In 2005, Lewis was inducted into the Walt Disney Features Hall of Fame.
Lewis’s path into animation was a winding one. Born and raised in a small town in West Chester, Pennsylvania. In school, he became known for hiding away in the art room to draw. With the exception of his art teacher, Lewis didn’t know anyone who knew anything about art. When it was time to graduate, Lewis was unsure of what to do next. He was faced with the option of joining a biker gang or going to college. College wasn’t really looking like much of an option for him.
That was until Lewis found about art schools. He applied to all the ones he found and got accepted to all of them. Lewis chose Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) where he gravitated to illustration.
After graduating from RISD, Lewis moved to New York. He played guitar in a band, making music and performing around the city. That was until his guitar was stolen. Lewis saw it as a sign and took the unfortunate opportunity to pursue his first love, art. He lugged his portfolio to all the magazine art directors, only to face rejection after rejection. That was until he was given a shot at a boat magazine. From there, one job led to another until he was having a successful career as an editorial illustrator.
It was not long before Lewis developed a new itch he had to scratch. One rooted in his childhood. An ambition to become a painter. So Lewis saved up his money, said his goodbyes, and moved out of the city. He moved to Connecticut to start a new creative chapter. But once he was finally there, he felt he was out of his depth. He was felt uninspired. He felt an all time low.
Then, almost out of nowhere, Walt Disney Studio called. They had a movie in production that wasn’t going well and needed a new direction. After hearing about Lewis, and his prize-winning editorial work, they reached out to him.
Since then, Lewis has worked as a character designer and visual development artist on more than 20 animated features. His credits include Tarzan (1999), The Emperor’s New Groove (2000), Lilo & Stitch (2002), Ice Age (2002), Treasure Planet (2002), Madagascar (2005), Cars (2006), Ratatouille (2007), Kung Fu Panda (2008), and Arthur Christmas (2011). I am sure you will agree, that is an incredible list.
You can find out more about Buck Lewis by watching this 4-part in depth interview with Bobby Chiu, and reading this wonderful article on his career in the RISD alumni magazine. You can find more of his work on his website.