Marc Fraser Davis was born March 30, 1913 in Bakersfield, California.
His father was a traveling magician and part time jeweler that dragged his wife and son all over the United States. Marc attended 23 different schools before he graduated high school.
Davis turned to drawing, teaching himself how to draw at local zoos and by copying illustrations he found in library books.
He then entered the Kansas City Institute of Arts, realizing his desire to become a professional artist.
The first time Davis attempted to get hired by Walt Disney he submitted his application under the name M. Fraser Davis. His rejection letter stated that the Walt Disney Studio was “not hiring women artists.”
The next time he applied to Disney he used his full first name and became the last of the famous 9 Disney animators when he joined the team December 2, 1935.
Davis’ first major assignment at Disney was to serve as an assistant animator to Grim Natwick on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
Being noticed for his talent, Davis was moved into the Character Model Department after concluding his work on Disney’s first feature film. In his new role, Davis’ understanding of animal form shined with him developing the models for characters such as young Bambi and Thumper.
Walt Disney was especially impressed with his skunk, Flower. Bambi encompassed six years of Davis’ career as he was moved into an animator position. Davis finished the 1940s at the studio animating more animals including Brer Rabbit and Brer Fox in Song of the South for which he was the directing animator.
Davis also began a 17 year teaching position at Chouinard Art Institute, where he met a young female student named Alice Estes who would later become his wife.
With 1950’s Cinderella, Davis began over a decade of designing and animating female characters as he continued in feature films. He was the directing animator for the title character Cinderella. Additionally he animated one of Walt Disney’s favorite animation sequences ever, Cinderella descending the staircase in the mouse-made dress. He also animated the Cinderella transformation scene as the fairy godmother dressed Cinderella for the ball. Cinderella was followed by Davis overseeing the animation of Alice for 1951’s Alice in Wonderland.
For 1952’s Peter Pan Davis was charged with creating and animating Tinker Bell. In Peter Pan, Davis had to draw a fairy that both communicated and emoted purely through motion being a character without a voice. For Sleeping Beauty in 1959, Davis oversaw the development and animation of both Maleficent and Princess Aurora.
And finally Davis contributed the character of Cruella De Vil to 1961’s 101 Dalmatians, a character that he alone animated for the film.
Davis’ animation creations alone were sufficient to label him a Disney legend.
In 1988, Marc Davis was officially designated a “Living Legend” by The Walt Disney Company which is the highest honor that can be bestowed upon a Disney artist. He was also the recipient of the much coveted Mousecar.
“Mousecar” is a combination of the words “Oscar” and “Mouse” (as in Mickey Mouse).
The legacy of Davis’ animation years can be seen throughout Walt Disney World, especially the Magic Kingdom. Be it character development or animation, Davis helped construct the images and personalities of the characters guests love today. At the heart of the Magic Kingdom Park guests find Cinderella’s Castle where one can meet Davis’ creation in flesh and blood at Cinderella’s Royal Table, and Aurora and Snow White may also be found in the dining room as well as through the park. Tinker Bell also can be found throughout the Magic Kingdom from the magic of waking her up at Tinker Bell’s Treasures, flying high in Peter Pan’s Flight or seeing her star in the nightly fireworks streaking across the sky in Wishes.
Davis died January 12, 2000. That same month, the Marc Fraser Davis Scholarship Fund formally was established at the California Institute of the Arts.
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