Retired Disney Imagineer Frank Armitage, whose murals are found in the Disney theme parks around the world, died Monday at home in Paso Robles. He was 91, according to Disney. Armitage worked on the original Storybook Land at Disneyland, was a background artist on "Peter Pan," Sleeping Beauty," "Mary Poppins" and "The Jungle Book," and between stints at Disney was an illustrator on the Oscar-winning 1966 Fox sci-fi film "Fantastic Voyage" — an assignment he secured after taking time away from Hollywood to become a renowned medical illustrator. As a young artist, Armitage had worked on projects in Mexico with the muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros.
Armitage's wife, Karen Connolly Armitage, is a retired Imagineer, and one of his daughters from a previous marriage currently works at Walt Disney Imagineering.
Roblan Frank Armitage was born in Melbourne, Australia in 1924. He moved to Los Angeles in 1952 and began working at Walt Disney Studios on the films and the new Disneyland. After learning to be a medical illustrator and working on "Fantastic Voyage," Armitage joined Walt Disney Imagineering in 1977 and retired in 1989.
“Frank’s artistic skills were excellent — but I loved having him on our Imagineering team because he knew so much about art and life,” Marty Sklar, a former Disney Imagineering creative executive, said in a statement.
His artwork of anatomical subject matter paved the way for the Wonders of Life Pavilion at Epcot. He created a famed concept painting for Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant at Disneyland Paris, in the style of the original Eyvind Earle production designs.
He painted a 5,500-square-foot of mural for the Safari Fare Restaurant Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and several murals in Tokyo DisneySea—for the American Waterfront, Hotel MiraCosta, the Broadway Bar, and four pieces for the Tokyo DisneySea City Hall.
After retiring from Disney in 1989, Armitage completed a course in Oriental Medicine and pursued postgraduate work in Acupuncture in China. He volunteered in rural Mexico with the Flying Doctors, and produced oil paintings and murals for private homes in Woodside, Saratoga, Los Angeles, and Paso Robles.
In 2006, Armitage donated much of his medical art collection to the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). That same year, that organization's Biomedical Visualization graduate program (BVIS) established the Frank Armitage Lecture to honor his generosity and to recognize his legacy in the field of medical illustration.