One of Disney’s most important and influential animators in terms of the studio’s art style is Fred Moore. While Ub Iwerks set the standard for Disney’s animation quality in the rubber hose era, Fred Moore would do the same in the transition to more life-like animation that began with the Silly Symphonies and continued into the feature films.

Fred Moore was first hired by Walt Disney in 1930 mostly to do work on the Silly Symphonies, but he did not advance as quickly as other animators. He was an assistant animator to Les Clark for over two years before finding a place for his skills as a series animator on Mickey Mouse cartoons in 1932. With Mickey cartoons, Moore began to outshine his fellow animators with natural and seemingly effortless artistic skills on such shorts as The Mad Dog (1932), The Klondike Kid (1932), Mickey’s Gala Premier (1933), The Steeplechase (1933), Two-Gun Mickey (1934) and Brave Little Tailor (1938). The expressive way Moore drew Mickey Mouse with a pear-shaped body and humanistic body language inspired Walt to declare Moore’s way the standard, which made Moore the resident Mickey guy. And Moore would even be the one responsible for redesigning Mickey with pupils and creating his most popular look, that version making his screen debut in Fantasia (1940).

Moore’s expressive and humanistic squash-and-stretch animation was also applied to the Silly Symphonies on films like Three Little Pigs (1933), Three Orphan Kittens (1936) and Ferdinand the Bull (1938), for which he was the principal animator. And for the feature films, Walt promoted Moore to supervising and directing animator.

Moore was primarily an animator of the Dwarfs in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), including many funny scenes with Dopey, and he also animated Lampwick in the 1940 film Pinocchio (with some calling that cocky character a Fred Moore self-caricature), Timothy Q. Mouse in Dumbo (1941), the Centaurettes from the “Pastoral Symphony” segment of Fantasia as well as scenes from The Reluctant Dragon (1941), Saludos Amigos (1942) for which he animated and finalized the design for Donald Duck’s Brazilian friend Jose Carioca, Make Mine Music (1946) and Fun and Fancy Free (1947).

Moore was also famous around the Disney studio at that time for his girl drawings which many of Moore’s co-workers loved. Those girls have been dubbed by Disney and animation fans as the “Freddie Moore girls” for their distinct style, and they have made their way into a few Disney films, not just in Fantasia with the designs of the Centaurettes but in Make Mine Music (1946) in the “All the Cats Join In” segment featuring teenagers going out and dancing in colorful and cartoony style (a much better fit for the Freddie Moore girls than the mythological setting of “The Pastoral Symphony”). The Freddie Moore girl look even influenced the early designs for Ariel in Disney’s 1989 film The Little Mermaid, a story Walt Disney had tried to adapt to film as early as the late 1930s.

Things weren’t all fun and dancing behind the scenes at the Disney studio in the forties however, and I’m not just talking about the strike. Fred Moore was not really accustomed to being a supervising animator and he enjoyed being an ordinary low-level animator a lot more, but on top of that, he was a heavy drinker and he had been one ever since the thirties, and by the forties he reportedly showed up to work drunk so many times that Walt Disney finally fired him in 1945. A move Walt was reluctant to make given Moore’s artistic skills but one he felt was necessary, although Moore’s break from Disney would be a short one.

He worked for stop-motion animator George Pal as an animator on the Puppetoons until 1947 and then Walter Lantz hired him to animate on Andy Panda and Woody Woodpecker cartoons in addition to Lantz’s Musical Miniatures, but Moore returned to Disney (a changed man?) in 1948 and animated on the films The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949), Cinderella (1950), Alice in Wonderland (1951) and Peter Pan (1953).

Unfortunately Moore still had drinking issues and he was fired by Disney for the second and final time in 1952. Unemployed and without health insurance, Moore died a few months later in a car crash while driving drunk.

While Fred Moore’s influence on Disney was at its most significant in the thirties with newer animators like Milt Kahl and the rest of the Nine Old Men taking over as the new trendsetters in the forties, Moore’s round and cute art style defined the primary style of Disney animation from the thirties to the fifties, until Sleeping Beauty took the studio in a more modern and artistically striking direction. However Fred Moore was synonymous with Disney Animation’s style in the Golden Age and he has earned praise and recognition from many talented animators such as Milt Kahl, Ward Kimball, Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston.