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Xavier “X’’ Atencio, an animator behind early Disney movies including “Pinocchio” and “Fantasia,” and a Disney “imagineer” who played a leading role in creating the stories and songs for the theme-park rides Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion, died Sept. 10. He was 98.
A Disneyland spokesman confirmed his death but did not provide additional details.
Mr. Atencio’s drawings on “Pinocchio” (1940) helped give Disney its permanent identity in film and culture. He had started working for the company as a teenager two years earlier, and went on work as an assistant animator for “Fantasia” (1940), which set whimsical sequences to a classical soundtrack, before leaving to serve in the Army during World War II.
After returning, he helped design stop-motion sequences for the Disney live-action films “The Parent Trap” (1961) and “Mary Poppins” (1964).
But Mr. Atencio’s greatest legacy is probably the maddeningly catchy lyrics to “Yo Ho (A Pirate’s Life for Me),” which he wrote for the Pirates of the Caribbean ride that opened at Disneyland, near Los Angeles, in 1967. The attraction later spawned a film franchise starring Johnny Depp.
“X was an enormous talent who helped define so many of our best experiences around the world,” Bob Weis, president of Walt Disney Imagineering, said in a statement, referring to Mr. Atencio by a nickname he took on in his youth. “Some may not know that when he wrote the lyrics for ‘Yo Ho’ he had never actually written a song before. He simply proposed the idea of a tune for Pirates of the Caribbean, and Walt told him to go and do it.”
Francis Xavier Atencio was born Sept. 4, 1919, in Walsenburg, Colo.
Mr. Atencio began working for Disney at 18, when the company was younger than he was and had just one film to its name, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” (1937).
When the company’s work started including theme parks in the 1950s and 1960s, so did Mr. Atencio’s. At the request of Walt Disney, he became an imagineer, in the company’s parlance, helping design rides for Disneyland and Disney World, near Orlando. In addition to Pirates, he wrote the dialogue for the Haunted Mansion and contributed to Spaceship Earth, the time-traveling attraction inside the geodesic dome at Epcot.
Mr. Atencio retired in 1984 but continued working as a consultant. In 1996, the company declared him a Disney Legend.
His death comes just weeks after that of another Disney Imagineering legend, Martin Sklar.
Survivors include his wife, Maureen; three children; three stepchildren; and nine grandchildren.