Randy Fullmer Dies: Disney Animation Veteran On ‘Lion King’, ‘Beauty And The Beast’ & More Was 73

Randy Fullmer, a Walt Disney Animation Studios effects animator, VFX supervisor and producer who worked on such classics as The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast, has died. He was 73. The studio said he died July 10 at his home in Woodland Hills, CA, after a long cancer battle.

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Fullmer worked at the Disney toon studio for nearly 20 years, racking up credits that also include effects animator on Oliver & Company (1988) and The Little Mermaid (1989), effects supervisor on The Rescuers Down Under (1990), artistic coordinator on The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996) and producer on The Emperor’s New Groove (2000) and Chicken Little (2005). He served as artistic coordinator on 1994’s The Lion King and as VFX supervisor on 1991’s Beauty and the Beast.

“Most people are good at one thing in their lives. Randy was good at a lot of things,” said Don Hahn, producer of Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King. “He could draw and paint beautifully, but he had the mind of an engineer and the heart of an artisan. He was great at animation; great at producing movies, too. He was at the very center of the Disney renaissance in animation. … I miss him, but I carry his passion and joy with me every day. Always will.”

Born on April 27, 1950, in Richland, WA, Fullmer attended Washington State University from 1968-70 and during his second year took a film class that hooked him on animation. That led him to the toon program at CalArts, from which he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1974.

Fullmer then spent about seven years running his own animation business, producing works such as medical, scientific and other educational films; segments for Sesame Street; TV commercials; and Saturday morning television programs. In 1983 and 1984, he worked for Don Bluth Studios, creating special effects for Dragon’s Lair and Space Ace, the first video games to be produced on Laserdisc. He also worked at Apogee, John Dykstra’s live-action special effects house, and he then moved on to Filmation, where he animated on TV shows and features from 1985-87 including Happily Ever After, BraveStarr, She-Ra: Princess of Power and Ghostbusters.

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In 1987, Fullmer was hired by Walt Disney Feature Animation (the precursor to Disney Animation Studios) for a three-month contract to animate on the Toon Town section of the 1998 classic Who Framed Roger Rabbit — a job that turned into an 18-year career at the Walt Disney Studios.

Fullmer had been a guitar lover since childhood, and after his retirement from the animation industry, he launched Wyn Guitars in 2006.

At age 12, he’d asked his parents if he could buy a 12-string guitar to complement his 6-string electric. When they refused because he already had a guitar, the boy asked if he could purchase the wood to build his own 12-string instead. During the next six years, he proceeded to build about 30 guitars with craftsmanship that was both self-taught and mentored by an old country-western fiddle maker named Tom. Fullmer continued to build guitars throughout his life, but this task was relegated to hobby status for decades until his retirement.

He was both the founder and sole luthier for Wyn Guitars and crafted hundreds of unique basses for the likes of Jermaine Jackson and the Yellowjackets’ Jimmy Haslip. After an enthusiastically received show of Wyn Guitar fans at the National Association of Music Merchants convention in 2011, Fullmer became the focus of documentarian Mike Enns, who crafted the film Restrung (2014) about Wyn’s impact on the music industry, leading to a waitlist numbering nearly 200 for custom bass guitars.

Fullmer is survived by his wife, Diana; stepdaughter Becky Kuriyama and stepson Nick Kuriyama; a sister, Cathy Lou Tusler, and stepbrother Scott Landon.

His family requests that donations be made in Fullmer’s name to Doctors Without Borders.

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