Here’s some fantastic concept art for Disney’s Pinocchio, illustrated by Cy Young - a pretty fascinating man to say the least.
Cyrus Young was born in Hawaii in 1900 to Chinese parents. While Young was still a student he worked as the lead animator for the 1931 short animated film Mendelssohn’s Spring Song. Walt Disney was so impressed with the film that he hired Young, along with Ugo D’Orsi, to be the head of his newly formed special effects department in 1934.
As a Disney animator, Cy Young is credited for working on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Fantasia, Dumbo, Bambi, Make Mine Music, and Blue Bayou. He was technically gifted, incredibly hardworking, and his work was always beautifully crafted. In their book, The Illusion of Life, Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas spoke fondly of Young’s work:
Who could ever forget the lovely white blossom-ballerina in Fantasia floating gracefully to a caressing landing on the surface of the water, only to be reborn and rise up inverted, swirling and spinning as she danced off with her colorful companions? That was Cy Young at his best. Rarely could others create such poetry and sensuality in a mere blossom’s falling into a pond. (seen here)
For the majority of the early 1930’s Young and D’Orsi single handedly ran Disney’s special effects department. Both Young and D’Orsi were notorious for the tempers, almost always taking their frustrations out on each other. They even shared an assistant who’s primary job was to work as a peacekeeper between the two. There’s a pretty funny antidote from The Illusion of Life about the working relationship between D’Orsi and Young:
One day they were discussing a scene involving a witch’s kettle bubbling over a fire. As drawn on the layout it was an old pot, rusty and partially covered with soot from years of cooking. Cy felt that light from the flames would be reflected evenly over the whole pot; Ugo claimed that the light would be only on the portions not covered by the soot, since soot has no reflective power. Each man was adamant, and, since there was only one way of proving who was right, a fire was built in an empty film can in the middle of the floor, with the shade from a goose-neck lamp inverted over it as the pot. Soon the flames were dancing merrily.
While everyone else was screaming, “Put the fire out!” the discussion grew into an argument. The whole surface of the lampshade was indeed bathed in glowing light as the flames enveloped it, but there was no soot on it - as yet. People were running about, and excited protests were now coming from far down the hall, still the animators fanned the flames earnestly - their faces right down at the floor - and studied the curved bottom of the shade.
The linoleum had begun to curl on the floor before a brigade of Dixie cups could be organized to douse the flames and send the frustrated effects animators back to their desks - with the point still unproved. Maybe it was inconsequential anyway and hardly worth considering, but that intensity of feeling and the driving desire for knowledge were typical of their approach to assignments.
Cy Young left Disney after the animators strike in 1941. Other sources state that he was fired the day before the strikes occurred. After working for Disney Young worked for the Army as a staff artist and as a clerk for the Air Force.
On January 16, 1964 Cy Young died of an apparent suicide. Almost to the day, a month later on February 12, 1964, Ugo D’Orsi passed away at the age of 66. Young and D'Orsi are probably somewhere in the afterlife still arguing with each other and trying to figure out which parts of the kettle bubbling over a fire are reflective.