Disney Legend Charles Boyer Passes Away Leaving Behind a Magical Legacy

Charles Boyer with Annette Funicello and Disneyland Ambassador Dorothy Stratton Wilson at the 1998 unveiling of his “Sweethearts Forever” lithograph at the Disney Gallery above Pirates of the Caribbean. – Photo: Doug Marsh

Disney Legend Charles Boyer, a portrait painter for Disney, passed away on February 8, 2021 in Ontario, California. Boyer originally came to Disneyland for a “temporary” job in 1960. This turned into a 39 career. Boyer held the distinction of being Disneyland’s first full-time artist. Eventually, he became Disneyland’s master illustrator.

“You always remember the early days,” Boyer once said of his earliest time at Disneyland. “Mine were very memorable because it was all new. Disneyland was only 5 years old when I started. We had a family atmosphere… the feeling of the park is still carried on by the cast members. I’m proud to be a part of that.”

Throughout his career Boyer would create beautiful works of art of Disney character and theme park environments.

Boyer began to learn about art when he took classes in high school. While still a teenager he even won first place at the Imperial Valley County Fair. During this time he developed a love of the beautiful dessert landscape and for the work of Vincent Van Gogh.

Following high school, Boyer attended Chouinard Art Institute. He had a “working scholarship” while there, working as a janitor while also attending the school as an art student. The classes that focused on cartooning and design planted the idea in Boyer that he could pursue a commercial art career instead of fine arts.

“I know people can do things that they like,” he once remembered. “I wasn’t very good when I came out of school. I spent 40 years at this getting good.”

Itself a reflexive work referencing his earlier “Triple Self Portrait” (1978), Boyer’s later “Self Portrait: Mickey Mouse” (1989) would also playfully riff on the Rockwellian concept.

After being at Disneyland for six months, he became a part of the marketing and advertising art department as an illustrator. “We did everything – design, production, illustration,” Boyer said of the job. Throughout the course of his 39-year career at Disneyland, he produced nearly 50 collectible lithographs. He also created the artwork for magazine covers, brochures, flyers, and even Company commissioned oil paintings when employees retired. In 1981 he painted a piece called “Partners.” This piece had Walt Disney hand in hand with Mickey Mouse. He also painted the “Triple Self-Portrait” in 1978, based on Norman Rockwell’s similarly titled piece. This one featured Mickey Mouse looking into a mirror and painting a portrait of Walt Disney.

Boyer retired in 1999 and shared about his career saying, “I’ve worked with such great people. My wife used to ask if I was actually getting any work done, because I was having so much fun.” He is survived by his two children, Bruce and Naomi. Ellen, his wife, passed away previously.