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Disney Legend X Atencio passes away at age 98

September 11, 2017, 4:40 PM · The Walt Disney Company announced today that Disney Legend and former Imagineer X Atencio passed away yesterday, at age 98.

Best known to theme park fans as the lyricist of the Pirates of the Caribbean theme song, "Yo Ho (A Pirate's Life for Me)," Atencio worked for years as a Disney animator before joining the company's theme park design division.

"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 released by the company. "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. That was how X worked—with an enthusiastic, collaborative attitude, along with a great sense of humor. His brilliant work continues to inspire Imagineers and bring joy to millions of guests every year."

A Colorado native, Francis Xavier Atencio moved to California at age 18 to study art, but got a job with Walt Disney after applying at his teachers' urging. He worked on Pinocchio and Fantasia before leaving the company to serve in the Army Air Corps during World War II. Upon returning, he worked on animated short subjects, then stop-motion animation sequences for The Parent Trap, Babes in Toyland, and Mary Poppins, before moving over to WED Enterprises [now WDI].

There, he worked on the installation of the Primeval World diorama at Disneyland before taking on the script for Pirates of the Caribbean, co-writing "Yo Ho (A Pirate's Life for Me)" with composer George Bruns. After Pirates, Atencio wrote the script for The Haunted Mansion, where he co-wrote "Grim Grinning Ghosts" with composer Buddy Baker.

Atencio later worked on scripts for If You Had Wings at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom and Spaceship Earth, World of Motion, and El Rio de Tiempo at Epcot.

Atencio retired from The Walt Disney Company in 1984 and was named a Disney Legend in 1996.

Replies (4)

September 12, 2017 at 7:05 AM · A Legend!
September 12, 2017 at 10:21 AM · Damn, two classic songs for two classic rides, RIP.
September 12, 2017 at 5:30 PM · Where would Pirates of the Caribbean and Haunted Mansion be without the contributions of X Atencio? Thank you, X. RIP.
September 14, 2017 at 9:00 AM · There's a let's-try-anything, start-up, almost hacker-like mentality evident in the work that the early Imagineers did at Disney that I continue to find fascinating and inspiring. Never wrote a song before? Sure, why not try it? And X writes one of the most beloved, enduring ditties in entertainment history.

That is the work of a legend. I am so grateful that we will continue to enjoy X's work for many years to come.

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