John Hench, the official portrait painter of Mickey Mouse, has died in California at the age of 95.
Hench illustrated Mickey's official 50th anniversary portrait
Hench, a prominent Disney artist whose work was featured in classic cartoons such as Fantasia and Dumbo, had worked for Disney since 1939.
The artist, a close associate of Walt Disney, also played a key role in the creation of Disney theme parks, including the design of Space Mountain.
Disney chairman Michael Eisner called Hench "a vital creative force".
"John Hench taught me and so many others about the
essence of the Disney legacy," he said.
When Walt Disney started planning for Disneyland, Hench was one of the first artists he enlisted.
After the founder's death in 1966, he oversaw the creation of Walt Disney World in Florida in 1971 and the addition of Epcot in 1982.
He also helped supervise the design of Disney's first
overseas park, Tokyo Disneyland, which opened in 1983.
Born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, he grew up in
southern California and received a scholarship to the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles. He later studied at the
California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco.
He won an Oscar for special effects for the 1955 film 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
Hench died of heart failure at a hospital in Burbank, the Disney company said. He leaves a widow, Lowry.