26. Tony de Rosa


Anthony “Tony” de Rosa has been for two decades one of Disney’s best kept and most valuable secrets. He has a higher level of versatility and draftsmanship than almost anyone working at Disney today. De Rosa can easily be described as a modern day John Lounsbery: he shares the master’s range (can go from personality animation to comic animation in a heartbeat) and his solid draftsmanship. His unselfishness and sincerity is equally inspirational.



     Tony de Rosa was born around 1959 and in 1978 started at the character animation program at Calarts. Among his classmates were future Disney great and colleague Mark Henn, director and visual effects animator Mark Dindall, art director Brian McIntee and the late great storyman Joe Ranft. At Calarts Tony learned the art of acting with a pencil from instructors including Jack Hannah, Ken O’Connor, and T. Hee and quickly mastered the illusion that makes classical animation work best. His first professional project was Hoomania, a video short made by Adelphi Productions. In 1985 de Rosa joined the staff at Disney as a breakdown artist on the Black Cauldron. Times looked bleak at Disney and the animation department had just been forced off the lot into a warehouse in Glendale. He then went on to become a key assistant animator on the Great Mouse Detective, his first time working under his mentor Glen Keane. After Great Mouse Tony animated scenes with Dodger and Oliver in Oliver and Company before animating on both the maid and Scuttle the seagull the Little Mermaid. Mermaid brought the studio back to success and some of the talents on the movie including Glen Keane, Andreas Deja, and Ruben Aquino quickly became top names in the animation industry. However Tony de Rosa laid back a little and even though he was totally capable of being a top supervisor chose to stay as a bench animator for a few more pictures though he was the supervising animator on Bernard in Rescuers Down Under.  For Beauty and the Beast as well as Aladdin he served as Glen Keane’s right hand man on the animation of Beast and Aladdin. Among the scenes de Rosa did include Beast in the climax with Gaston, the lead up into the ballroom dance sequence, a majority of Aladdin in One Jump Ahead, and the crucial scene of Aladdin and Jasmine jumping over the buildings as well as discussing what they want in life. On the Lion King Tony got his big break as the supervising animator of adult Nala. This was followed by supervising Nakoma in Pocahontas (although without credit he did some scenes of the title character), Zeus and Hera in Hercules, the Sprite in Fantasia 2000, and Moliere in Atlantis. After pitching in as a character animator on Home on the Range and Treasure Planet Tony de Rosa left the then unimpressive Disney studio in 2002 to continue to work in hand-drawn animation on projects such as Looney Tune Back in Action, Fat Albert, and Curious George. In 2007 the now-improved Disney brought back hand-drawn for good and Tony came back to work as the supervising animator ofLawrencein the Princess and the Frog. He then did scenes of various characters on Winnie the Pooh and is now doing experimental animation for an upcoming Disney hand-drawn film alongside colleagues such as Russ Edmonds, Ruben Aquino, Eric Goldberg, and Bruce Smith.    


     Like I said above Tony de Rosa is in many ways artistically similar to John Lounsbery. He is very versatile but prefers to work more in a caricatured style than in a realistic one. De Rosa’s work also has very bold draftsmanship and his work has great solidity as well as strength. One great example of this is the scene in Aladdin where Aladdin and Jasmine are talking and jumping from building to building. The drawing isn’t very realistic but their movements are strong and their weight is present. In that scene he also uses great gestures that are really believable but simplifies them to make them more appealing as well as expressive. That’s what animators mentored by Glen Keane do best. Another great example of the boldness of Tony’s work is his scenes of Zeus in Hercules. The God is caricatured to show his emotions more effectively but his size and the strength in his movements clearly defines his character. Scuttle in Mermaid and Lawrence in Princess and the Frog are also some other de Rosa characters that uses caricature very well.  Sincerity is also a key element in a Tony de Rosa scene. Study the scene with Nala and Simba arguing after Can You Feel the Love Tonight and you’ll see what I mean. Nala’s feeling of concern and misunderstanding is very honest and apparent in the performance. I also love the way Tony plays off of Ruben Aquino’s brilliant adult Simba animation. For casting by character to work the two animators have to work together and be on the same page.


     Tony de Rosa has actually had quite a significant amount of impact on modern Disney animation. His draftsmanship, range, acting, and bold work without a doubt stand out in a group of very talented artists. Having an unselfish, dedicated animator like Tony is very important in establishing a consistency of both quality and effort in an animated film. There’s no understating how much de Rosa meant to Glen Keane in the features of the golden age. He really was one of the few who actually could animate quite a bit like Glen and had the strength as an animator to pull off all the character ideas the he really strived to put in his performance. Sometimes I actually have trouble distinguishing Tony’s animation from Glen’s. However I could definitely tell you that Keane would never animate some of the more comic stuff Tony does. It’s just not what the master animator feels connected to. There’s no same in having a distinctive style but it’s always excellent to have a guy who can do lots of different types of acting. I would love to see Disney give a main character to Tony de Rosa. I think he’d do a great job and that we could see a type of performance that not only is excellent but hasn’t yet been seen in Disney animation.  


     The more I know about Tony de Rosa the more I find him an inspirational animator to me personally and the higher he goes up on my hero list. I’m a sucker for his drawing style and the broad variety of characters he can equally animate in a superb and unique way. Also his understanding of character and dedication to high quality animation should influence everyone who gets the chance to learn about him. Thank you Tony de Rosa for your contributions to Disney and for being an inspiration to so many people.

De Rosa’s Work

Black Cauldron- Breakdown Artist

Great Mouse Detective- Key Assistant Animator

Oliver and Co.- Animator

Little Mermaid- Lead Animator on Maid and Additional Animator on Scuttle

Rescuers Down Under- Supervising Animator on Bernard

Beauty and the Beast- Animator on Beast

Aladdin- Animator on Aladdin

Lion King- Supervising Animator on Adult Nala

Pocahontas- Supervising Animator on Nakoma

Hercules- Supervising Animator on Zeus and Hera

Fantasia 2000- Supervising Animator on Sprite

Atlantis- Supervising Animator on Moliere

Treasure Planet- Animator on John Silver

Home on the Range- Animator on Maggie

Princess and the Frog- Supervising Animator on Lawrence

Winnie the Pooh- Animator


5 Responses to “26. Tony de Rosa”

  1. tom bancroft Says:

    Hey Grayson. Another good choice/article. Just so you know, Dave Stephen did Scuttle in Mermaid- at least a good chunk of him. I’m not sure how much Tony D. did. Thanks, Tom

  2. Tony is a man of GREAT talent , and a person of the utmost quality in character. I’ve worked with him many years and he is with out a doubt a true artist / and friend.. Mike Cedeno

    • Eric Zimmer Says:

      What’s the next hand-drawn animated film gonna be? I’m a big Disney fan &I’m impressed by the animators work! (Yours too!)

  3. Tony DeRosa is not only a great animator, but also knew how to bring out the best performances out of his crew. He is great to work for… always patient, humbly spirited and made challenging work fun. He is one of the most important influences in my life. I still consider him as my mentor!!

  4. I went to Cal Arts from 1979 to 1982, I was in film graphics school, my room mates were Doug Griffith, James Biehold and Rick Garside. I was invited by James to visit the guys and gals in the animation dept. I became good friends with Kathy Zelinski and the De Rosa’s, Barbara and Tony. My dept wasn’t fun to be in, but watching the animator do there work was fantastic. I was building models in our dorm room when one day Joe Ranft paid James a visit. He told me I should become a model maker, then Tony and Barbara said I should as well, 35 years later I still am a model and prop maker. Thanks to them.

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