Wolfgang Reitherman

Wolfgang Reitherman
Born (1909-06-26)26 June 1909
Munich, German Empire
Died 22 May 1985(1985-05-22) (aged 75)
Burbank, California, U.S.
Cause of death Road accident
Nationality American
Other names Woolie Reitherman
Wooly Reitherman
Alma mater Pasadena Junior College
Chouinard Art Institute
Occupation Director, animator
Years active 1934–1981
Known for One of Disney's Nine Old Men
Spouse(s) Janie Marie McMillan
(m. 1946; d. 1985)
Children 3, including Bruce Reitherman

Wolfgang Reitherman (26 June 1909 22 May 1985), also known and sometimes credited as Woolie Reitherman, was a German-born American animator who was one of Disney's Nine Old Men.


Reitherman began working for Disney in 1934, along with future Disney legends Ward Kimball and Milt Kahl. The three worked together on a number of classic Disney shorts, including The Band Concert, Music Land, and Elmer Elephant and in all, Reitherman worked on various Disney feature films produced from 1937 to 1981, including Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (Slave in the Magic Mirror) to The Fox and the Hound (co-producer). He did the climactic dinosaur fight in Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring in Fantasia, the Headless Horseman chase in "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" section in The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, the Crocodile in Peter Pan, and Maleficent as a dragon in Sleeping Beauty (the former three he animated and the latter he directed).

Beginning with 1961's One Hundred and One Dalmatians, "Woolie", as he was called by friends, served as Disney's chief animation director. One of Reitherman's productions, the 1968 short Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day, won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. He also served as a producer and sequence director, and starred as himself in the 1941 feature film The Reluctant Dragon. All three of Reitherman's sons Bruce, Richard and Robert provided voices for Disney characters, including Mowgli in The Jungle Book, Christopher Robin in Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree, and Wart in The Sword in the Stone.

Reitherman directed several Disney animated feature films including: One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961), The Sword in the Stone (1963), The Jungle Book (1967), The Aristocats (1970), Robin Hood (1973), The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh (1977), and The Rescuers (1977). During his tenure, he frequently used "recycled" or limited animation from prior works, presumably because it was a safer method for a quality product, though it was in fact more labor intensive,[1] not because it was supposedly cheaper.[2][3] Note this is similar to, but not the same as, rotoscoping.

Personal life and death

Born in Munich, Germany, Reitherman's family moved to America when he was a child. After attending Pasadena Junior College and briefly working as a draftsman for Douglas Aircraft, Reitherman returned to school at the Chouinard Art Institute, graduating in 1933. Reitherman served in World War II for the United States Air Force, earning the Distinguished Flying Cross after serving in Africa, China, India and the South Pacific. Reitherman died in a single-car accident near his Burbank, California home in 1985, aged 75. Reitherman was posthumously named a Disney Legend in 1989.[4][5]


Year Film Director Producer Animator Notes
1937 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs No No Yes as Woolie Reitherman
1940 Pinocchio
1941 The Reluctant Dragon as Himself, as Wooly Reitherman
Package film
Dumbo as Woolie Reitherman
1942 Saludos Amigos as Wooly Reitherman
Package film
1947 Fun and Fancy Free as Woolie Reitherman
Package film
1949 The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad as Wooly Reitherman
Package film
1950 Cinderella
1951 Alice in Wonderland
1953 Peter Pan
1955 Lady and the Tramp
1959 Sleeping Beauty Yes No
1960 Goliath II Short film
1961 101 Dalmatians
1963 The Sword in the Stone
1967 The Jungle Book
1970 The Aristocats Yes
1973 Robin Hood
1977 The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh Package film
The Rescuers
1981 The Fox and the Hound No


    1. MacQuarrie, Jim (2015-06-02). "The Real Truth About Disney's "Recycled Animation"". Medium. Retrieved 2016-10-30.
    2. Visser, Nick (2015-05-15). "Apparently Disney Used To Recycle Animation Scenes, And It's Blowing Our Minds". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2016-10-30.
    3. Coggan, Devan (May 15, 2015). "See Just How Often Disney Recycled Animation". TIME. Retrieved 2016-10-30.
    4. Disney legend Wolfgang Reitherman profile, d23.com; accessed 21 January 2016.
    5. Folkart, Burt (24 May 1985). "Wolfgang Reitherman, 75 : Disney Animator Dies in Car Crash". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2016-10-30.
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