Randy Fullmer, the wildly creative effects animator, visual effects supervisor, artistic coordinator and producer who contributed to films including Who Framed Roger Rabbit, The Little Mermaid and The Lion King at Walt Disney Animation Studios, has died. He was 73.
Fullmer died July 10 at his home in Woodland Hills following a long battle with cancer, his family announced.
From 1983-84, Fullmer worked for Don Bluth Studios, creating special effects for Dragon’s Lair and Space Ace, the first video games to be produced on laserdisc. He later was employed at John Dykstra’s live-action special effects house Apogee and at Filmation, where he handled animation for such TV shows as Happily Ever After, BraveStarr, She-Ra: Princess of Power and Ghostbusters from 1985-87.
In 1987, Fullmer was hired by Walt Disney Feature Animation (now known as Walt Disney Animation Studios) for a three-month contract to animate the Toon Town section of Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988). The job would turn into an 18-year career at Disney.
His animation film credits included effects animator on Oliver & Company (1988) and The Little Mermaid (1989); effects supervisor on The Rescuers Down Under (1990); visual effects supervisor on Beauty and the Beast (1991); artistic coordinator on The Lion King (1994) and The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996); and producer on The Emperor’s New Groove (2000) and Chicken Little (2005).
After retiring from the animation industry, Fullmer launched Wyn Guitars in 2006. He was the founder and sole luthier for the company and crafted hundreds of unique guitars for musical talents including Abraham Laboriel, James LoMenzo, Jimmy Haslip, Isaias Elpes, Stewart McKinsey, Robin Zielhorst, Maurice Fitzgerald, Adam Johnson, Jermaine Jackson, Ethan Farmer and Fernando “Psycho” Vallin.
After a show of Wyn Guitar fans at the 2011 National Association of Music Merchants convention, Fullmer became the subject of documentarian Mike Enns’ Restrung (2014). The film centered on Wyn Guitars’ stunning impact on the music industry, which led to a waitlist of nearly 200 people desperate for a custom bass guitar.
Randall Wyn Fullmer was born on April 27, 1950, in Richland, Washington. His father was a nuclear physicist and his mother a physical therapist.
Fullmer learned to play the trombone at age 6, and when he was 12, he asked his parents if they could buy him a 12-string guitar to complement his 6-string electric guitar. When they refused — he already had a guitar, after all — Fullmer made his own 12-string.
Over the next six years, he proceeded to build some 30 guitars with craftsmanship that was both self-taught and mentored by an old country western fiddle maker named Tom.
Fullmer formed several rock bands with friends throughout his youth, including one called The Isle of Phyve that toured the Pacific Northwest on weekends, summers and holidays while he was in high school. (Fullmer also played piano and percussion instruments.)
While studying architecture at Washington State University from 1968-70, he took a film class and became hooked on animation. He applied to Cal Arts, was accepted into its animation program and graduated in 1974, then spent about seven years running his own animation business, where he produced educational films, TV commercials and segments for Sesame Street and Saturday morning programs.
Fullmer also was accomplished artist when it came to plein air painting, stained glass, jewelry, coppersmithing and woodworking that included extensive joinery projects, framing, custom live-edge table hewing and mid-century modern chair restoration.
“Most people are good at one thing in their lives. Randy was good at a lot of things,” Disney animation veteran Don Hahn (Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King) said in a statement.
“He could draw and paint beautifully, but he had the mind of an engineer and the heart of an artisan. He was great at animation; great at producing movies, too. He was at the very center of the Disney renaissance in animation, then when he needed a new chapter in his life, he started making exquisite and much sought-after bass guitars with that same engineer’s mind and artistic soul he brought to Disney animated movies.
“His masterful woodwork radiates with his love for the craftsman ethic of working with head, hands and heart. I miss him, but I carry his passion and joy with me every day. Always will.”
Survivors include his wife, Diana; stepchildren Becky and Nick; sister Cathy; and stepbrother Scott. Donations in his memory can be made to Doctors Without Borders.
His family said that Fullmer’s “energy is now flying around the cosmos, and he would love for others to use it as inspiration to take their own creative risks! In his honor, [we] hopes everyone will consciously treat others as he did with kindness, compassion, generosity and good humor.”