Tyrus Wong, Pioneer ‘Bambi’ Artist, Dies at 106

Tyrus Wong, whose paintings served as visual inspiration for Disney’s animated classic “Bambi,” died Friday, Dec. 30. He was 106.

Wong’s death was announced on his Facebook page.

“With heavy hearts, we announce the passing of Tyrus Wong,” the post read. “Tyrus died peacefully at his home surrounded by his loving daughters Kim, Kay and Tai-Ling. He was 106 years old.”

Wong was born in China before immigrating to the Bay Area at age 9. From there he went to art school on a scholarship followed by accepting a low-level animation job in 1938. After hearing about Walt Disney’s “Bambi” project he put together some paintings of deer in a forest, which impressed Disney enough to use them as inspiration for the film. The animated classic isn’t all Wong is known for though, he’s also worked on film’s like “Rebel Without a Cause, “The Green Berets,” and “The Wild Bunch.”

In 2001, Wong was named a Disney Legend, and in 2013 he had his artwork featured in the Walt Disney Family Museum. In October of this year Wong received two honors at the Asian World Film Festival. He was awarded with a lifetime achievement award on the opening day with the following day (his 106th birthday) being the screening of the documentary about him titled “Tyrus” directed by Pam Tom.

Nelson Coates, the president of the Art Directors Guild commented, “On behalf of the Art Directors Guild, I am very saddened to share news of the loss of our highly talented friend, Tyrus Wong. His work and life inspired so many of us with his passion, originality, and creativity. Deepest condolences are extended to his family and many friends at this time.”

According to the statement, the Art Directors Guild will present a tribute to Mr. Wong at its awards ceremony on Feb 11.

Wong is survived by his daughters Kim, Kay and Tai-Ling.

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