James Spalding Pompeo Bodrero was an artist, illustrator and animator who one Disney colleague said “had the extraordinary ability to draw anything at all,” but was especially known for his horse subjects. Bodrero was born in Belgium to an American mother and Italian father. He spent his early years in an affluent milieu, attending European and American boarding schools and spending summers in Hawaii on his grandparents’ sugar plantation. His contemporaries later frequently commented on how personable and socially well connected he was, counting among his friends a diverse group of people from Greta Garbo and Leopold Stokowski to the Buenos Aires polo team. His artistic talent was evident early and he had drawings accepted by Life magazine as a teenager. After serving in the army during World War I he finished prep school and eventually went to Pasadena, California, where he had relatives. He married Eleanor Cole, an artist who had her own commercial art studio, and started a family. During the Depression, he lived in Santa Barbara and sold his drawings and illustrations as well as writing and illustrating a children’s book about a donkey, Bomba (1938). An avid rider and polo player, he had a special ability to draw horses. At Stokowski’s suggestion, he visited Walt Disney studios with his portfolio and hired in 1938 where he worked designed the storyboards for the “Dance of the Hours” ballet sequence in the classic animated film Fantasia, and worked on the Pastoral sequence that featured centaurs. He also worked on Dumbo and was part of a small group of artists and executives Disney brought with him on a 1941 trip to South America where he sketched the gaucho cowboy culture. On his return he worked on Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros for Disney. He developed a number of other story ideas for Disney during the 1940s that never made it to the screen, until he was laid off in 1946. Afterwards he painted murals throughout California, mostly for restaurants, and worked briefly for Hal Roach Studios. When Eleanor died in 1949, he remarried and eventually the couple moved to Spain. His last major project was to write and illustrate the book Long Ride to Granada (1965), based on a horseback trip in Spain.
Condition: Generally very good with the usual overall light toning, wear, handling. Minor tape residue verso from former mounting, appears stable and not affecting the front. Incomplete polo sketch verso by artist. Dated by artist, slightly indistinct but appears to be 33.
Ghez, Didier. They Drew as They Pleased Vol. 3: The Hidden Art of Disney’s Late Golden Age. Chronicle Books, 2017. pp. 159-200. Online at Google Books: https://books.google.com/books?id=H2onDwAAQBAJ&pg=PA159 (20 November 2017).
Gray, Milton. “James Bodrero: An interview by Milton Gray.” MichaelBarrier.com: Exploring the World of Animated Films and Comic Art. 17 February 2008. http://www.michaelbarrier.com/Interviews/Bodrero/Bodrero_interview.html (20 November 2017).
Stephanie. “James Bodrero.” Andrea Sdeja. May 2013. http://andrea-sdeja.blogspot.com/2013/05/james-bodrero.html (20 November 2017).