Jim Franzen was born in Chicago, Illinois. After attending the University of Southern Mississippi and the American Academy of Art in Chicago, he began working as an illustrator in Chicago during the 1960s and 1970s. He was a character designer for Hanna-Barbera on shows like 'The Smurfs' and 'The Flintstones' between 1979 and 1982, and later on 'Tom & Jerry Kids' (1990). He was a staff artist at the Disney Consumer Products Division since 1982 until his retirement. In the mid 1980s he drew the 'Donald Duck' newspaper comic for a while (scripts by Bob Foster, inks by Daan Jippes or Ulrich Schröder).