Bill Justice (1914-2011)
The life of animator Bill Justice was bracketed by February days. He was born in Dayton, Ohio, on Feb. 9, 1914, but graduated high school in Indianapolis in 1931. After high school, Justice attended the Herron School of Art in Indianapolis, but he apparently did not complete his degree. Walt Disney may have had something to do with that. In the mid-1930s, Disney was in the middle of something that had never been done before: he was making a feature-length animated cartoon. Justice heeded the call of the Disney studios and--like scores of other cartoonists--headed west to work on Snow White, which premiered at the end of 1937 and was released nationwide on Feb. 4, 1938, during the week of Bill Justice's twenty-fourth birthday.
That was the beginning of Justice's decades-long association with the Disney studios. Over the years, he worked as an animator and director on some of the studio's favorite features and shorts: Fantasia, Bambi, Saludos Amigos, The Three Caballeros, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Mary Poppins, and Make Mine Music. As an "Imagineer," he was also instrumental in the development of Disneyland and Walt Disney World. His memoir, Justice for Disney (1992), seems to have a double meaning in its title, but if you want to read what the author has to say, be prepared to pay: the book is very hard to come by.
Bill Justice died on Feb. 11, 2011, two days after his ninety-seventh birthday.
Text copyright 2011 by Terence E. Hanley