Ben Sharpsteen

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Ben Sharpsteen

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Ben Sharpsteen was born in Tacoma, Washington on November 4th, 1895 and got his start working for many of the major studios in New York including Hearst, Paramount, and Fleischer before moving onto Disney Studio in 1929, the top animator of his time. Sharpsteen animated ninety-seven short films, and directed twenty-one shorts, eventually moving on to director and supervisor on many beloved Disney features from the Golden Age and later on the True-Life Adventures series. 


Family and early life

Benjamin Luther Sharpsteen was born in Washington but from a young age he spent the summer in Calistoga, California. 

Career outline

Sharpsteen came back from the Marine Corps and began working for many of the major animation studios in New York, including Hearst International, where he started as an apprentice, first doing piecework and then as a inker. At the end of his six months there, he became a full animator. Working a various different studios during this period, Sharpsteen took on a position doing art work at the Oakland Tribune on the West Coast.

After receiving a letter from Max Fleischer requesting his return to New York, Sharpsteen animated at Fleischer Studio for over two years. Disappointed at the standard in the animation business, Sharpsteen returned to San Francisco to freelance as an artist. Receiving another letter from Walt Disney who was now embarking on sound animations, Sharpsteen decided to head to Los Angeles to work for him. Impressed with the work happening at Disney, and Walt’s ambitious approach, Sharpsteen began animating for Disney, and was soon assigned with the task of training new animators. As time went on, Sharpsteen took on largely a director and supervisor role at Disney, establishing an in-house animation training system and head hunter for talent. 

In 1936, Sharpsteen worked on directing over 21 animated shorts, and when Disney started producing feature length animations, he worked as the sequence supervisor on Snow White, and later as the supervising co-director on Pinocchio, Fantasia, Cinderella, and Alice In Wonderland. 

Sharpsteen’s True-Life Adventure and People and Places series won him several Academy Awards in the late 40’s and 50’s, and in 1954, Sharpsteen began working on the Disneyland television series. He retired in 1962 after working for Disney for over 33 years, opening up the Sharpsteen Museum in Calistoga, California, dedicated to the pioneers of the historic region. 


“Ben Sharpsteen — in the Beginning : The Weekly Calistogan.” Napa Valley Register. N.p., 11 Sept. 2013. Web. 03 Dec. 2014.

“Ben Sharpsteen.” D23com. Disney Legends, n.d. Web. 03 Dec. 2014.

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