Michael Webster, cartoon animator and executive who established the Walt Disney Co.’s TV animation division in 1984, died of pneumonia Jan. 15 at his home in Port Townsend, Wash. He was 60. He was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in the late 1980s.
Webster, whose career in animation spanned 42 years, served as senior vice president of the division he founded, Walt Disney Television Animation, until his retirement in 1992. While there, he oversaw production of the Emmy-winning “New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh” and a host of other shows, including “Ducktales,” “Disney’s Adventures of the Gummi Bears,” “Disney’s Wuzzles,” “Goof Troop,” “Darkwing Duck,” “Chip ‘n’ Dale’s Rescue Rangers” and cartoon series based on the Disney features “The Little Mermaid” and “Aladdin.”
Born and reared in Los Angeles to vaudevillian-screenwriter Marriott Coates Webster (whose credits include films for such Republic Pictures stars as Roy Rogers), Webster developed an interest in animation following a visit to Disney Studios as a 10-year-old. In 1957, 18-year-old Webster got his start in the industry at Quartet Films, where he worked his way up from cleanup man to assistant animator with animator Art Babbitt as his mentor. He subsequently moved to Hanna Barbera, where he did animation work on such programs as “The Flintstones.”
Webster also worked on a series of cartoon ads for Murakami Wolf Films featuring such well-known commercial characters as Kelloggs’ Tony the Tiger, Sunkist’s Charlie the Tuna and the Jolly Green Giant.
Before moving to Disney in 1984, Webster spent seven years producing commercials for Leo Burnett Advertising. He also started Image West, one of the first commercial production houses to offer computer graphics.
Webster is survived by his wife of 20 years, Lynne, as well as four children and two grandsons.