His name’s not Walt Disney, but his influence was fundamental in creating some of the Walt Disney Company’s most beloved films and theme park rides. He started working for Walt, incredibly, in 1938, and he passed away on Sunday at the age of 98.
Xavier “X” Atencio joined the company just a year after its first film success, the 1937 animated “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves,” according to the Washington Post. A master animator in an era when everything was handcrafted and when having spoken dialogue in a film was still a fairly new thing, Atencio created the look for the Disney masterpieces “Pinocchio” and “Fantasia.”
He left for a while to serve our country in World War II, analyzing surveillance photos of the enemy, before coming back to create stop-motion sequences. He ended up developing them for beloved childhood hallmarks like “Mary Poppins,” “The Parent Trap,” and “Babes in Toyland” in the 1960s.
But his skills weren’t just employed for film. He also had a hand in Disneyland, Disney World, and Epcot attractions. For the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, which would decades later spur a series of blockbuster movies, Atencio wrote the script for the ride as well as the lyrics for the famous song the goes, “Yo, ho, yo, ho, the pirate’s life for me,” according to a press release from Disney. For those who have been on the famous ride, you can hear his voice in the talking skull that warns visitors, “Dead men tell no tales,” according to SYFY.
He helped create the feel for the Haunted Mansion and Space Mountain rides and the Spaceship Earth attraction, as well as other Disney theme park features. He retired in 1984 and was later granted the title “Disney Legend.”
Disney did not release the nature of his passing. He was preceded in death by his wife and a son. On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of State mourned the passing of an influential American historian.