December 19, 1914
Brooklyn, New York, USA
November 22, 2012 (age 97)
Melvin "Mel" Shaw (born Melvin Schwartzman, December 19, 1914 - November 22, 2012) was an animator and story man who served at Walt Disney Productions. Shaw was called one of Disney's "elder statesmen" of animation, and was a visual development artist and character designer on The Lion King.
Born in Brooklyn on December 19, 1914, Mel discovered his artistic bent at age 10, when he was selected as one of only 30 children from New York to participate in the Student Art League Society. In 1928, Shaw's family moved to Los Angeles, where he attended high school, and entered a scholarship class at Otis Art Institute. However, Shaw desired to become a cowboy, and work on a Utah ranch, in which he did for four months.
Shaw would later take a job creating title cards for silent movies at Pacific Titles, owned by Leon Schlesinger. With help from Schlesinger, two former Disney animators, Hugh Harman and Rudy Ising, had made a deal with Warner Bros. Studios, and soon Mel joined Harman-Ising Studios as animator, character designer, story man, and director. While there, he worked with Orson Welles storyboarding a live-action/animated version of The Little Prince. In 1937, Mel left to work at Disney, where he contributed to Fantasia (1940), Bambi, and "The Wind in the Willows," which later became a segment in The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad.
During his initial tenure at Disney, Shaw was drafted into World War II, when he served the U.S. Army Signal Corp. as a filmmaker under Lord Lewis Mountbatten, helping produce films including a live action/animated documentary of the Burma Campaign. After his service in the army, Shaw entered business with Bob Allen, former MGM Studios animator, and founded Allen-Shaw Productions, where Mel designed and created the original Howdy Doody marionette puppet for NBC.
In 1974, Walt Disney Studios called Shaw to assist in the transition from the "Nine Old Men" to the next generation of animators. In addition to that, Mel offered skill and knowledge to such Disney motion pictures as The Rescuers, The Fox and the Hound, The Great Mouse Detective (1986), and Beauty and the Beast. For The Lion King, Shaw contributed concept artwork when the story was still about lions and baboons. From his art, various characters have been revealed such characters as Baasho and Banagi, two male hyenas, and Naanda, a lioness who was to be Sarabi's sister. Because of this, Shaw is credited as a visual development artist and character designer for the film. 
Recently, Shaw was honored as a Disney Legend in 2004, completed his autobiography, Animator on Horseback, and resided with his son and daughter-in-law in Woodland Hills, California. Shaw passed away on November 22, 2012 from congestive heart failure at the Woodland Care Center in Reseda, Los Angeles, at the age of 97. Upon hearing Shaw's death, Lion King producer Don Hahn eulogized him by saying, "Mel was on a short list of vanguard artists who would jump into a new film when it was still a blank piece of paper and with his stunning work he'd show us all the visual possibilities."