Moment of Indiana History

Bill Peet

Jim Davis is not the only Indiana-born artist who got famous sketching pets with personality. Born in 1915, Bill Peet spent most of his hardscrabble childhood drawing in the margins of his textbooks, failing everything but art and P.E. Peet’s artistic talents launched him from his native Grandview, in the southwestern part of the state, to the Herron Art Institute in Indianapolis, where he studied for three years on scholarship. Without much luck selling paintings after leaving Herron, Peet struck out for Hollywood.

He was hired as an “in-betweener,” to fill in the interstitial cells between the main scenes, for Walt Disney studio’s production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, the studio’s first full-length animated feature, released in 1937. Peet’s macabre creatures for Pinnocchio —born out of boredom with drawing ducks—got him recognized, and the illustrator quickly rose through the ranks from sketch artist to Disney’s chief storyman. Ironically unsuited for the team-work involved in film animation, Peet was a highly independent artist. He was, in fact, the only storyman in Disney’s history to have created all the story boards for a feature film, a feat he pulled off not only for The Sword in the Stone , but 101 Dalmations as well.

Frequently clashing with his boss during his 27 years at Disney, Bill Peet left in 1964 to pursue a career as a children’s book author, which he initiated with Hubert’s Hair Raising Adventure . He is considered by some to be part of a triumvirate that includes Maurice Sendak and Dr. Seuss. Peet’s 1989 Autobiography received the Caldecott Honor the following year. The artist passed away in 2002.

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