How Did Burny Mattinson, Disney’s Longest Serving Employee Die at 87?

Burny Mattinson, the longest-tenured “cast member” in The Walt Disney Co.’s history, passed away after a career spanning 70 years in which he worked as an animator, director, producer, and narrative artist. He was 87.

Burny Mattinson’s Cause of Death

The studio reported that Mattinson passed away on Monday at an assisted living community in Canoga Park, Los Angeles, following a brief illness. On June 4, he was scheduled to receive the studio’s first-ever 70th-anniversary service award.

The family and friends of Matthew have not released any public statements on his passing or the burial service. But, his family members are anticipated to make all of this information public very soon.

At the time of his passing, Mattinson was a story consultant and mentor full-time at Walt Disney Animation Studios.

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Disney Shares the News of Burny Mattinson’s Death

burny mattinson cause of death

In a statement, Jennifer Lee, a chief creative officer of Walt Disney Animation Studios, stated that Burny’s talent, kindness, and love of Disney Animation and the generations of storytellers who have passed through our doors over the past seven decades have improved all of us. Every one of us who had the privilege of getting to know him and learning from him will work to keep his legacy alive.

On their official Twitter account, @WaltDisneyCo, “The Walt Disney Corporation” posted a message announcing the tragic news of Disney great Burny Mattinson’s passing. We regret to inform you of the demise of Burny Mattinson, the longest-tenured cast member in The Walt Disney Company’s history. He was an animator, director, producer, narrative artist, and Disney Legend.

We send our sincere condolences to Burny Mattinson’s family, friends, and all his loved ones. His passing leaves a significant hole in the Disney community as a whole, but his wonderful legacy will carry on forever. We ask God to give everyone he is aware of the courage they need to get through this trying time.

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Burny Mattinson’s Storied Career as a Disney Animator

burny mattinson cause of death

Among Mattinson’s accomplishments were his position as producer and co-director on the film The Great Mouse Detective, as well as his solo directorial credit on the featurette Mickey’s Christmas Carol (1983), which brought Mickey Mouse back to the big screen for the first time in 30 years (1986).

He also contributed as an artist to such classics as Big Hero 6 (2014), Strange World (2022), The Sword in the Stone (1963), The Jungle Book (1967), The Rescuers (1977), Lady and the Tramp (1955), One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961), The Sword in the Stone (1963), Pocahontas (1995), The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996), Tarzan (1997), and Mulan (1998). He was also a key member of the story

Burnett Mattinson was born in San Francisco on May 13, 1935, the first of his two children. Before he was six, he saw Disney’s Pinocchio, and ever since, “working in this profession was my goal,” he recounted. So I drew and worked every day.

In 1945, his father, who played drums in Horace Heidt’s Big Band, relocated the family to Los Angeles. He started creating cartoons in the Disney style around the age of 12.

His mother dropped him off at the Disney studio gate in Burbank after high school. When the guard saw Mattinson’s portfolio and decided to let him in, he landed an interview and a position in the mailroom. Without any professional art background, he began working as an in-betweener on Lady and the Tramp six months later.

burny mattinson cause of death

For Sleeping Beauty, he was elevated to the position of assistant animator under Marc Davis, and he remained in that position for One Hundred and One Dalmatians. When that movie was finished, he had a 12-year relationship with animator Eric Larson, working on films including The Sword in the Stone, Mary Poppins (1964), The Jungle Book, and The Aristocats (1970).

After finishing an eight-week internal training course, Mattinson worked with animator Ollie Johnston as an animator on Robin Hood (1973) and a key animator on Winnie the Pooh and Tigger, Too (1974).

After seeing Mattinson’s thumbnail sketches, animator Frank Thomas requested him to assist with The Rescuers storyboards. As near to direction as you can get, according to Mattinson, are storyboards. “You’re essentially constructing a blueprint for the picture,” the actor said. “You’re instructing cameras where to go, what’s occurring onscreen, where to cut.”

Mattinson wrote to Ron Miller, the head of the studio at the time, asking for a movie concept after listening to a Disneyland Records Christmas CD. He was taken aback when tasked with helming Mickey’s Christmas Carol, which prompted him to contribute to The Great Mouse Detective.

In 2008, Mattinson was recognized as a Disney Legend. On March 5, 2018, he surpassed Disney artist and Imagineer John Hench’s record of 64 years, 8 months, and 29 days to achieve the cast member longevity record.

His wife Ellen, son Brett, Kelly, and their two kids, as well as daughter Genny, Larry, and their two kids are all survivors.

You can donate to the Motion Picture & Television Fund instead of sending flowers.