He was born on January 17, 1913 in San Francisco. In 1934 he graduated from USC with a degree in fine art and architecture. Following some additional studies at Chouinard Art Institute, he joined the company in 1935 as a background painter. His oft heralded work spanned the range of classic Disney films from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937 to Lady and the Tramp in 1955.
It was in ’55 that Coats was tapped by Walt Disney to make Disneyland real. Looking back, it is difficult to imagine Disneyland, the Magic Kingdom, or EPCOT without Claude Coats influence, as he was involved in the design and development of The Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, World of Motion, and Horizons to name a few. He was also involved with bringing the Carousel of Progress and It’s a Small World to the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair.
True, there are many extremely talented individuals who spent their lives helping Walt to create the magic, but as Marty Sklar said, “Claude…was a genuine one-of-a-kind.”
Claude Coats died just a few days shy of his 79th birthday on January 9, 1992. He became a Disney Legend in 1991.
Next time you find yourself on POTC or exiting the Haunted Mansion, whisper a thank you to Mr. Coats.
Photo Credit: Disney Legends Website