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Tyrus Wong, Disney Painter and ‘Bambi’ Visionary, Dies at 106

He was named a Disney Legend in 2001.

Adele Pham

2016 isn’t done with us yet. Tyrus Wong, the artist who provided the visual inspiration for “Bambi,” died yesterday. Unlike some of the other celebrities who passed away over the course of the last year (and especially the last week), Wong at least lived a full life: He was 106 at the time of his death. The news was announced on his Facebook page.

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“With heavy hearts, we announce the passing of Tyrus Wong,” reads the post. “Tyrus died peacefully at his home surrounded by his loving daughters Kim, Kay and Tai-Ling. He was 106 years old.” Wong emigrated from China to the Bay Area when he was nine years old, and his concept art for “Bambi” so impressed Disney that they shaped the aesthetic direction of the animated classic around it. He was made a Disney Legend in 2001.

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Wong, who was born on October 25, 1910 in Taishan, Guangdong, China, was let go from the company after fallout from the Disney animators’ strike of 1941; he then went on to design greeting cards for Hallmark (some of which were highly successful) and work as an illustrator for Warner Bros. He came to the United States with his father, and never again saw the mother and sister he left behind in his home country.

Though best known for “Bambi,” Wong also worked on “Rebel Without a Cause,” “The Green Berets” and “The Wild Bunch.” A documentary about his life and work, called simply “Tyrus,” was recently directed by Pam Tom.

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