From the moment he saw the Technicolored splendors of Disney’s first animated feature, Willie Ito knew what he wanted to do by way of a career.
I saw those dwarfs marching across that log bridge, and I was hooked. I knew I wanted cartooning to be my life’s work.
Willie Ito grew up in San Francisco (with a two-and-a-half year residency at a World War II internment camp), but when he finished high school Mr. Ito headed for Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles to pursue his passion for drawing. However, his art education was cut short when he found himself hired by Walt Disney Productions to work on Lady and the Tramp.
From that day on, full-time college attendance was a thing of Willie’s past. Following his Disney stint, Willie found himself working for every major animation studio in town.
A six-year run at Warner Bros. Animation (where he labored at the old “Termite Terrace” for the last twelve months of its life) was followed by a turn at Snow Ball Productions and and then fourteen years in design and layout at Hanna-Barbera. Finally wearying of the animation grind, he veered into character merchandising work with the Disney Co. in the late 1970s. And there he spent twenty-three years designing toys and collectibles, with only one trip back into animation as a key player of the small artistic team that launched Disney Television Animation.