Walt Kelly (August 25, 1913 – October 18, 1973) was an American animator and cartoonist, best known for the comic strip, Pogo. He began his animation career in 1936 at Walt Disney Studios, contributing to Pinocchio and Fantasia. Relocating to Southern California, he found a job at Walt Disney Productions as a storyboard artist and gag man on Donald Duck cartoons and other shorts, requesting a switch to the animation department in 1939. Starting over as an animator, Kelly became an assistant to noted Walt Disney animator Fred Moore and became close friends with Moore and Ward Kimball, one of Disney's Nine Old Men. Kelly and Kimball were so close that Kimball named his daughter Kelly Kimball in tribute.
Kelly worked for Disney from January 6, 1936, to September 12, 1941, contributing to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Fantasia, Dumbo and The Reluctant Dragon. He also worked on animation for the Mickey Mouse animated shorts Mickey's Surprise Party, The Little Whirlwind and The Nifty Nineties. Kelly once stated that his salary at Disney averaged about $100 a week. During 1935 and 1936, his work also appeared in early comic books for what later became DC Comics.
Kelly's animation can be seen in Pinocchio when Geppetto is first seen inside Monstro the whale, fishing; in Fantasia when Bacchus is seen drunkenly riding a donkey during the Beethoven/"Pastoral Symphony" sequence; and in Dumbo of the ringmaster and during bits of the crows' sequence; and his drawings are especially recognizable in The Reluctant Dragon of the little boy, and in the Mickey Mouse short The Little Whirlwind when Mickey is running from the larger tornado.
During the 1941 animators strike, Kelly did not picket the studio, as has often been reported, but took a leave of absence—pleading "family illness"— to avoid choosing sides. Surviving correspondence between Kelly and his close friend and fellow animator Ward Kimball chronicles his ambivalence towards the highly charged dispute. Kimball stated in an interview years later that Kelly felt creatively constricted in animation, a collective art form, and possibly over-challenged by the technical demands of the form, and he had been looking for a way out when the strike occurred.
Kelly never returned to the studio as an animator, but jobs adapting the studio's films Pinocchio and The Three Caballeros for Dell Comics—apparently the result of a recommendation from Walt Disney himself—led to a new (and ultimately transitional) career. He also provided covers for Walt Disney's Comics and Stories, illustrated the aforementioned adaptations of two Disney animated features and did a series of pantomime (i.e., without dialogue) two-page stories featuring Roald Dahl's Gremlins for Walt Disney's Comics and Stories #34–41. His songs "Don't Sugar Me" and "Man's Best Friend" (also known as "Old Dog Trey") appeared in episodes 122 and 404 of The Muppet Show respectively.
On May 25, 1960, Kelley wrote a letter to Walt Disney regarding his time at the studio.