Disney artist-writer Bill Peet dies at 87; worked on 'Dumbo,' '101 Dalmatians'

Tuesday, May 14th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Bill Peet, a Disney illustrator and writer revered for drawing such characters as Dumbo and creating the screenplay for ''101 Dalmatians,'' has died. He was 87.

Peet died Saturday at his home in the San Fernando Valley, said Howard Green, vice president of communications for Disney Studios. He recently had pneumonia and battled cancer and heart problems over the past several years.

Peet was among a group called the ``Nine Old Men,'' who helped develop a series of storyboards that later became some of Disney's first animated films.

``Bill Peet was Walt Disney's greatest story man and considered to be on a par with Walt himself in terms of telling strong stories with vibrant characters,'' said animation historian John Canemaker. ``He profoundly influenced some of the studio's greatest features and created some of its most memorable characters.''

Among the Disney classics featuring Peet's talents are ``Fantasia,'' released in 1940, ``Song of the South'' in 1946, ``Cinderella'' in 1950, ``Alice in Wonderland'' in 1951, and ``Sleeping Beauty'' in 1959.

Peet was chosen to write the screenplay for ''101 Dalmatians'' in 1961. Two years later, he was tabbed again to write and draw the characters for ``The Sword in the Stone.''

After the two animated feature films, Peet left the studio in 1964 because of a thorny relationship with Disney. In his autobiography published in 1989, Peet said he drew the evil Captain Hook in ``Peter Pan'' to resemble Disney.

Peet also asked that his name be taken from the credits of ``The Jungle Book,'' which was in development, because he didn't support changes made after he left the project.

After Peet left Disney, he published children's books, including ``Goliath II,'' ``The Pinkish, Purplish, Bluish Egg'' and ``Chester the Worldly Pig.''

Born and raised in Indiana, Peet started his career as an artist for a greeting card company in Dayton, Ohio. He later responded to an advertisement that read, ``Walt Disney is looking for artists.''

He soon began drawing Donald Duck cartoons and was assigned to work on ``Pinocchio,'' which helped him climb the company ladder.

He received more a dozen book awards for children's literature and earned an Annie Award for contributions to animation.