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If you're a fan of Disney animation then you're almost certainly a fan of the films of the era of the Disney Renaissance. Films like The Little Mermaid and The Lion King brought Walt Disney Animation into a new golden age that hadn't been seen since its earliest days. The animators who bring those films to life are largely unsung heroes, and so the name Ann Sullivan likely isn't one most people know, but her work brought animated characters to life for decades. Now we'll only have those images to remember her, as Sullivan has died at the age of 91, due to complications from the coronavirus.
Ann Sullivan first went to work in the animation paint lab of Walt Disney Studios in the 1950s where she worked on Peter Pan among other projects. She left the industry for several years to raise her children before going back to work at Hanna Barbara during the company's heyday. In the 1970s.
In the late 1980s, Ann Sullivan returned to Disney, where she worked first on Oliver & Company, before working on many of the major hits of the "Disney Decade" like The Little Mermaid, The Lion King, and Tarzan. Her final project for Disney was Home on the Range, which would be the last 2D animated film from the studio for five years.
According to THR, Sullivan died at her retirement community, the Woodland Hills retirement home of the Motion Picture and Television Fund. She's the third resident of the community to die due to the coronavirus. Obviously, retirement communities are somewhat dangerous places in the age of COVID-19. The occupants all fall into the "at risk" category, and social distancing is difficult if not impossible.
Based on the fact that Sullivan is listed as dying from "complications" likely means that in addition to being 91 years old, she was also dealing with other health issues. Technically, it may have been those other health problems that took her life, though they were clearly exacerbated by COVID-19.
Ann Sullivan's start with Walt Disney Studios in the 1950s in the ink-and-paint department mirrors that of many women in the era. While most animators were men, the ink-and-paint department was usually entirely women. Their job was to literally paint the individual animation cels that made up the shorts and feature films produced by the studio. It was a vital skill set in the days of hand drawn animation that has was largely lost as animation made the shift to computers.
These women rarely got credit in any of Disney's films. As such, Sullivan's own filmography is probably largely incomplete.
Ann Sullivan is survived by four children, eight grandchildren, and four great grandchildren. She's also survived by an impressive body of work that will continue to bring joy for generations.