Disneyland artist and ‘master illustrator’ Charles Boyer dies at 86

Two people with Disney characters
Disneyland artist Charles Boyer at his 1999 retirement party with friends including then-Disneyland President Cynthia Harris.
(Boyer family)

Much-decorated Disneyland artist Charles Boyer, recipient of some of the park’s highest and most unique distinctions, died Monday. He was 86.

Boyer, who signed on as a portrait sketch artist in 1960, stayed with Disneyland for 39 years. According to a post by D23, the official Disney fan club, he became “Disneyland’s first full-time artist and eventually was elevated to become Disneyland’s master illustrator.” Boyer was made a Disney Legend in 2005, the equivalent of membership in the company’s Hall of Fame, with a window on Main Street in his name.

Not bad for someone who put himself through Chouinard Art Institute as a janitor on a “working scholarship.” Or for an artist who was color-blind. He was fired from his first job, at AT&T, for “mixing up the red wires and green wires,” his son, Bruce, told The Times, confirming his father’s death.

After joining Disneyland on a “temporary” basis, he produced “nearly 50 collectible lithographs, as well as a diverse range of artwork for magazine covers, brochures and flyers,” according to D23. Two of his most famous works are “Partners,” depicting Walt Disney with Mickey Mouse, and “Triple Self-Portrait,” a riff on the Norman Rockwell painting with Mickey Mouse and Walt Disney as the artist, reflection and figure in the artwork.

“Dad was the first artist who could make Mickey look real, in the real world,” said Bruce Boyer. “That was the gift my dad gave to Disney, bringing Mickey to life. That’s what he loved to do; he loved to paint realistically. Goofy, Donald, he brought them to life, too.”


In a quote posted by D23, Boyer said at the time of his 1999 retirement, “I’ve worked with such great people. My wife used to ask if I was actually getting any work done, because I was having so much fun.”

“He loved the fact that he was able to support his family, working for Disney. He would always take us to Disneyland and sometimes he would take us behind the scenes to show us the magic that was there. He was more of a desert painter, but the Americana that was Disney brought a little sparkle to his art,” Bruce Boyer told The Times.

“He did a cover for The L.A. Times Magazine and with the money he earned from it, he was able to buy a house in Anaheim near his work. He would come home from work to eat lunch with me and my mother and my sister. Whenever there was a Disney event, he loved bringing his wife and kids.”

Boyer’s wife, Ellen, predeceased him. In addition to his son, he is survived by his daughter, Naomi, three grandchildren, three great-grandchildren and many extended family members.