Frank Bruce Bushman (hastily baptized as Francis X. Bruce Bushman, after he fell out of a tree and almost died, but he never used the name) was born April 20, 1911 in New Jersey, to stage and silent screen star Francis X. Bushman and his first wife, seamstress Josephine Fladune. He was the youngest of five children from that marriage, which his father's publicists insisted be kept secret to enhance his box office appeal. However, his parents divorced in 1918, and thereafter his father played little part in Bruce's life.
Bushman, who even as a child went by his middle name, spent his early years in his parents hometown of Baltimore. His education and formal art training started at UCLA and continued at Chouinard Art Institute. His mother moved to Santa Monica, California in the late 1920's, and Bushman joined her around 1931. He then moved to a modest apartment in Beverly Hills around 1936, making his living as an artist. Sometime in the late 1930's he joined the Disney Studio as a layout artist, working on animated shorts and scenes for Fantasia
Bruce Bushman moved to Temescal Canyon while working for Disney. He married Mary Ena Cousineau (an ink & paint artist for Disney) in 1945; the couple had a son a year later, and a daughter in 1952, by which time they had moved to Burbank. Bushman was a low-profile figure among the Disney Studio artists, but was well-regarded. He joined WED (the Disneyland park design team) in 1953-54, where he worked mainly on Fantasyland and Tomorrowland. His designs include the Fantasyland Castle and the overall park layout.
A tall, somewhat pear-shaped fellow, Bushman delighted in playing Santa Claus for kids at orphanage Christmas parties. Disney historian Jim Korkis says that because of Bushman's large size, Walt Disney directed that all seating for rides in Disneyland should be based on his measurements. Besides working on the theme park, Bushman also did art work for 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
, then was assigned to the upcoming Mickey Mouse Club
in early 1955.
As the show's first art director, Bushman was responsible for designing its unique look. Though his WED colleague Marvin Aubrey Davis would contribute some design work to serials and the later seasons, the show's visual style derived almost completely from Bushman.
||He created the logo of the Mickey Mouse Club for the Mouseketeers' costumes, and the Triple R logos for the t-shirts and hats of the Spin and Marty serials. He also did the well-known Mouseketeer boy and girl drawing used on the stage curtains and for letterheads (right).
But his major contribution was to the sets and props used on the show. He drew technical sketches for some 140 set elements and over 250 distinct props for the studio craftsmen to fashion for the show's first season. Bushman's set designs were so well-crafted that when built by the studio carpenters very few changes were necessary.
Although Bruce Bushman designed the show's original club house, used mainly for Anything Can Happen Day
, its unknown if he also created the more famous 'MouseClubouse' version, a larger, simpler design done for the show's third season.
Bruce Bushman seems to have left Disney around 1959-60, having moved from Burbank to North Hollywood a few years earlier. He went to work for Ivan Tors Studios in 1960, serving as art director for three of their television shows including Sea Hunt, Bat Masterson, and Gentle Ben. He also was lead designer for Bible Storyland in Cucamonga, a project that was never built. Newspapers of the time mentioned his long-standing role playing Santa Claus for a local orphanage, an activity he had carried on for over twenty years.
Bushman then joined Hanna-Barbera as a layout artist. He worked on the animated cartoon series Jonny Quest, The Jetsons, Flintstones, and Popeye throughout the sixties. While there, he was asked to help design a theme park for 'Hanna-Barbera Land', another unrealized project. He died Feb 15, 1972 in Los Angeles, at the relatively young age of sixty.
Some information and photos come courtesy of Chris Bushman