Willie Ito

(b. 1934) Award-winning Disney animation artist who was incarcerated at Topaz during WWII

Parents First Exposure to Animation December 7th, 1941 Father’s Optimism Tanforan Assembly Center Dusty Weather at Topaz, Utah Mother in Camp Father making shell brooches at Topaz Father’s Postwar Barber Career First Encounter with Walt Disney Disney Drawing Tests His mentor, Iwao Takamoto The Dopey bank that survived the war

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Willie Ito was born July 17, 1934 in San Francisco, California to nisei parents. Seeing Snow White and the Seven Dwarves at the age of five inspired a lifelong love of animation. After his family's incarceration in Topaz, Utah during World War II, Willie returned to California to pursue an art career, attending the Walt Disney favorite Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles (which later became CalArts). Under the mentorship of legendary animator Iwao Takamoto, Willie's passion blossomed into a long career in the animation world through golden ages at Disney, Warner Brothers, and Hanna-Barbera. His credits span from The Lady and the Tramp and What's Opera Doc? to The Flinstones and the Yogi Bear Show. 

Willie continues drawing to this day, including illustration work on multiple children's books about the Japanese American World War II experience. You can also find him signing sketches and greeting fans at San Diego Comic-con. (September 2016)

family hiroshima Jazz kibei music roots san francisco Animation career community Pearl Harbor World War II forced evacuation nisei assembly center Tanforan camps Topaz utah mother father shell brooches Barber post-war Walt Disney animator Disney Studio Iwao Takamoto Dopey FBI

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