Disney Animator, Storyteller and Legend
Director, writer, producer and narrator James "Jim" Algar loved the action and adventure associated with creating Disney's nature and animal pictures. While directing the True-Life Adventure "The African Lion" in 1955, he lived among the lions of Kenya and while producing the feature "Ten Who Dared" in 1960, he challenged the raging white water rapids of the Colorado River.
Among the many hats he wore, however, the most important was that of storyteller. Jim penned five Academy Award-winning motion pictures for Disney, including "Nature's Half Acre," "The Living Desert" and "The Vanishing Prairie."
As vice chairman of The Walt Disney Company Roy E. Disney once recalled, "Jim was a great storyteller, who made invaluable contributions to our animated classics, theme parks and especially, our nature films. He added tremendously to the Studio's reputation for superior storytelling."
Born June 11, 1912, in Modesto, California, he was a graduate of Modesto High School and is in the school's Hall of Fame. Jim attended Stanford University, where he served as editor of the campus humor magazine, "The Chaparral." He frequently drew cartoons for the magazine and soon developed an interest in animation and in 1934, after receiving his master's degree in journalism, joined The Walt Disney Studios as an animator on "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs."
Walt Disney noted Jim's talents and tapped the artist to direct the Mickey Mouse short, "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," which became the foundation of the 1940 animated classic "Fantasia." Jim then went on to direct sequences in "Bambi," as well as several wartime films produced by the Studio for the U.S. Armed Forces, including "Victory Through Air Power." In 1949, he directed "The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad."
After the war, when Walt decided to produce live-action films about animals and nature, he asked Jim to direct the first True-Life Adventure, "Seal Island," which won an Academy Award for 1948. Other Oscar-winning films he contributed to include "Beaver Valley," "Bear Country," "White Wilderness," "The Alaskan Eskimo" and "Grand Canyon."
Jim also worked on 26 one-hour episodes for "The Wonderful World of Disney" television series, producing 14 episodes and narrating several, including "Wild Geese Calling." He also contributed to such memorable feature films as "The Legend of Lobo," "The Incredible Journey" and "Rascal."
Among his many theme park contributions, Jim wrote and produced "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln" for the 1964 World's Fair and later, Disneyland. He also wrote and produced several of the Circle Vision 360 productions, including "America the Beautiful," as well as "The Hall of Presidents" attraction at Walt Disney World.
After 43 years with The Walt Disney Studios, Jim retired on October 31, 1977.
James Algar died February 26, 1998, in Carmel, California.