Disney Animator Dave Bossert Remembers Roy E Disney’s Storied Life

Over the past nearly 30 years, David A Bossert worked his way up from last animator hired on The Black Cauldron to Effects Animator, Visual Effects Supervisor, Artistic Coordinator, Director, Associate Producer, Producer, Creative Director, and now Head of Special Projects at Walt Disney Animation Studios.  After The Black Cauldron, Dave Bossert’s film work reads like a “best of” Disney Feature Animation including: The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King, Pocahontas, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas.  Most of these projects were helmed by Executive Producer Roy E Disney (son of Roy O and nephew of Walt Disney), and Bossert collected stories of this era in the book Remembering Roy E Disney: Memories and Photos of a Storied Life.  In the article below, listen to and/or read-along with my interview with Dave Bossert as he discusses his long career at the Walt Disney Studios and working alongside Roy E Disney – protector of the Disney family business.

Remembering Roy E. Disney

Click on the “play” button below to listen to the complete interview with David Bossert

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Dave Bossert presents at the D23 Expo

Dave Bossert presents at the 2013 D23 Expo. Photo courtesy D23 © 2013 Disney. All rights reserved.


Working for and traveling extensively with Roy E Disney, Dave Bossert had a unique perspective on the man, and produced a book filled with memories and images celebrating his life.  Roy E Disney had a profound personal impact on Bossert, and it’s clear throughout the book the enormous respect, admiration, and affection for the man that played a large role in saving The Disney Company (more than once).

Before discussing the book, Dave Bossert shared his start in animation.

I grew up in Long Island in New York, and in the late 1970’s enrolled in an advertising art program at the State University of New York at Farmingdale.  About the same time, there was an article in the New York Times about a school in California that was training animators for the Disney Studios.  It was California Institute of the Arts (known as Cal Arts), and because of that article I sent my portfolio to Cal Arts, they accepted me in the program, and I left New York and moved to California.

Don Hahn

Walt Disney Studios Producer Don Hahn at premiere of "Frankenweenie," September 2012. Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez, WireImage.


Dave Bossert was the last animator contracted for The Black Cauldron, and hired by (now) legendary Producer Don Hahn.  Bossert’s start at Walt Disney Animation coincided with the “Disney Renaissance” chronicled in Don Hahn’s film Waking Sleeping Beauty, and Dave described the atmosphere at the Studio upon arriving.

The entire animation industry was in a trough at the time.  There was a lot of work for the Saturday morning animation market going overseas, a strike had happened, and some financiers were trying to take over Disney.  That’s why I thought ‘Black Cauldron’ was going to be my first and last picture.  Roy E Disney helped fend off those financiers, and bring in a new management team (Michael Eisner and Frank Wells) to awaken the sleeping giant.

Bossert called Hahn’s film Waking Sleeping Beauty the closest anyone will know as to what happened during that time, and felt like he was “re-living history” when he watched it.

Peter Schneider, Roy E. Disney, and Jeffrey Katzenberg

Peter Schneider, Roy E Disney, and Jeffrey Katzenberg © Disney Enterprises, Inc.


It wasn’t until the 1990’s that Dave started working closely with Roy E Disney on Fantasia 2000 of which Disney was Executive Producer.  After that film came a series of projects where they worked together including: One by One, Lorenzo, The Little Match Girl, Destino, and getting the True-Life Adventures released on DVD.

Fantasia 2000

© Disney Enterprises, Inc.


Dave recalled how towards the end of Roy E Disney’s life, he was particularly pleased with the Walt Disney Company and its trajectory.

I remember a conversation in my office where I asked him specifically what he thought, and he was happy that John Lasseter was back at the company and overseeing animation.  He (Roy) felt like the company was on track and he kind of paused and looked at me and he said he kind of felt like he was The Lone Ranger riding off into the sunset, that he had done what he needed to do for the family enterprise.

I asked if there was a particular memory Dave Bossert could share of his time with Roy E Disney, and he replied that one story stood out.

Roy and I were down at Walt Disney World, and it was just he and I having dinner one night in the upstairs dining room of the Wolfgang Puck Café at Downtown Disney.  About halfway through dinner this little girl, obviously on vacation with her parents, got up and walked over to our table.  As she walked up to the table she said, ‘Mr. Disney?’  Roy looked up and smiled and said, ‘yes?’  She said, ‘you know Mr. Disney I just wanted you to know what a wonderful park you have here and me and my family are having such a great time here and I wanted to say thank you.’

It was one of those moments for me as a cast member when it just galvanized the fact that we’re working on things that absolutely touches millions of people all over the world in some special way.

Roy E. Disney

Roy E Disney © Disney Enterprises, Inc.


As current Head of Special Projects at Walt Disney Animation Studios, Dave Bossert is producer and creative director for animation projects in the parks.  He worked with Walt Disney Imagineer Steve Davison, show director for World of Color, to produce the Disney animated characters used in both the World of Color show at Disney California Adventure and the Disney Dreams show at Disneyland Paris.  Dave’s currently working on a winter overlay for both shows called “Winter Dreams” to debut at the Disneyland Resort in November 2013.

“We have some great, cool surprises” Bossert announced, “it’s going to be absolutely spectacular and we’re going to have some new animation, some material from FROZEN, and it’s going to be a really beautiful show.”

Disneyland World of Color - Winter Dreams

In a little over 200 pages, Dave Bossert’s book Remembering Roy E Disney: Memories and Photos of a Storied Life gives the reader a glimpse of Roy E. Disney the man, not the glorified Disney Legend.  By the time the reader gets to the end of the book and reads the December 2009 e-mail sent by Bob Iger, CEO of the Walt Disney Company, announcing the passing of Roy E Disney, one truly understands the impact on his colleagues and friends mentioned in the book.  As Dave Bossert described the choir performance of “He Lives in You,” from the Broadway production of The Lion King at Roy E Disney’s memorial service, it’s difficult not to get a little choked up.

I want to thank Dave Bossert for taking the time to chat with me, and share some of his memories and stories of Roy E Disney.  Bossert’s book Remembering Roy E Disney: Memories and Photos of a Storied Life is available September, 2013.  For more family movie news, be sure to follow Adventures by Daddy on twitter and “like” our facebook page too.

About Dave Parfitt

Married, father of two girls, and living in the heart of the Finger Lakes. I'm a runner with a PhD in neuroscience and a passion for travel.