to be a director for UPA on the Mr. Magoo series. Some have given Burness credit for creating Mr. Magoo, but there were already Mr. Magoo shorts in development before Burness came to UPA. 

Burness is credited with softening Mr. Magoo into a more appealing character, better designed for mass audiences.

Two of Burness’ Mr. Magoo shorts; When Magoo Flew (1954) and Mr. Magoo’s Puddle Jumper (1956), won Academy Awards for Best Short Subject. In 1958 he co-wrote and began to direct1001 Arabian Nights, featuring Mr. Magoo but Burness had a dispute with producer Stephen Bosustow and left the project.

Comments On Style

Represents the peak of the 1950s UPA house style.



Burness was famous for having an explosive temper. The lead character in the Pete Hothead shorts were based on Burness:


Martha Sigall remembers working in ink and paint and seeing Pete Burness come through the building.




two Academy Awards

Related Links

Bibliographic References

UPA photos featuring Burness:

On Burness falling asleep during a screening:

Died of pancreatic cancer:

Contributors To This Listing

Doug TenNapel

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