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Xavier Atencio

Xavier Atencio

Walt Disney valued quality artists, like multi-talented Xavier Atencio, who helped animate Disney classics from 1938 until 1965, including "Fantasia". He later became an Imagineer to help design the Disneyland Railroad's Primeval World diorama segment and later developed music for such Disneyland attractions as Pirates of the Caribbean.

He recalled the day Walt first greeted him with a robust, "Hi ya', X!" Walt's acknowledgment by name (Xavier, by initial, which was his nickname at the Studio) was a thrill to the young artist and future Imagineer.

X recalled, "Walt was a father image. You felt good merely having been in the presence of his dynamic personality."

Born in Walsenburg, Colorado in 1920, X moved to Los Angeles in 1937, where he attended Chouinard Art Institute. Instructors gently prodded the shy, young artist to submit his portfolio to The Walt Disney Studios. The next year, he startled neighbors when he ran past their homes, from the Company's Hyperion Studio to his aunt's house, shouting "I got a job at Disney!"

Within three years, X was promoted to assistant animator on "Fantasia" until World War II sent him to England with the U.S. Army Air Corps. By 1945, X returned to the Studios to work on animated short subjects and in 1953, he received his first screen credit for "Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom," which won an Academy Award. Other films he contributed to include "Jack and Old Mac," and two Oscar nominees: "Noah's Ark" and "A Symposium on Popular Songs." X also helped animate titles and sequences for such Disney live-action films as "The Parent Trap," "Babes in Toyland," and "Mary Poppins." He also contributed his artistic skill to the "I'm No Fool" series for the original "Mickey Mouse Club" television show.

In 1965, Walt asked X to stretch his talents by relocating to Walt Disney Imagineering, then called WED (Walter Elias Disney) Enterprises, to assist in the creation of the Primeval World diorama for Disneyland. He went on to help develop dialogue and music for such attractions as Adventure thru Inner Space, the Haunted Mansion (for which he co-wrote the song "Grim Grinning Ghosts"), and Pirates of the Caribbean (for which he wrote "Yo Ho, Yo Ho, A Pirate's Life for Me").

He once said, "I didn't even know I could write music, but somehow Walt did. He tapped my hidden talents."

Later, X contributed to the If You Had Wings and Space Mountain attractions in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, as well as the Spaceship Earth, World of Motion, and the Mexico pavilion in EPCOT. In 1983, he made several trips to Tokyo Disneyland to supervise recordings for the Haunted Mansion.

After 47 years with The Walt Disney Company, X retired in 1984.

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