Columbus artist Josh Meador (1911-1965)

Self Portrait of Josh Meador

Self Portrait of Josh Meador

From the late 1930s through the 1950s animation experienced its golden age, Walt Disney Studios was its foremost practitioner. At Disney, Mississippi native Josh Meador supervised effects animation.

Meador was best known for his creative visual effects in Walt Disney productions such as Bambi, Fantasia, Cinderella and Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea, Meador was a sequence director for Make Mine Music which won the 1946 Cannes Film Festival and was co-winner of the 1954 Oscar for special effects for his work on 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. He was considered one of Disney Studio’s most talented artists and has been called one of the five “most notable effects animators in history.”

Josh Meador did much more than just animation. Meador was a noted artist in his own right. He had a lifelong love affair with art. His mediums covered the spectrum from pastels to ink washes to pen and ink to oils. He drew posters for the U S Forest Service and was one of the first artists to use Smokey Bear to promote forest fire prevention. His oil paintings of California scenes won many awards and fifty of his works were included in Walt Disney’s personal collections.

Interestingly, interviews with former Disney animators focus as much on his willingness to help young animators as on his creativity.

Throughout his career and life, Josh Meador never forgot his childhood friends or family in Columbus, Mississippi. He returned home almost every year for lengthy visits. His is a legacy of creativity, talent, and the retention of personal and family values during the golden age of Disney animated features.

Josh Meador was born in Greenwood, Mississippi, in 1911. His father, the auditor for the Columbus and Greenville Railroad, moved his family to Columbus, Mississippi, the railroad’s headquarters, when Josh was seven years old. One of his classmates remembered him as a nice boy who liked to draw in class. As a youth he was active in the Boy Scouts and delivered newspapers for the Columbus Commercial Dispatch.

After graduation in 1930 from S. D. Lee High School in Columbus, Josh was offered an appointment to the U S Naval Academy. His true interest though was art. He visited several art schools with his father before he decided on and was admitted to The Chicago Art Institute. He graduated from the Institute with honors in 1935 and the same year married his high school sweetheart, Elizabeth Alston.

The Meador family home still stands at 823 6th Avenue North in Columbus. Josh’s mother continued to live there until her death in 1985. Throughout his life Josh regularly returned with his family to Columbus for visits. He even gave his old High School a large oil painting of a Spanish Galleon tossed on a stormy sea. The painting, however, was lost when the school building burned in 1962.

Josh went to work for Walt Disney in 1936. His talent quickly showed up as evidenced by the spider web he animated in The Old Mill. His early credits also included animation in Snow White, for which he worked on the scene where the witch climbs the mountain during a storm. Disney recognized Meador’s talent, and he quickly advanced in position. In early 1939 Meador was working on Pinocchio, creating the ocean effects around the whale, but by the end of the year he was head of the Effects Department. Meador acquired the nickname catfish and spent much time helping other artist perfect their talent.

Disney artists in 1958 and their interpretations of the same tree. (From L to R) Josh Meador, Marc Davis, Eyvind Earle, and Walt Peregoy

Disney artists in 1958 and their interpretations of the same tree. (From L to R) Josh Meador, Marc Davis, Eyvind Earle, and Walt Peregoy

Just a few animated projects credited to Josh Meador include:

Cinderella (1950) (effects animator)
Peter Pan (1953) (effects animator)
Fantasia (1940) (effects animator) (segment “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”) (uncredited) (special animation effects) (segment “Night on Bald Mountain/Ave Maria”) (animation supervisor) (segment “Rite of Spring”) (animator) (segment “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor”)
Victory Through Air Power (1943) (animator)
Bambi (1942) (animator)
Dumbo (1941) (animator)
Pinocchio (1940) (animator)
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) (animator)
The AbsentMinded Professor (1961) (special effects)
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954) (special effects)
Forbidden Planet (1956) (special effects)
Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier (1955) (special art work)

In 1965 at age 55, Josh Meador died of a heart attack at his home in Caspar, California. Shortly before his death he had completed a painting for President Lyndon Johnson and had been commissioned to be present on an aircraft carrier so that he could paint the returning Apollo astronauts.

There have been numerous exhibits of his works in California and two exhibitions were held in 1957 and again in 1984 in his hometown of Columbus, Mississippi. He was survived by Libby his wife of thirty years and his son Phil. Libby passed away in 2008 at the age of 94.

Phil is now retired after having followed his father into the visual and special effects field. His effects credits include Splash, Something Wicked This Way Comes, The Black Cauldron, My Science Project, Return to Oz and The Black Hole.

To find out more about Josh Meador and his work go to:

Bodega Bay Heritage Gallery

The Internet Movie Database

Published in: on September 21, 2009 at 6:38 pm  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Nice to see interest in the late Elvis Presley continues to this day.
    His extraordinary voice won the hearts of many millions world-wide.
    His growing number of fans from all walks of life will definitely be tuning into the BBC Radio 2 documentary in 2010.

  2. […] more: Lowndes Public Library Entry on Meador View Paintings by Meador […]

  3. Joshua is related to me somehow. My grandmother says he is an uncle to me down the line. If anyone can help me find out more information that would be great!

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