Frank Armitage, Disney Artist and Illustrator for Fox’s ‘Fantastic Voyage,’ Dies at 91

frank armitage dead obit
Courtesy of Disney

Frank Armitage, an artist and production illustrator who made contributions to Disney classics including “Sleeping Beauty” and “Mary Poppins” — as well as to Fox feature “Fantastic Voyage,” whose visual effects wowed audiences in 1966 — died Monday of age-related causes in Paso Robles, Calif., according to Disney Animation Studios VP of communications Howard Green. He was 91.

He also provided artwork and designs to theme parks around the world.

The native of Melbourne, Australia, moved in 1952 to Los Angeles and found a job at Walt Disney Studios, where he contributed to “Peter Pan” (1953), “Sleeping Beauty” (1959), 1964’s live action-animation hybrid “Mary Poppins” and “The Jungle Book” (1967).

After leaving the company, Armitage worked to apply cinematic techniques to human anatomy. He was thus the perfect person to do the production illustration for “Fantastic Voyage,” the innovative sci-fi film which follows a submarine and its crew that are shrunk to microscopic size so the ship may enter the body of a scientist in order to repair his brain. The film picked up Oscars for visual effects and art direction-set decoration, color.

Armitage returned to Disney in 1977, and his anatomical artwork led to the Wonders of Life Pavilion at Epcot in Orlando, Fla. He also painted concept art for Sleeping Beauty’s Castle at Disneyland Paris, as well as an enormous mural for a restaurant at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Florida and murals for Tokyo DisneySea.

Armitage retired from Disney in 1989.

Born Roblan Frank Armitage in Melbourne, the artist studied at a Melbourne art institute. After winning an international mural contest sponsored by Mexican muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros in 1949, Armitage became his assistant on several projects in Mexico.

In the 1950s, Armitage was involved in the creation of Disneyland, including Storybook Land.

Survivors include his wife of 33 years, retired Imagineer Karen Connolly Armitage; his daughters Nicole Armitage Doolittle, who works at Disney Imagineering, and Michelle Armitage, a scenic artist; son Wes; stepchildren Tracy and Cecil; and sister Margaret.

Donations may be made to the Ryman Arts Foundation, Liga International or the University of Illinois at Chicago BVIS program to support students pursuing masters degrees in biomedical visualization (UIC College of Applied Health Sciences, 800 S. Wood St., CMET 169, Chicago, IL 60612).

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