One of the most influential Disney story artists of the golden age, Otto Englander is also one of the lesser known. A Jewish intellectual born in Yugoslavia, when Yugoslavia was still part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Otto had a life and career that were at least as fascinating as that of his most fascinating colleagues.
Otto was born in Tuzla on February 17, 1906. In a letter to ani- mation historian Michael Barrier, his future wife, Erna, explained: “His parents and grandparents were actually Austrians by birth and citizenship. He was educated in Europe—Vienna to be exact, where he studied at the University and upon graduation he returned to New York where his parents were living. His studies included humanity and music. He was an eternal student—his knowledge of literature, music, and all related arts was incredible. He had a fantastic mind—photographic, in fact, and a total recall. His friends in and out of the Disney Studio called him ‘The Encyclopedia Britannica.’ His languages: From romance to Slavic.” Edna was not overstating her case. Disney’s employment records list no fewer than eight languages spoken by Otto in addition to English: “French, Spanish, German, Italian, Hungarian, Serbo-Croatian, Russian, and Portuguese (first three fluently).”
Otto summarizes the rest of his career—which included coming back to Disney on January 14, 1957—in his correspondence with his friend and former colleague Izzy Klein.