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The man who killed Mufasa in The Lion King

Animator Andreas Deja, who trained under Disney’s legendary Nine Old Men, paints a picture of his time at the studio

Deja chats with students
Animator Andreas Deja chats with students at the USC School of Cinematic Arts. (Photo/Roberto A. Gómez)

Who do you look up to when you are the man who killed Mufasa and left Simba fatherless? Easy. You look to the man who killed Bambi’s mother and left the beloved fawn crying alone in the forest.

The former would be Andreas Deja, the Disney Animation legend behind classic characters like Scar, The Lion King villain who killed Simba’s father, Jafar (Aladdin), Gaston (Beauty and the Beast), Lilo (Lilo & Stitch) end even “evil Mickey” of Runaway Brain. Deja visited the USC School of Cinematic Arts on Feb. 24 to discuss on The Nine Old Men, his book about the animators who created the Disney legacy.

The term “Nine Old Men” originated with Walt Disney himself, who used it to refer to an elite group of animators, each with unique artistic strengths, who would imagine, design, write, direct and animate most of the classic Disney films. Deja was hired at Disney when he was 20 years old, although, as he told SCA animation students, he applied to the studio for the first time when he was only 10.

Deja was part of the last generation of animators trained by the original Nine Old Men. When he arrived at the studio, he was put under the guidance of Eric Larson, who was in charge of training new talent. During this period, Deja was able to work with and forge friendships with Larson and the six other surviving Nine Old Men (Les Clark and John Lounsbery had already died): Marc Davis, Milt Kahl, Ward Kimball, Wolfgang Reitherman, Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, the animator who killed Bambi’s mother.

At the event, Deja talked with USC students, answered questions from fans and made drawings for guests who stayed to the end.

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