Disney Imagineer who helped create Pirates and Haunted Mansion attractions dies at age 98

Disney Imagineer and animator Francis Xavier “X” Atencio, who helped bring to life Pirates of the Caribbean and Haunted Mansion attractions, as well as animated classics as “Pinocchio” and “Fantasia” died on Sept. 10, 2017. He was 98.

Known as X, Atencio started working for Disney in 1938 after attending the Chouinard Art Institute. His first job was “Pinocchio” and later was promoted to assisted animator for “Fantasia.”

He then joined the Army Air Corps. where he became a photo interpreter and earned the rank of Major. When he returned to Disney in 1945 he went on to work on shorts and then provided stop-motion sequences for “The Parent Trap,” “Babes in Toyland”, and “Mary Poppins.”.

In 1965 he transferred to WED Enterprises, which then became Walt Disney Imagineering where he wrote the script for Pirates of the Caribbean. He co-wrote “Yo Ho (A Pirate’s Life for Me).” He then went to work on the Haunted Mansion where he wrote the attraction’s dialogue and co-wrote the song “Grim Grinning Ghosts.” His voice can also be heard from the coffin in the Haunted Mansion’s conservatory.

He also worked on Spaceship Earth, World of Motion, and the Mexico pavilion at Epcot.

“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.

Atencio retired from Disney in 1984, but continued working as a consultant to Walt Disney Imagineering for many years, and was inducted as a Disney Legend in1996.

Atencio was born on Sept. 4, 1919, in Walsenburg, Colorado. He is survived by his wife, Maureen; his children Tori McCullough, Judianne, and Joe; his stepchildren Brian Sheedy, Kevin Sheedy, and Eileen Haubeil; sons-in-law Mike McCullough and Chris Haubeil; daughters-in-law Kathy Atencio, Trish Sheedy, and Beth Sheedy.

He also leaves behind eight grandchildren, Kelsey McCullough, Audrey Atencio, August Atencio, Kate Sheedy, Julia Sheedy, Samantha Haubeil, Blake Haubeil, Connor Sheedy, Sarah Sheedy and longtime aide Gio Landicho. He was predeceased by his wife Mary and his son Jerry.