X Atencio, the legendary animator and imagineer behind classic Disney films such as “Pinocchio” and “Fantasia,” died on Sunday. He was 98.
“X was an enormous talent who helped define so many of our best experiences around the world,” Bob Weis, president of Walt Disney Imagineering, said in a statement. “His brilliant work continues to inspire Imagineers and bring joy to millions of guests every year.”
Atencio retired from Disney in 1984, but continued working as a consultant to Walt Disney Imagineering for many years, and was inducted as a Disney Legend in 1996.
Born Francis Xavier Atencio in Walsenburg, Colorado, in 1919, he worked as a Disney artist from 1938 until 1965, when he became an Imagineer and helped design the Disneyland Railroad’s Primeval World diorama segment.
Atencio became a favorite of company founder Walt Disney and went on to work on some of the theme parks’ most beloved attractions such as “Haunted Mansion,” “Adventure Thru Inner Space” and “Pirates of the Caribbean.”
A tribute posted on the Disney site D23.com, recalled: “X first saw his work on screen at the 1940 premiere of ‘Pinocchio,’ and as he watched, he was incredibly moved by seeing the audience’s reaction. That year, he was promoted to assistant animator for ‘Fantasia’ but left temporarily to join the Army Air Corps in the war effort.
“Upon his return in 1945, he picked up where he left off, returning to the studio and working for the next eight years on animated short subjects. His first on-screen credit was for ‘Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom’ in 1953, an Oscar-winning film that took audiences through the history of music.”
Other films Atencio contributed to include: “Noah’s Ark,” “A Symposium on Popular Songs,” “Jack and Old Mac,” the “I’m No Fool” series for the original MickeyMouse Club, and stop-motion sequences for Disney feature films “The Parent Trap,” “Babes in Toyland” and “Mary Poppins.”
At the request of Walt Disney, Atencio transferred to WED Enterprises (later Walt Disney Imagineering) in 1965 to work on the “Primeval World” diorama for Disneyland.
He is survived by his wife, Maureen; his children Tori McCullough, Judianne, and Joe; his stepchildren Brian Sheedy, Kevin Sheedy, and Eileen Haubeil; sons-in-law Mike McCullough and Chris Haubeil; daughters-in-law Kathy Atencio, Trish Sheedy, and Beth Sheedy; and eight grandchildren.