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Wolfgang "Woolie" Reitherman

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Wolfgang Reitherman (June 26, 1909 – May 22, 1985), also known and sometimes credited as Woolie Reitherman, was a famed Disney animator and one of Disney's Nine Old Men.

Personal life

Born in Munich, Germany, Reitherman's family moved to America when he was a child. After attending Pasadena Junior College and briefly working as a draftsman for Douglas Aircraft, Reitherman returned to school at the Chouinard Art Institute, graduating in 1933.

Reitherman had three sons named Bruce, Robert, and Richard, the first of whom did both speaking and singing voices of Mowgli in The Jungle Book and the first voice of Christopher Robin, and the other two were two of the voice actors of Arthur in The Sword in the Stone (the third of whom being the late Rickie Sorensen).


Reitherman began working for Disney in 1934, along with future Disney legends Ward Kimball and Milt Kahl. The three worked together on a number of classic Disney shorts, including The Band Concert, Music Land, and Elmer Elephant.

All in all, Reitherman worked on various Disney feature films produced from 1940, until his retirement in 1981, from Pinocchio (Monstro the Whale) to The Fox and the Hound (co-producer). He did the climatic dinosaur fight in Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring in Fantasia, the Headless Horseman chase in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow section in The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, the Crocodile in Peter Pan, and Maleficent as a dragon in Sleeping Beauty. Beginning with 1961's One Hundred and One Dalmatians, "Woolie", as he was called by friends, served as Disney's chief animation director. One of Reitherman's productions, the 1969 short Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day, won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. He also served as a producer and sequence director, and starred as himself in a 1941 short entitled The Reluctant Dragon. All three of Reitherman's sons — Bruce, Richard and Robert — provided voices for Disney characters, including Mowgli in The Jungle Book, Christopher Robin in the "Winnie the Pooh" films, and Wart in The Sword in the Stone.

Reitherman directed several Disney animated feature films including, One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961), The Sword in the Stone (1963), The Jungle Book (1967), The Aristocats (1970), Robin Hood (1973) and The Rescuers (1977). He is also known for reusing animation in movies directed by him. According to Floyd Norman, this was just one of his trademarks, and had nothing to do with time or cost savings: "Woolie was our director on The Jungle Book. Reuse was just Woolie’s thing. He never did it to save money. I really don’t think the “Old Guard” ever had any interest in saving money. I was never a big fan of reuse, but it wasn’t my place to tell these old guys what to do. One final thought. It never seemed to bother Walt, and I never heard him complain about reuse."


He was killed in a car accident near his home in Burbank in 1985, at the age of 75. In 1989, he was posthumously named a Disney Legend.

Characters Animated by Reitherman

  • Pinocchio - animation director (Monstro The Whale)
  • Fantasia - animation director (Dinosaur Fight in Igor Stravinsky's Rite of Spring)
  • Dumbo - animation director (Timothy Q. Mouse, Additional Characters)
  • Bambi - uncredited animator (Ronno)
  • Peter Pan - directing animator (Tick-Tock the Crocodile)

Disney Director

Disney Producer

Miscellaneous Crew


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