Profile of an Imagineer: Claude Coats

A background painter, color stylist, and concept designer, Claude Coats worked with The Walt Disney Company for over 50 years. Known as the "gentle giant" because of his towering stature -- he was 6 feet, 6 1/8 inches-tall -- Coats worked on some of Disney Studio's most iconic animated features and helped bring Disneyland, Disney World, and other parks to life.

Coats was born on January 17, 1913 in San Francisco, California and graduated from the University of Southern California in 1934. After studying at the Chouinard Art Institute Coats joined The Walt Disney Studios in 1935.

His work background paintings that were featured in "Pinocchio" are praised for adding an element of rich and textured beauty to the film. Coats also developed backgrounds and color stylings for other Disney classics such as "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," "Fantasia," "Dumbo," "Cinderella," and "Peter Pan."

Coats was chosen to be a part of the team of artists and designers that would bring Disneyland to life in 1955 by Walt himself. He worked on the development team as a show designer for The Grand Canyon and Primeval World Dioramas, Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, Snow White's Scary Adventure, and Submarine Voyage.

He also worked on the Magic Skyway, Carousel of Progress, and It's a Small World, Disney's attractions for the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair.

His work at Walt Disney World includes the Magic Kingdom's Mickey Mouse Revue, and a few classic EPCOT Center attractions: World of Motion, Horizons, and several of the World Showcase pavilions.

For Tokyo Disneyland, Coats contributed to the Meet the World attraction and Cinderella Castle Mystery Tour.

Coats retired from Disney in November 1989, and was named a Disney legend in 1991. He passed away on January 9, 1992, in Los Angeles.

Extra Reading: See a full biography of Coats written by his son Alan at

Linda Branson wrote on Wed, 11/27/2013 - 18:07:

Linda Branson's picture

A few yrs ago, i went to an auction, purchased (5) pictures. They were all from Disney movies, but (2) of them have the words CEL SETUP on them, one with the name of Coates as being the Artist. Was told to have them appraised but want a reliable appraiser for Disney products and pictures. Do you have any recommendations?

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