Brice Harvey Mack was perhaps best known as a Disney background artist, though the bulk of his career was spent after he left the studio in 1954. That part of his career included running a pair of commercial studios, producing and directing live-action movies, and being a magazine cartoonist and illustrator.A Navy brat, Mack was born in the Philippines when it was an American colony, and grew up in Alaska, Virginia and California. An athletic scholarship got him to the University of Arizona where he played on the football and track teams, excelling in the discus throw. In 1937, he was hired by Disney and “went right away to the background department” as an assistant on Snow White. He was soon promoted to background artist and worked on Pinocchio, the “Rite of Spring” sequence in Fantasia and the Oscar-winning Mickey Mouse cartoon, Lend a Paw. He joined the picket line during the 1941 Disney strike, at which time he was noted to be making $55.00 a week. This did not seem to sour his relationship with Walt Disney, and during my chat he talked with affection about the letters he received from him during the war. (Mack served as a navigator for the Army Air Forces’ Air Transport Command.)
He returned to Disney in 1945 and did backgrounds on such films as Song of the South, Alice in Wonderland and Lady and the Tramp. He also “worked in the Story Department on the short subjects.” During this period, he also began “selling magazine gags” and illustrations for Colliers and True. After leaving Disney in 1954 (not ‘51 as he says in my interview), he “stumbled into television commercials,” setting up his own company, Era Productions; in addition to doing contract work for Disney—painting the first Disney Castle illustration for the Disneyland TV show—and on live-action and animated spots for The Peterson Company, a leading commercial house, some of which Mack directed.
When Era’s “partners all went different ways,” he started Unicorn Productions, again doing TV commercials, as well as films and theme park rides. It was during this period he produced and/or directed a series of low budget genre films, including Jennifer, a Carrie-like horror movie.
In his personal life, Mack was something of a bon vivant and loved to party, as pointed out in Jim Korkis’ anecdote. His second wife was Helen Virginia (“Ginny”) Mack, who had been head of the Disney Ink and Paint Department and a model for Tinker Bell. Their son Kevin worked for Brice and went on to become an Academy Awarding winning visual effects supervisor (What Dreams May Come). (Mack had two sons with his first wife, Margaret Louise Spencer.)
For more on Mack, I recommend the detailed obituary in TalesOfBalboa.com, which apparently reprints the official family press release in full (which seems the basis for all other death notices on him). Then there are some “facts and trivia” by Kevin Mack about his parents and himself (including as a child actor in his father’s commercials).
Next week: Willis Pyle.