Bill Matthews


Art training (Illustration) at Art Center College of Design - Los Angeles
University of Southern California - Pasadena City College

Began career in Animation as an Inbetweener at the Walt Disney Studios in 1956, working on "Sleeping Beauty", the original Mickey Mouse Club, the Disneyland TV Series, and numerous theatrical shorts; left the Studio in 1959 as an Assistant Effects Animator.

During this period, Bill also began freelancing as an illustrator and graphic designer, establishing and maintaining several art accounts, which he serviced periodically over the years.

In 1959 Bill joined the motion picture unit at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena as a one-man animation department, at the beginning of the U.S. Space Program; the Lab, charged with the unmanned exploration of the Moon and Planets by President Kennedy, produced numerous films for NASA, the scientific and engineering community, and for television news broadcasts, all requiring specialized animation and illustrative art handled by Bill for that entire decade.

As the Space Program priorities changed, an opportunity was opened up in 1969, through an invitation from a new community college near Toronto, Ontario, Canada - Sheridan College - to join the creative faculty of their Visual Arts Department, and set up a professional-level Animation Training Program to help build the Canadian animation industry, then in a state of decline.  For the next 10 years, Bill oversaw the growth of the department, its students land good jobs in Canada and the U.S., and, with his teaching colleagues, he helped Sheridan and its animation program gain international recognition.  He chaired the department for two of those years, and developed several workable curricula still in use, though modified to meet the current challenges in the medium.

In 1979 Bill returned to Southern California, and for a brief period re-entered the Hollywood industry as an animator at Hanna-Barbera and Filmation, but became disenchanted and sought other avenues of creativity.  He joined ITT Gilfillan in Van Nuys, California in the capacity of a multi-image slide producer, graphic designer, script writer for technical films, and animator.  In the meantime continuing with freelance art accounts, and when possible, mentoring young artists.

During this period he taught an evening course in Animation Graphics at California State University, Northridge, as an elective arts course under the Art 2-D Department.  This continued for about eight years and, despite the popularity generated by the course, had to be halted upon embarking upon the final challenging role that now surfaced.

In 1987 the Walt Disney Studios Feature Animation Department contacted Bill and invited him to return in the capacity of a recruiter of artistic talent, and to set up a department to train new talent to meet the heavy production schedules being planned (as well as a new animation studio being built in Florida), and to provide anything to assist the full-time veteran staff artists in keeping their skills honed.

Beginning with very few guidelines, and out of a small office with only himself to inspire the crew then working on "Oliver & Company", Bill set in place a number of training programs, guest lecturer engagements, reference resources, and morale-building activities which were designed and aimed at supporting the production teams in their work.  As the demand for Disney features grew, and the production needs expanded continuously, so too did the demand for the services provided by Bill and his staff of the Artist Development Department.  New sources for recruiting talent, including schools across the country, were found.  Specialized basic training programs saw many of the Studio's current staff of artists brought up-to-speed and ready for production.  Bill helped to streamline accessibility of submission of portfolios, and chaired the Artistic Review Board, the body of top management and department heads who determine the talent potential for Disney's needs.
Upon retirement in 1997, following the re-growth of the feature animation industry in Hollywood, Bill was asked to continue under contract to Walt Disney Feature Animation as a consultant, which has enabled him to continue to contribute to the medium he has loved and been associated with for over 40 years, and with the company that gave him entry to that industry in the beginning of his career.

In retirement Bill continues to offer mentorships to young students eager to "learn about animation and careers", and also at the college level; this mentoring includes long-distance coaching via the computer internet.  In the Fall of 2000, at Woodbury University in Burbank, California, Bill returned to the classroom, introducing freshman animation majors to the Basic Principles of Animation, and is thoroughly enjoying it.  And, in addition, continues to accept invitations to lecture, visit schools, and consult on training for this Magical Medium locally and around the world.  He has also served on the Advisory Boards of various schools.

Bill was awarded the Motion Picture Screen Cartoonists “Golden Award” in 2005 for “50 Years of Service to the Craft”.

back to advisory board