Sue Nichols, Influential Artist in Disney History, Dies at 55

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Sue Nichols Maciorowski, an influential artist in visual development and animation history, died Sept. 1 in East Longmeadow, MA, at just 55 years old. A sparkling creative force behind many Walt Disney Feature Animation classics and contemporary favorites – from Hercules at Moana Nichols Maciorowski had been battling an aggressive form of breast cancer for several years.

In a tribute posted online, Nichols Maciorwoski’s family noted, “Sue may be gone but her legacy lives on with us in the credits of many Disney films and publications to which she contributed as an accomplished artist. From the age of eight, she knew she wanted to be a Disney artist and drew on sidewalks and walls and entered many contests. His work can be seen in East Longmeadow town books and anniversary memorials. His latest creation was the seal commemorating the 125th anniversary of East Longmeadow.

Disney Animation remembered the deceased artists on its Twitter feed, adding a thread of posts detailing Nichols Maciorowski’s behind-the-scenes work that fueled the on-screen visuals that fans around the world have fallen in love with.

The thread continued:

  • At The beauty and the Beast, she contributed to both visual development and story and created early visual development artwork for Aladdin. From there, she provided character design and visual development on The Lion King, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Mulan, and Lilo & Stitch.
  • At Hercules, she created a style guide defining Greek design and oversaw the look of the film through layout, animation, effects, color styling and more. The title “Production Stylist” was created for her, as no one had played a similar role before at Disney Animation.
  • For The princess and the Frog, she suggested Harlem Renaissance artists such as Aaron Douglas as inspiration for Tiana’s song “Almost There”, helping storyboard and design the stylized sequence. More recently, she created Maui’s first character designs for Moana.
  • From animator and director Eric Goldberg: “She will be sorely missed by those of us who had the good fortune to work with her, but her influence on these films will be there forever.”

Nichols Maciorowski has a lifelong passion for drawing and landed her first paid animation gig while a student at CalArts in the latter half of the 1980s. While still working on her BFA, she was hired on the My little Pony at Marvel Productions before moving on to Emmy-winning Muppet Babies. His entry into the hallowed halls of Disney Feature Animation was concept art and R&D on Aladdin before the film got the green light. She then joined the teams of producer Don Hahn on The beauty and the Beast, learning the finesse of storyboarding from Annie Award winner Ed Gombert. The rest, as they say, is history.

Over the course of her career, Nichols Maciorwoski has taken on many diverse creative roles – from director, art director and story lead to children’s book illustrator, toy designer, costume designer/set designer and lecturer. Outside of Disney and Pixar, she had worked with major children’s entertainment companies including Marvel, Hasbro, Turner Feature Animation, LeapFrog and UglyDolls. Prior to her death, she was independent from her home in Massachusetts.

We highly recommend that you visit Nichols Maciorowski’s website, www.mothernichols.com, and peruse his decade-by-decade filmography, where the avid storyteller has shared many anecdotes, career lessons and insights from her time working on these beloved movies.

Nichols Maciorowski is survived by her husband, Chester “JR” Maciorowski, her children Stephanie and Jonathan Maciorowski, both parents, three siblings and their spouses, eight nieces and nephews, and many dear friends.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Sue’s name to Baystates Ray of Hope, which supports people with breast cancer in Massachusetts and raises money for breast cancer research.

[H/T Tom Sito, InsideTheMagic]

The princess and the Frog

Hercules

Hercules

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