Today’s Google doodle celebrates the 108th birthday of Tyrus Wong, a Chinese-born American artist who is known for some of the most well-known images in the American pop culture. As one of the most influential and celebrated Asian-American artists of the 20th century, Wong is best remembered for his work on ‘Bambi‘, a 1942 Disney film where he was the lead production illustrator. Tyrus Wong drew inspiration from Song dynasty classical Chinese paintings.
Tyrus Wong was born Wong Gen Yeo, in a village in southern China’s Guangdong Province on October 25, 1910. When he was 10-year-old, Tyrus and his father travelled to America, and lived in Sacramento, before eventually settling in Los Angeles.
The Google doodle also shows how Tyrus Wong’s love for art from an early age was recognized by his father, who could only afford for Wong to practice calligraphy using water and newspapers as well as study Chinese art at the Los Angeles Central Library.
When Tyrus Wong was a junior in high school, he earned a scholarship to the Otis Art Institute. Wong began to support himself as a waiter in Chinatown. Tyrus Wong’s work was exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1932, along with the works of Picasso, Matisse, and Paul Klee.
Walt Disney hired Tyrus Wong in 1938 as an “inbetweener” intern, an illustrator who sketches between key animator sketches, forming the movement of a character or object. It was at Disney that he worked on Bambi. At the time, Tyrus Wong was only credited as one of many “background artists,” and his contributions went unrecognized for years. His contributions to Hollywood were finally recognized in 2001 when he was named a “Disney Legend.”