Bill Peet, 87, a legendary Disney artist and writer who...

Deaths Elsewhere

May 14, 2002

Bill Peet, 87, a legendary Disney artist and writer who drew indelible characters including Dumbo, wrote the screenplay for 101 Dalmatians and went on to create 35 children's books with curiosity-tweaking titles ranging from Capyboppy to Whingdingdilly, died Saturday at his Los Angeles home.

"Bill Peet was Walt Disney's greatest story man and considered to be on a par with Walt himself in terms of telling strong stories with vibrant characters," said animation historian John Canemaker, author of the recently published Walt Disney's Nine Old Men and animation director for the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University.

Mr. Peet was Disney's logical choice to write the screenplay for 101 Dalmatians in 1961.

The artist was the screenwriter and also drew characters and directed actors' voice performances, and repeated the same multitasking effort for Sword in the Stone two years later. The features remained among Mr. Peet's favorite creations, along with his drawings of Dumbo for the 1941 film that first gained the artist personal attention from Mr. Disney.

But the two animated feature films were to be the finale of the 27-year love-hate association between the difficult and demanding Mr. Disney and the individualist Mr. Peet. Theirs was a prickly relationship, and Mr. Peet conceded in his Bill Peet: An Autobiography, published in 1989, that he drew the evil Captain Hook in Peter Pan to resemble Mr. Disney.

Mr. Peet left the studio and its creator in 1964 during the creation of Jungle Book, and asked that his name be stripped from the credits because he didn't like changes that were made after he left the project, a problem he always attributed to group creation.

Among the Disney classics featuring Mr. Peet's talents are Fantasia, Dumbo, Song of the South, Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan and Sleeping Beauty.

Joseph Lowenbach Steiner, 95, co-founder of toymaker Kenner Products Co., which established playroom favorites with Play-Doh, Easy-Bake Oven, and later Star Wars toys and Care Bears dolls, died Saturday in Kenwood, Ohio, two days after having a heart attack.

Kenner was founded in Cincinnati in 1947 by Mr. Steiner with his two brothers, Albert and Philip. In 1949, the toy company's first best-seller, the Bubble Rocket, sold more than a million units.

Kenner, which was one of the first sponsors of the Captain Kangaroo Show, was advertising on national television by 1958. The next year, Kenner introduced the Give-A-Show projector, which would sell successfully for two decades.

Throughout the 1960s, Kenner rolled out an array of hit toys including the Easy-Bake Oven in 1963, the psychedelic Spirograph in 1966, and 1967's Close'n Play phonograph, which brought music to the ears of young listeners.

James P. McFarland, 90, who went from selling bags of flour to leading General Mills, died Friday.

As chairman and chief executive officer, Mr. McFarland helped the Golden Valley, Minn., food giant - known for cereals like Wheaties, Cheerios and Total - triple its business during the 1970s.

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