Tyrus Wong, 1910-2016: From Inbetweener to Disney Legend


At the age of nine, in 1920, Tyrus Wong left Guangdong Province in China, boarding a ship bound for San Francisco with his father. To get around restrictive American immigration policies, the pair used fake identities to gain entrance to the US. Wong later attended art school and as an adult joined Disney as an inbetweener, drawing fill-in artwork between main animation frames. Then, when the studio was creating Bambi, Wong’s landscape paintings, influenced by the style of the Song Dynasty, became the driving force for the film’s breakthrough look. Though not given much credit at the time for his contributions, in 2001 he was officially named a Disney Legend. Wong died last Saturday, at the age of 106.

Below are four short videos, piecing together aspects of Wong’s life. The first is a trailer for the 2015 documentary Tyrus. The second tells about Wong’s ordeal at the Angel Island Immigration Station in San Francisco Bay. The third details his work on Bambi. And the last shares the story behind his art.

[photo: “Tyrus Wong,” by KCET Departures, used under a Creative Commons license]


Miniscule: An Animated Series with a Lot of Buzz

457539675_d5c2d43dc9_mIt’s been over two years since we moved back to the US, and we’ve finally relieved our friends/forwarding agents of the things that we’ve had stored in their basement. Inside the boxes and Rubbermaid containers were several items that I’d forgotten about. But there were others that I knew we had—I just couldn’t figure out where they were.

One of those that I’d been looking for was a DVD set that I’d bought in Taiwan and left in Missouri during one of our times in the States. It’s the first season of the French series, Miniscule: The Private Life of Insects.

So why would an English-speaking American in Taiwan buy DVDs of a program from France?

First of all, while Miniscule is produced by the French company Futurikon, it’s not in the French language. Actually, it’s not in any language at all . . . unless you count bug sounds. And second, with—according to Encyclopedia Smithsonian—around 10 quintillion (10,000,000,000,000,000,000) insects on the planet at any given time, the program’s storylines have near universal appeal.

Combining computer animation and live footage, the award-winning series has been aired around the globe, counting young—like my son—and old—like me—among its fans. According to the Futurikon Website, the production company has sold Miniscule for broadcast in over 80 countries, including a deal with the Disney Channel in the US.

To watch Miniscule at your leisure, you can buy a 6-disc set of DVDs at HIDVDS.com.

Or . . . you can fly to Spain this week for the San Sebastián Film Festival, where Futurikon’s first feature-length, 3-D film, Miniscule: Valley of the Lost Ants, will have its world premiere (September 20 and 21).

Or . . . you can just take a look at these clips below:


“libellules” (“dragonflies”)

Teaser for Miniscule: Valley of the Lost Ants

(“Number of Insects [Species and Individuals],” Encyclopedia Smithsonian)

[photo: “Ladybird, About to Leave a Dandelion,” by nutmeg66, used under a Creative Commons license]