Frank Armitage , renowned Disney layout and background artist on such classic Disney films as “Sleeping Beauty,” “Mary Poppins,” and “The Jungle Book,” and a longtime Disney Imagineer who contributed murals and designs to a wide range of theme parks all over the world, passed away on Monday (1/4/16) at his home in Paso Robles, California, from age-related causes. He was 91 years old.
Marty Sklar, former Walt Disney Imagineering creative executive and Disney Legend, said, “Frank’s artistic skills were excellent — but I loved having him on our Imagineering team because he knew so much about art and life. At one point in his career, he left studio work, took medical courses at UCLA and became just about the best medical illustrator in the country. There’s still a program named for Frank at the University of Illinois at Chicago Medical School. This led him to the design assignment for the classic film, ‘Fantastic Voyage,’ and, of course, he was the standard bearer when we did the health-related ‘Wonders of Life’ for the Epcot Park at Walt Disney World. What great experiences he brought to mentoring our young artists, working as a young man with the great Mexican muralist, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and at Disney with the brilliant Eyvind Earl on ‘Sleeping Beauty.'”
Veteran Disney Imagineer and Disney’s Animal Kingdom creative executive Joe Rohde, added, “Frank was a great artist and a nurturing leader. I learned a lot at his side, but my greatest honor was watching him create the murals at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. I would visit him in his studio just watch how he laid down paint. He was always a gentle and patient teacher.”
Armitage moved to Los Angeles in 1952 and worked at the Walt Disney Studios on backgrounds and layout for such feature films as “Peter Pan,” “Sleeping Beauty” (where he worked with Walt Peregoy under the direction of Eyvind Earle), “Mary Poppins,” and “The Jungle Book.” Like most animation artists at the time, he was also involved in many tasks in the creation of Disneyland, including working with Ken Anderson to create Story Book Land.
In addition to his wife, Karen Connolly Armitage, a retired Imagineer, he is survived by three children from a previous marriage — Nicole Armitage Doolittle (who works at Walt Disney Imagineering), Michelle Armitage (a scenic artist in the entertainment industry), and Wes Armitage, a LA General Contractor.