Joe Grant has passed away

Right now I am shattered. I just received an email stating that animation legend Joe Grant passed away today. I had talked to him last week about meeting for an interview. We said it would maybe happen this week. Things came up and we didn’t get together. I sent an email last night saying we should definitely do it next Wednesday.

Joe was going to be my second guest. I feel like I’ve completely let him down. I saw this as the one opportunity for people to hear him tell his story from being hired by Walt Disney to work on shorts and then Snow White all the way up to conceiving the idea for last year’s Oscar nominated short Lorenzo. What an amazing man and an amazing career.

This isn’t about me at all. I’m not sad for this measly show. I’m sad for Joe, because he deserved to have people know how GREAT he was. The man wrote Dumbo. All I can say is I’ve been slapped in the face by the reason I started this thing. I let the opportunity slip through my fingers because things got ‘busy.’

Maybe this can be a lesson to us all. I have to admit that I’ve worked in the same building as Joe for over ten years and never once did I knock on his door because I thought I would be bothering him. What a fool I was. In creating this podcast, my secret intention was to have an excuse to bug all the people I admire and ask them all the geeky questions I’ve always wanted answered. I’m sorry I couldn’t share having that experience with Joe, and in turn with you.

If Andreas showed us anything, even the most talented artists are regular people who have a story they’d like to share. Don’t get burned like me. Go out and knock on those doors and get your answers. I’m just glad I finally met Joe last week.

God bless Joe Grant. I’m sorry.

EDIT: Over at Seward Street, Jim has posted a nice addition about Joe, written by Tom Sito.

Thanks to PJ for the link to this article about Joe at The Laughing Place.

13 Comments on “Joe Grant has passed away

  1. Oh man, what a shock…I don’t know what to say…I was really looking forward to hearing your interview with him. I felt like you would’ve really gotten something out of him that nobody could’ve. I can tell how shocked you must be.

  2. I can’t believe Joe Grant has passed away!! The man was a creative genius, his work was amazing and so inspirational. It’s sad that one by one this world is losing all the great Disney artists!! They’ve taught us so much over the years and for me, they will all be an inspiration to achieve great things in the field of animation. This really is a sad day, rest in peace Joe Grant!

  3. This is devastating. Joe was a beautiful man and a rare gift to this world. You made him smile when you asked him to do the interview. I’m proud of you for that, Clay.

  4. I’m just so grateful that he lived this long-and was still able to do what he loved…and of course, for that entire body of work, which is really unparalleled.
    I never sought him out either, stupidly. Talk about taking someone for granted(good god–is that a pun? unintentional)…I saw him for the only time at the mass for Maurice Noble, where I think he was accompanied by Eric…with his passing, it truly is the end of an era. Rest well, maestro.

  5. I was lucky enough to get to know Joe Grant while working at Disney in the early 1990’s. We socialized quite a bit over the years in and out of the studio. He was a real inspiration, always working, always looking forward. He was proud of his achievments but never rested on his laurels, and was always up to date on books, movies and culture in general. This is very sad news. I will really miss Joe.

  6. I got the news about Joe via the union e-mail that went out. My heart sank. I actually got a chance to meet and talk with Joe a couple times. He even did a drawing for me of the wicked witch – he wrote “Best Witchs to Drew,” it had such a charm particular to Joe. Needless to say I will cherish that drawing forever. I remember one time we were both waiting for one of the three elevators on the 1st floor of the feature buliding. He said, “I got five bucks on this door, which one do you want.” It was that character and humor that we will all miss.

  7. I worked on Lorenzo, and here’s really my only Joe Grant story:

    Was when it was all done and the whole crew was seeing the completed film Lorenzo for the first time, Joe sat in the back row, and kept an empty seat next to him. He called Mike Gabriel over, shook his hand and indicated the empty seat. “This seat’s for Walt,” he said.

    It was quite an experience, that to me epitomized Joe’s connection to our past here. Nobody else could say that. He was truely our one degree of seperation from Walt, and right from the beginning of the history of Feature Animation.

  8. Clay,
    I don’t know if you’ll read this one. It’s late in the game, but it was only last week that I thought I should figure out this whole podcast phenomenon. Your site is one of the first I discovered (in Itunes-no less!) That’s one thing about animation I suppose, we all secretly share a passion for this artform and are all too eager learn about it. Who else would labor for (sometimes) hours for just a fraction of a second. Anyhow, I was scanning through this website and came accross you animation tips. After reading this entry about Joe Grant’s passing I thought it was an “AHH” moment. You touched a nerve with your sentiment. I too worked in that building and regret never having the balls to approach him even though he was expecially fascinating-in his 90’s and still working! It’s amazing that we and others would allow that opportunity to slip. But, I think your are wise to look at the greater picture and take whatever good you can from the situation. You’re doing a great job, and it’s appreciated.

  9. Dan,
    Thanks for your comment. I appreciate the feedback. Of course I get all the comments because 1) I get email notifications, and 2) I subscribe to the comments feed listed at the bottom of every page – which anyone can do. And yes, even though the lack of new shows lately makes it seem otherwise, I have learned from the Joe Grant lesson and I’m working to collect more audio. Promise, more to come soon. I don’t want to out you if you don’t want, but would I know you from work? I’m glad you found the site. Somehow I don’t look at this as something I make, it’s more like something I get to share.

  10. Clay,

    I think you may know me as Nancy’s husband. I don’t think you and I have ever really met. I see you occasionally, usually at animation related events. Every now and then I have to step back and analyze my thoughts about animation. I remember tripping when I realized I was spending so much time on a fraction of a second. I thought it was like slowing my heart rate down, and prolonging my life. Also, I loved how I could listen to talk radio all day, draw and get paid for it! For me the audio conjoured an image of the dialog-so I really felt like I was watching TV all day, drawing, and getting paid. (no-I wasn’t smoking anything). Maybe there’s something to these theories based on Joe Grant’s longevity. Sometimes I cringe when I read over outlined principles for animation. It’s often said that animation is only limited to your imagination, and that we haven’t really advanced the artform much since those UPA days. I guess that’s why I’m weary of rules. On the other hand, when you hit that creativity wall it’s always nice to have a map. To listen to Andreas, then Nick back to back was great. Their outlooks are polarized in some ways. Ultimately, I believe it’s about capturing an essence like Ollie relayed to Andreas, which both of those guys have attained. By the way, my nominee for an interview is Pomeroy. When I started at Disney I only really knew of the famous 9, and a handfull of our contemporaries. I was working on Milo and discovered his talent. I loved to study his roughs and try to figure out how he approached a scene. He was always nice, but was difficult to get to know. I’m sure he’d have plenty to share if you could coax it out of him. One last thing, I heard some of the audio commentaries and I don’t think you should tailor your content to the uninformed. Let them hunt down some information. I asked Glen Keane for a quote once at a book signing and he wrote: “if it comes too easily, you’re doing something wrong”.

  11. I knew Joe when I was very young, as Fantasia was an inspiring and seminal film experience for me, as was Snow White and Dumbo and Pinocchio. But it was Fantasia that really stayed with me, music and color, music and stories, storytelling… with music!

    Now, 55 years later, I buy a CD to show my sons, and I watch it all the way to the end, and suddenly Chicken Little comes to an abrupt reminder that Joe Grant, to whom Chicken Little is dedicated, may have gone ahead, but his work, his spirit and his creative genius will be recognized and emulated for decades!

    From a caricaturist, portraiture artist, animator and storyteller in my own right, I bow deeply to the memory of Joe Grant.