In Search of John Parr Miller

A dashing John Parr Miller, left, joins fellow Disney artists Webb Smith, Mary Blair and Herbert Ryman for a glamorous night on the town in Rio de Janeiro in 1941 (photo from a Brazilian news article). Click image to enlarge.

John Parr Miller (1913-2004) was an extraordinary artist — a master of eye-appealing fluid lines and designs.  Witty, subtle pastel or pencil drawings tumbled forth, suffused with an ineffable charm.

Miller’s early mark was made at the Walt Disney Studio, as a stand-out character designer in the influential Character Model Department.  He was one of the artists in “El Grupo,” the creative team that accompanied Walt Disney on his 1941 goodwill tour of South America.

Films such as Pinocchio (1940), Fantasia (1940), The Reluctant Dragon (1941), Saludos Amigos (1943), The Three Caballeros (1945) benefitted greatly from his graphic abilities.  Starting in 1948, his talents were showcased in a new career as a beloved illustrator of many children’s books.

Here are two consecutive articles I wrote on the life and career of John Parr Miller for Cartoons, the International Journal of Animation, Volume 2, issue 2, Winter 2006 and Volume 3, issue 1, Spring 2007.

Click on image to open .pdf file of articles

To whet your appetite, here is a selection of J.P. Miller’s Disney drawings

For Saludos Amigos:

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and Fantasia:

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Here Miller is seen with James Bodrero, a colleague in Disney’s Character Model Dept., examining a ceramic figure on the South American tour.

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A Visit with Halas and Batchelor,
and a Look at Indie British Animation,
from 1979

In 1979 I made a research trip to the UK at the invitation of Halas and Batchelor, to learn more about the British animation scene.

John Halas (1912-1995) and Joy Batchelor (1914-1991) were a remarkable husband and wife team who, for more than 40 years, produced more than 2000 films at their prestigious London studio, including Britain’s first animated feature film, Animal Farm (1954), a decidedly adult-oriented cartoon based on George Orwell’s dark allegory.

I first “met” John and Joy, and their films, in Halas’ 1959 informative book, The Technique of Film Animation, a showcase of international animation, with styles and content different from American cartoons of the period. The book opened a new world to me, a 16-year old who basically knew only Disney and Warner Bros. cartoon fare.

Exactly twenty years later, John and Joy invited me to London to research and write about British animation, past and present. And again, they introduced to me a new world of animation, this time in person. I also gained a close and valued friendship with the two artist/producers, whose passion for the art of animation inspired generations of animation filmmakers, many of whom found their first animated film employment at H&B’s large and busy studio.

My research trip generated three magazine articles in the years that followed.  Michael Barrier’s sorely-missed cartoon journal Funnyworld (#23, Spring 1983), published my  profile of Joy and John:

Click on image for link to article.

Some years later I wrote a second article related to Halas and Batchelor, “Farm Subsidy” which appeared in the May/June 2005 of Print, the graphic design magazine. It describes the CIA’s involvement, at the height of the Cold War, in the production of H&B’s Animal Farm:

Click on image for link to article.

And for the September 1980 issue of Print, I wrote a survey of independent animation in Britain:

Click on image for link to article.

I hope you’ll enjoy these.



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