‘Tyrus’ is Coming to PBS!

After a successful festival run (and 10 awards), the Tyrus Wong documentary TYRUS will have its television premiere on PBS’ American Masters series on Sept 8th.

Official description: Former Disney animator and painter Tyrus Wong died in December 2016 at 106 years old. Obituaries told of a man whose life read like an epic of the 20th century. Wong was born in China in 1910. His family immigrated to the U.S., eventually settling in Los Angeles’ Chinatown. During his late teens, Wong worked his way through art school and eventually found work in Disney’s animation studio. When pre-production on BAMBI bogged down due to problems with the early background artwork, it was Wong’s new landscape sketches — modeled on Song Dynasty-style landscape painting — that took the film in a bold new direction. DIR/SCR/PROD Pamela Tom; PROD Tamara Khalaf, Gwen Wynne. U.S., 2015, color, 77 min. NOT RATED


The glorious work of Tyrus Wong is unparalleled. It was his lush pastels that served as the driving force behind Bambi, where he was the lead artist on the film. Prior to Wong’s contributions, the logistics of managing the detailed nuance of a forest setting (millions of leaves!) was posing a problem, but Wong’s gorgeous, inventive minimalist approach was the perfect solution and provides the film its unique style and warm, textured feel.

2016 just has to drag down everyone it can with it, doesn’t it??

RIP Tyrus Wong

film designer and concept artist for Bambi, Passed away today at 106 years old.
It was his style, his concepts and artwork that I saw in Bambi at 6 years old that lit the spark of my love of animation and production. It’s why I’m here pursuing that dream today. Thank you so much for all your beautiful work.

Tyrus Wong  (October 25, 1910 – December 30, 2016) 

Tyrus Wong was a Chinese-born American artist. He was a painter, muralist, lithographer, designer and kite maker.

The Chinese Exclusion Act, The law prohibited immigration of Chinese laborers from 1882 to 1943 and was the first time an entire ethnic group was banned from coming to the U.S.

Last month Disney legend, Tyrus Wong, passed away at the age of 106. Did you know he was responsible for the breath-taking look of the classic Disney film, but was glossed over for decades? Learn more about his journey as a Chinese immigrant in the arts here. #IAmAnImmigrant #AAPI #ChineseAmericanHistory #AmericanHistory 


Here’s an amazing look at the work of Tyrus Wong in two different phases, the charcoal rendering and the final background painting used in Bambi, for which he is most famously associated. The strength of the composition is already established in the black and white rendering, but the final color version adds all the warmth and natural appeal that the forest setting lent to the film–I want to be there! Also we get a peek at the artist’s studio in his later years which proved to be as productive and prolific as his early years with Disney.

Oct. 25, 2015  -  Happy 105th Birthday, Tyrus Wong!

Like most animation fans, I first heard of Tyrus Wong via his work on Bambi. Legend has it, that’s the first time Walt Disney heard of him, too!

Okay, so the story goes…

Walt was chomping at the bit to make Bambi, only he was having trouble finding the ‘look’ he wanted for the film. He’d tried ultra-realism, but nixed it. He switched to super cartoony, but again, nope. It was beginning to look like the film would get shelved until late one night, while wandering through his studio, Disney happened upon a small stack of unusual watercolors. They were by a fella named ‘Wong,’ and they were…well, different.

What do I mean by ‘different’? Well, for one thing, these watercolors were tiny. Most of them measured no more than 4″ x 5″. And where the rest of the studio’s painters tried to pack as much detail into each picture as possible, Wong’s paintings were sparse, vague — almost suggestions. Wong would later say, “I tried to keep the thing very, very simple and create the atmosphere, the feeling of the forest.”

It worked. Walt was so impressed with what he saw that the very next day he promoted Wong from his job as an in-betweener (kind of like an animation line cook) to concept artist (think: Michelin rated chef)! Not only that, but Wong’s watercolors came to define the look of Bambi‘s backgrounds, providing the film with its sensitive, poetic and often ethereal mood.

After working at Disney, Wong moved on to Warner Bros. There he provided production art for quite a few live-action classics, including Rebel Without A Cause, The Wild Bunch and Sands of Iwo Jima. He also did freelance commercial work, where his gorgeous watercolor and calligraphic art came to adorn everything from greeting cards to high end pottery.

After retiring, Wong began making kites. Not your typical, four-cornered diamond shaped kites, but HUGE, ornamental, multifaceted kites in the shape of dragons, centipedes, flocks of birds and swarms of butterflys.

Upon first discovering Wong’s work fifteen years ago, I wrote him a number of gushing — and probably pretty embarrassing — fan letters. Wong responded to each and every one of them graciously.

I still have the envelope from his first response, where he drew a small, singing bird in pastels, sitting atop my name. (See above.) Another time, I literally teared up when I opened my mailbox to find a Christmas card that Wong had designed decades earlier. It was a winter scene, featuring a mother deer and her young buck. Inside, Wong not only signed it with his English name, but also embossed it with a red stamp bearing the Chinese characters for his name! Needless to say, I treasure both of these items to this day.

All of this rambling is really just my way of honoring a man whose work has meant so much to so many. I hope he knows how truly appreciated his wonderful work is.

Happy 105th birthday, Mr. Wong!

still your gushing fan,

Ju-osh M.