Legendary animation artist, Tyrus Wong, who created iconic sketches for the Walt Disney's animated feature 'Bambi', has died at the age of 106. He passed away at his home in Los Angeles, US, surrounded by family members on Friday (30 December).
"Tyrus Wong had a gift for evoking incredible feeling in his art with simple, gestural composition," a statement released by The Walt Disney Family Museum said.
He was one of the most celebrated Chinese-American cartoonists, but is said to have faced racial discrimination and bigotry.
Wong was born in China in 1910 but he immigrated to the US when he was nine years old, with his father – leaving behind his mother and a sister he would never see again, the statement said.
He started painting from an early age and his father nurtured his love of art by having him practice calligraphy. He later attended Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles, which is now known as the Otis College of Art and Design, on a full scholarship.
After his studies, he worked briefly for three years with Disney from 1938 as an "inbetweener", where he drew hundreds of sketches of Mickey Mouse.
When Wong heard that Disney studio was in pre-production on the feature film Bambi - the story of the white-tailed deer - he went home and painted several pictures of a deer in a forest, the company said. The sketches caught the attention of Walt Disney and became the template for the visual style of the animated classic.
"Walt Disney saw that Tyrus was able to produce exquisite artwork that did not necessarily look like the forest - but rather, felt like the forest. Walt's vision for Bambi and use of Tyrus' work still influences films today," BBC quoted the museum as saying.
Wong's works are thought to have influenced and inspired several films and contemporary animators. "His influence on the artistic composition of the animated feature Bambi cannot be overstated," the statement said.
He joined the rival Warner Brothers in 1941, even before the release of Bambi in 1942. He worked for 26 years as a concept and story artist at Warner Brothers. He retired in 1968. Wong was also reported to have designed greeting cards for Hallmark.
Though he officially retired from the film studio, he still continued creating artistic works and took up designing and building hand-made bamboo kites. He received several awards for his works.
Wong's life and legacy was featured in a documentary film titled 'Tyrus'.
"With his passing, we have lost a brilliant artist, motion picture and animation legend, Chinese American pioneer, and hero. Tyrus always faced adversity with dignity, courage, and art... he awed us with his talent, charmed us with his boyish humour, and moved us with his humility, generosity, resilience, and big heart," the documentary's director said on Wong's death.