31 Jan 2011

Forgotten Disney Legends: Ferdinand Horvath

Information found at the amazing blog 

Ferdinand Horvath in the collection of Matt Crandal

This is an original concept drawing of the umbrella bird from the Tulgey Wood sequence, by Ferdinand Horvath.
Horvath was at the studio for a very short time in the 1930s, did a lot of concept work on Snow White and others.

"Ferdinand Horvath, a Hungarian immigrant and book illustrator, was born in 1891 and died of a stroke in 1973. From 1934-1937, he worked at the Disney Studios on everything from advertising to illustrations for a pop-up book to painting backgrounds and doing layouts to constructing three dimensional models (such as making a windmill for study for "The Old Mill") to character designs and gags for over fifty Silly Symphonies and Mickey Mouse shorts.

Horvarth was a versatile self taught artist who was often the victim of teasing while he was at Disney for his European looks (where he was thought to look like a Dracula character) and his quiet, intense, often negative personality. He was apparently still haunted by his near-death experiences during World War I where he spent almost three years in various prison camps.

Before working at Disney, he spent six years working at Paul Terry's "Aesop's Fables" studio and after he left Disney, he worked for a year (1938-1939) designing models and layouts for "Scrappy," "Krazy Kat" and "Color Rhapsodies" shorts for Columbia/Screen Gems. In 1940, he sculpted puppets for George Pal's Puppetoons.

For those more interested in this troubled artist, John Canemaker devoted a chapter to him in his outstanding book, "Before the Animation Begins: The Art and Lives of Disney's Inspirational Sketch Artists" (Hyperion Press, November 1996) and a few copies at a discounted price are still available through

After Horvath's death, Bruce Hamilton was able to acquire from Horvath's estate a collection of his concept sketches. They were offered for sale in Russ Cochran's comic art catalog -- "Graphic Gallery #8" -- with fifty pages of art from "Snow White," "Practical Pig," "Brave Little Tailor" and many more Disney cartoons including unproduced shorts like "Mickey and the Sea Serpent." Some of those wonderful historical pieces sold for as little as twenty-five dollars! This is a wonderful collection of Horvath's work that does not appear anywhere else. Unfortunately only two of the pages are reproduced in color and most Disney collectors are unaware that this publication even exists since it was a small print run almost thirty years ago.

In those days before Disney scholarship, Bruce and Russ struggled to find information about the then unknown artist because of Disney's decades long policy of not giving credit to artists. Horvath is not credited with working on "Snow White," which was perhaps one of the reasons he chose to leave the studio. But his unusual penchant for signing every piece of artwork he did resulted in the then current Christopher Finch book, "The Art of Walt Disney," to showcase lovely colored pencil renderings of the dwarves and Huntsman from "Snow White" boldly signed by Horvath. Which helped Bruce and Russ validate that Ferdinand did indeed do significant developmental work on that particular Disney feature.

At the time, Bruce showed the artwork to Carl Barks who firmly stated that "I consider Horvath to be one of the two finest illustrators to have worked for Disney during the Thirties."


  1. Thanks for sharing this post on Ferdinand Horvath. I am currently doing research on the artist, but it's not easy finding a whole lot of information on him.

    Just stumbled upon your blog. Nice work. Let me know if you'd like to "exchange" followers.

  2. Hi

    Yes, this is a very interesting artist. I would love to know more about him, this drawing has a sinister and surrealist touch that in the final result became soft and more conventional. I would like to know if you have more material about that.