Randy Fullmer, Disney animator and master luthier, dies at 73

Randy Fullmer, Disney animator and master luthier, dies at 73

Randy Fullmer, the incredibly creative effects animator, visual effects supervisor, art coordinator and producer who has contributed to films including Who Framed Roger Rabbit, The little Mermaid AND The Lion King at Walt Disney Animation Studios, died. He was 73 years old.

Fullmer died July 10 at his Woodland Hills home after a long battle with cancer, his family announced.

From 1983 to 1984, Fullmer worked for Don Bluth Studios, creating special effects for Dragon’s lair AND Space ace, the first video games produced on laserdisc. He was later employed at John Dykstra’s live-action special effects house Apogee and at Filmation, where he animated TV shows such as Forever happily ever after, BraveStarr, She-Ra: Princess of Power AND ghost Buster from 1985 to 1987.

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In 1987, Fullmer was hired by Walt Disney Feature Animation (now known as Walt Disney Animation Studios) for a three-month contract to animate the Toon Town section of Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988). The job would turn into an 18-year career at Disney.

His animation film credits included effects animation Oliver & Company (1988) and The little Mermaid (1989); effects supervisor on Rescuers in Australia (1990); active visual effects supervisor The beauty and the Beast (1991); artistic coordinator hon The Lion King (1994) and The hunchback of Notre Dame (1996); and producer on The Emperor’s Follies (2000) and Little chicken (2005).

After retiring from the animation industry, Fullmer launched Wyn Guitars in 2006. He was the company’s founder and sole luthier and has made hundreds of unique guitars for musical talents including Abraham Laboriel, James LoMenzo, Jimmy Haslip, Isaias Elpes, Stewart McKinsey, Robin Zielhorst, Maurice Fitzgerald, Adam Johnson, Jermaine Jackson, Ethan Farmer and Fernando “Psycho” Vallin.

After a Wyn Guitar fan show at the 2011 National Association of Music Merchants convention, Fullmer became the subject of documentarian Mike Enns Rested (2014). The film centered on Wyn Guitars’ tremendous impact on the music industry, which resulted in a waiting list of nearly 200 people desperate for a custom bass guitar.

Randall Wyn Fullmer was born April 27, 1950 in Richland, Washington. His father was a nuclear physicist and his mother a physiotherapist.

Fullmer learned to play the trombone at age 6 and when he was 12 he asked his parents if they could buy him a 12-string guitar to complement his 6-string electric guitar. When they refused—after all, he already had a guitar—Fullmer made the 12-string out of him.

Over the next six years, he proceeded to build about 30 guitars with expert craftsmanship that was both self-taught and tutored by an old country western fiddler named Tom.

Fullmer formed several rock bands with friends during his youth, including one called The Isle of Phyve that toured the Pacific Northwest on weekends, summers, and holidays while he was in high school. (Fullmer also played piano and percussion instruments.)

While studying architecture at Washington State University from 1968 to 1970, he took a film class and became interested in animation. He applied to Cal Arts, was accepted into its animation program, and graduated in 1974, then spent about seven years running his own animation business, where he produced educational films, television commercials, and segments for Sesame street and Saturday morning programs.

Fullmer was also an accomplished artist when it came to plein air painting, stained glass, jewelry, copper working, and woodworking that included extensive woodworking projects, framing, custom live table cutting, and mid-century modern chair restoration.

“Most people are good at one thing in life. Randy was good at a lot of things,” Disney animation veteran Don Hahn (The beauty and the Beast, The Lion King) said in a statement.

“He could draw and paint beautifully, but he had the mind of an engineer and the heart of a craftsman. He was great at animation; he is also good at producing films. He was at the center of the Disney renaissance in animation, then when he needed a new chapter in his life, he set about crafting exquisite and highly sought-after basses with the same engineering mind and artistic soul that he brought to Disney animated films.

“His masterful woodwork radiates with his love of the artisan ethic of working with his head, hands and heart. I miss him, but I carry his passion and joy with me every day. It will always be.”

Survivors include his wife, Diana; stepchildren Becky and Nick; sister Cathy; and half-brother Scott. Donations can be made in his memory to Doctors Without Borders.

His family said “Fullmer’s energy is now flying around the cosmos and he would love for others to use it as inspiration to take their own creative risks! In honor of him, (we) hope that everyone consciously treats others as he did with kindness, compassion, generosity and good humor.