Peter Ellenshaw, whose artistic career spans more than six decades, is a renowned landscape artist, motion picture art director, Academy Award® winning special effects artist and official Disney Legend. His original canvasses have graced the walls of numerous galleries around the world while his motion picture credits include some of the most beloved and classic films of all time.
Ellenshaw was born in Great Britian in 1913. As a child, Ellenshaw wanted nothing to do but draw. He dropped out of school at age 14 and lived for six years "in Dickensian misery" on the outskirts of London in Essex, copying Old Masters in watercolors while working as a grease monkey during the day.
A neighbor, Walter Percy Day, O.B.E., a famous matte artist if his time, discovered Ellenshaw's talent and took him on as an assistant. Mattes are realistic paintings done on glass, against which films of actors and other parts of the set are projected; then both painting and film are rephotographed to create a new, realistic image.
Day was associated with Alexander Korda, one of Europe's leading film producers and founder of Deham Studios. While under apprenticeship with Day, Ellenshaw contributed his painting skills to such well-known British films as Things to Come, The Four Feathers and The Thief of Baghdad.
Ellenshaw worked with Day until 1941, when he decided to join the Royal Air Force and become a flying instructor during WWII. During his training in the United States, Ellenshaw met and married his wife, Bobbie Palmer. Their son Harrison was born in 1945, followed by their daughter Lynda in 1958.
Following the war, Ellenshaw moved back to Great Britain with his wife and son, briefly reteaming with Day before striking out on his own in 1946 as a full-fledged matte artist. In 1947, his work caught the attention of an art director for the Walt Disney Studios. Disney was in the pre-planning stages of his very first live-action film, Treaure Island, which would be produced in Great Britian and the art director inquired if Ellenshaw would be interested in the project. Thus began a professional collaboration and friendship with Walt Disney that would span over 30 years and 34 films.
Ellenshaw regards Walt Disney as a source of inspiration, a wonderful executive, and over the years, a good friend. "Walt had the ability to communicate with artists," recalls Ellenshaw. "He'd talk to you on your level - artist to artist. He used to say, 'I can't draw, Peter." But he had the soul of an artist, and he had a wonderful way of tranferring his enthusiasm to you."
During his amazing film career, ELlenshaw has been nominated for four Academy Awards®, two for Art Direction/Set Direction. In addition to his Oscar win for Mary Poppins, Ellenshaw was nominated along iwth his son Harrison for Best Visual Effects for The Back Hole.