Pop Culture

John David Wilson, animator on 'Lady and the Tramp,' 'Grease,' dies at 93

John David Wilson, an animator who worked on classic feature films such as "Lady and the Tramp" and "Grease," died on June 20 at the age of 93, his wife, Fabian Craig-Wilson, confirmed to Reuters on Wednesday.

The British-born Wilson, who worked for Disney and Hanna-Barbera during his career, honed his cartoon-drawing skills while recovering from severe injuries he sustained while in the London Rifle Brigade in 1941. He accepted his first post-military job at Pinewood Studios, where he worked on films such as "The Thief of Bagdad" and "Great Expectations."

In 1950, Wilson moved to the United States, and eventually went to work at Disney Studios. Over the next few years he worked on hit movies such as "Lady and the Tramp" and "Peter Pan" for Disney. He started his own animation company, Fine Arts Films, in 1955, where he produced "Petroushka," a cartoon adaptation of Igor Stravinsky's ballet. Stravinsky worked alongside Wilson on "Petroushka," which became the first animated film to be accepted at the Venice Film Festival.

Wilson's credits also include "Journey to the Stars," a Cinerama film he created for the NASA Space Pavilion at the 1961 Seattle World's Fair. During the 1960s, Wilson worked on hit animated shows such as UPA's "Mr. Magoo" and Hanna-Barbera's "The Flintstones."

In addition to his animation work, Wilson is also credited with being the creator of the conceptional music video. In the 1970s, Fine Arts Films produced animated shorts that featured that week's most popular music for the "Sonny and Cher Show." These shorts are considered the first-ever music videos. It was also during this decade that Wilson created the opening animated sequence for the hit film "Grease."

In 1995, Wilson retired and returned to England, where he exhibited his watercolor, oil and pastel paintings, some of which were exhibited in London's Royal Academy of Arts.

Wilson, who had suffered from Alzheimer's in his final years, died in Blackpool, England. He is survived by his wife and six children.