Veteran Disney Animator Ann Sullivan Dies at 91 from COVID-19

The Little Mermaid

A veteran Disney animator has died of COVID-19 at age 91, and is the third resident of a nursing home to pass away from the disease.

Ann Sullivan – who worked as a painter on many Disney animated classics – passed away Monday at the Motion Picture and Television Fund (MPTF) skilled-nursing facility in Woodland Hills, where actor Allen Garfield, 80, and John Breier, 64, – the husband of a longtime International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) member – died last week.

MPTF was founded by Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, and D.W. Griffith, to help people in the entertainment industry when they fall on hard times and each year provides healthcare and services to 150,000.

The campus has a 200-seat theater and the 40-resident Harry’s Haven unit for Dementia and Alzheimer’s – named after sponsor Kirk Douglas – includes a common room with Hollywood memorabilia.

MPTF president and CEO Bob Beitcher called Sullivan ‘a remarkably gifted and resilient woman’.

Sullivan was born in Fargo, North Dakota but Beitcher said she succeeded ‘with grace and resiliency’ a fulfilling her dream at Disney.

She followed her sister Helen to California, and after studying at the Art Center in Pasadena, landed a job at Walt Disney Productions in the animation paint lab in the early 1950s.

After taking leave from work to become a mother to four children, Sullivan re-entered the business in 1973, when she started at Filmnation Hanna Barbera. She later returned to Disney, landing credits on studio titles from the late-1980s to the mid-2000s. 

Sullivan worked in the paint lab on “Oliver & Company,” “The Little Mermaid,” “Rover Dangerfield,” and “Cool World.” She also painted for the short “The Prince and the Pauper,” “The Lion King,” “Pocahontas,” “Hercules,” “Tarzan,” “Fantasia 2000,” “The Emperor’s New Groove,” “Lilo & Stitch,” and “Treasure Planet.”

Sullivan also is credited as having worked as a cel painter on “The Pagemaster” and for performing additional caps and painting on “Home on the Range.”

Later in her career, Sullivan worked in computerized animation. She retired in the early 2000s.

Sullivan turned 91 this past Friday and her family spoke to her via FaceTime.

Described as a ‘beach’ mom by her daughter Shannon, because she took her loved ones to the beach at every opportunity. She was known for loving the sun and regularly enjoying walks.

The outdoors inspired her work and Sullivan painted the California coast in her early career. One of her favorite places was Nancy’s Garden bird sanctuary.

‘Family was everything to her,’ Shannon said.

Chaplain Dina Kuperstock said she was nicknamed Giggles at the home.

‘She had the best laugh of any person I’ve ever known,’ Kuperstock said. ‘Ann didn’t just laugh with a sound. When she giggled, her whole body would shake and light up with joy, and it was contagious for everyone in the room.’

She is survived by her four children, eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

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