Happy Birthday to Disney’s Renaissance artist and Legend John Hench, who would’ve been 110 today.
John Hench was Disney’s Renaissance artist. Imagineer, philosopher, animator, designer, storyteller, voracious reader (52 magazines a month!), and teacher, John was always quick to share the lessons he learned from his own mentor—Walt Disney.
He recalled one of those lessons: “Walt always said, ‘You get down to Disneyland at least twice a month and you walk in the front entrance, don’t walk in through the back. Eat with the people. Watch how they react to the work you’ve done down there.’ This made an enormous difference in how we approached our work.” As an employee of The Walt Disney Company for more than 65 years, during which saw the creation of nearly every Disney animated feature and theme park.
Born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Hench attended numerous art and creative schools across the country.
Starting in 1939 as a story artist, he wove his way through the animation department working in areas including backgrounds, layout and art direction, effects animation and special effects. Hench was respected by Walt Disney as one of the studio's most gifted artists and teamed him with Salvador Dalí on the animated short Destino, a project begun in 1945 that was not completed and released until 2003. Hench was also Disney's "official portrait artist" of Mickey Mouse, painting the company's portraits for Mickey's 25th, 50th, 60th, 70th, and 75th birthdays.
Afterward, he moved to WED Enterprises (now Walt Disney Imagineering), to design attractions for the Disneyland theme park. Hench led the design for Tomorrowland, the Adventureland buildings and walkways, New Orleans Square and the Snow White Grotto. He also designed Space Mountain, and Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom and Tokyo Disneyland. He also contributed to attractions such as the Carousel of Progress and It's a Small World.
He designed the Olympic Torch for the 1960 Winter Olympics at Squaw Valley, California, modeled after the torches of the 1948 and 1956 Olympiads.
In 1990, he received the Disney Legend award, presented to him by Michael Eisner. He passed away in 2004 at age 95.