5 Facts About Disney Legend Bill Peet

by | Jan 29, 2022 | Disney History, Disney Legends, Disney Movies, WDW Blog

On Sale Now- The Pirates of the Caribbean Attraction Special from WDW Magazine!

Learn about Disney Legend Bill Peet, born 1/29/1915.

When you think of the work of Bill Peet, you probably recall his iconic art style on display in children’s books like Chester the Worldly Pig and How Droofus the Dragon Lost His Head. But the talented illustrator and storyteller began his career drawing for a different medium: film. 

how droofus the dragon lost his head - disney legend bill peet - amazon

William Bartlett Peet spent many years working as an animator at Walt Disney Studios, and his litany of creative contributions led him to being inducted as a Disney Legend in 1996. 

Let’s go beyond his famous children’s books and look at the rest of the man’s career. Here are five facts about Disney Legend Bill Peet.

Lead photo courtesy of D23

1. Born to Draw

Life wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows for Bill when he was young—even though he did like to draw those. He was born into poverty in a rural town on the southern tip of Indiana. 

From a young age, the imaginative dreamer found doodling to be an enjoyable escape from life—which he practiced in the margins of his textbooks instead of doing his homework. 

Despite his poor grades, Bill’s teachers saw his natural skill and encouraged him to pursue a career in art. Although the boy was skeptical that he could make a career out of something so enjoyable, he received a scholarship to attend John Herron Art Institute in Indianapolis.

He tried a handful of jobs—including at a greeting-card company in Dayton, Ohio—before heading west to work as an animator for Walt Disney Studios.

2. A Rough Start

Despite what Bill may have imagined would happen when he strolled through the door at Walt’s animation studio, he was not immediately given a seat as a lead animator. 

On the contrary, Bill was given a job in a small annex building as an “in-betweener,” filling in intermediate frames in the Donald Duck cartoons that the studio was churning out at the time. The young man found the work so tedious that he threw a tantrum one day and stormed home. 

donald-duck-early-to-bed_disney

Donald Duck shorts weren’t quite Bill’s thing. Photo courtesy of Disney

Instead of coming back the next day to find a pink slip on his desk, Bill found a letter notifying him of his promotion to the story department. From there, Bill continued to rise through the ranks of the studio. 

3. Taking Charge

Bill was a hard-working, talented animator, and his vision drove him to helm the creation of multiple Disney-produced films

He was the only story man in the company’s history to draw every single storyboard for an entire film—twice. He did this for The Sword in the Stone and again for One Hundred and One Dalmatians.

Wart pulling the sword from the stone

Bill Peet played a pivotal role in the development of The Sword in the Stone. Photo courtesy of Disney

That’s a lot of work, but it shows how skilled Bill was at envisioning all aspects of a story to form a cohesive, compelling whole—a quality of his that Walt appreciated.

4. King of the Jungle

The last work that Bill did with the Walt Disney company was early pre-production planning on the studio’s animated adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s novel, The Jungle Book. 

jungle-book_disney-legend-bill-peet_disney

Adapting The Jungle Book was Bill’s idea. Photo courtesy of Disney

Bill, who was the person to suggest the book be Disney’s next film, yet again took the lead on the project and storyboarded his vision for the production. 

While Bill aimed to craft an adaptation that maintained the novel’s dark themes and morose tone, Walt didn’t find the idea fitting for his company, and eventually Bill left the company in protest of making the changes his boss wanted. 

5. A Clash of Creative Minds

Although Bill did some magnificent work for Walt Disney studios during his career in animation, the man didn’t get along with the infamously obstinate visionary

Throughout the nearly three decades working at the company, Bill frequently got into heated arguments and tenacious standoffs with Walt, his boss. Though both men were very talented in their own ways, they often disagreed on how things should be done. In later interviews, Bill claimed that Walt’s writing and drawing skills weren’t very good—nor was his humor.  

In fact, Bill admitted that he drew Captain Hook in Peter Pan to resemble Walt!

walt-disney-captain-hook_disney-legend-bill-peet_disney

Anyone else see the resemblance? Photos courtesy of Disney (and the un-seeable likeness courtesy of Disney Legend Bill Peet)

It was this tumultuous relationship that led to Bill leaving the company in 1964 to become what we remember him as: a children’s book author.

Remembering Disney Legend Bill Peet

Although Bill and Walt didn’t see eye to eye, the company still highly regards the animator, proudly inducting him as a Disney Legend in 1996. His influence on bringing a dozen of the studio’s classic films to life cannot be overstated—and should not be forgotten. 

Did you read any of Bill Peet’s children’s books when you were young, or do you share any of them with your children now? Which one is your favorite?

Please note: Some links in this post are affiliate links with Amazon, but we only share helpful links to products we wholeheartedly endorse!

Disney Animated Classics: How to Watch All 60 Movies in Order of Release Date

5 Facts About Disney Legend Ming-Na Wen

https://www.wdw-magazine.com/walt-disney-facts/

Written by Aaron Widmar

epcot-clothing_creations-shop_chiu
Aaron Widmar is a lifelong fan of the artistic and emotional power of animation to tell stories. He was raised on Disney VHS tapes as a child and even as an adult still loves re-watching his favorites. Aaron is a professional writer in a variety of fields, including the automotive industry. Although he and his wife Vicki don’t travel to Walt Disney World as often as they’d like, he can escape to the Disney-themed room of their house whenever he needs creative inspiration.
Aaron Widmar

Written by Aaron Widmar

Aaron Widmar is a lifelong fan of the artistic and emotional power of animation to tell stories. He was raised on Disney VHS tapes as a child and even as an adult still loves re-watching his favorites. Aaron is a professional writer in a variety of fields, including the automotive industry. Although he and his wife Vicki don’t travel to Walt Disney World as often as they’d like, he can escape to the Disney-themed room of their house whenever he needs creative inspiration.