Through a $5 million endowment gift from the estate of the late Disney animation artist John C. Hench (Peter Pan, Dumbo, Fantasia, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Alice in Wonderland), the John C. Hench Division of Animation & Digital Arts has been created at the School of Cinema-Television at the University of Southern California, Dean Elizabeth M. Daley announced.

The endowment, which was provided by the Board of Trustees of the John C. Hench Foundation, will support several key initiatives, including funding faculty and student assistant positions, obtaining state-of-the-art technology, underwriting artists-in-residence, hosting symposia, producing exhibits, animation shows and DVDs, and more.

Hench, who passed away on Feb. 5, 2004 at age 95, started his career at Disney in 1939 when he joined the company as a story artist. In addition to becoming the official portrait painter of Mickey Mouse, Hench worked on the landmark Fantasia (1940); Dumbo (1941); Peter Pan (1953); 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)-for which he shared an Academy Award for special effects; and Alice in Wonderland (1955).

A 1990 recipient of the firm's "Disney Legend Award," Hench's creative endeavors also extended to the opening and closing ceremonies for the 1960 Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley, the 1964 World's Fair in New York, as well as playing an instrumental role in the architectural design of Disney's theme parks and hotels.

Beyond his drawing, painting, animation, design, and architecture skills, Hench had a passionate interest in the sciences, particularly engineering and biology. This broad background played out in his artistry, resulting in productions that sought not merely to amuse but also to enlighten and prompt viewers to see and think in new ways.

"The School of Cinema-Television is privileged to honor the vision and principles that made John Hench such a legendary figure, not only for Disney fans, but also for students and scholars of the cinematic arts who recognize his work as being unparalleled in scope and impact," Daley said. "By helping to promote and advance the art form he loved so much, the school will ensure that future generations will know his name and work and can carry his artistic legacy forward."

"This gift honors John's memory and the pride he always felt toward the School of Cinema-Television's animation and digital arts program," said Foundation Board Member Jose M. Deetjen. "We are looking forward to a wonderful relationship for many years to come."

In addition to being a long-time supporter of the division-which offers a three-year Master's of Fine Arts degree, a four-year Bachelor of Arts degree, as well as undergraduate minors-Hench was a frequent figure in the classroom and studio, teaching both the faculty and students his technique and philosophy.


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