Ub Iwerks is one of the "big names" in animation, famous for his work with Walt Disney. Born in Kansas City, Missouri, Iwerks origins are German (his father came from East Frisia and emigrated to the USA in 1869). He first worked with Walt Disney at an advertising studio. From 1920, the two men founded Iwerks-Disney Commerical Artists, which lasted for only a couple of months.
Disney then set up shop in Hollywood, where he was soon joined by Iwerks. Iwerks and Disney cooperated on the 'Alice' and 'Oswald the Luckey Rabbit' shorts, and eventually on the creation of 'Mickey Mouse'. Iwerks is in fact the man who originally gave shape, movement, and personality to the famous mouse. He drew nearly every frame of the first 'Mickey' cartoons. Iwerks was Walt Disney's best friend and chief animator, and a pioneer in early Disney animation.
Although a real animation man, Iwerks did work on the first 'Mickey Mouse' comic, 'Lost on a Desert Island', which was distributed by King Features from January 1930. The story was written by Disney and drawn by Iwerks and Win Smith. However, Iwerks retired from the comic after only a few episodes to hand over the strip to Floyd Gottfredson. Iwerks then ended his collaboration with Disney and founded The Iwerks Studio. The Iwerks Studios produced shorts like 'Flip the Frog', Little Negro', 'Willie Whooper' and 'Don Quichotte', all without much success. Iwerks eventually closed his studio and went to work for Warner Bros, Columbia and other animation studios.
He eventually returned to Disney in 1940, working as a special effects technician. In the late 1950s, he invented the Multihead Optical Printer, a technique that allowed an animated character to interact with real-life actors, as featured in Disney's film 'Songs of the South'. He also worked at WED Enterprises, helping to develop many Disney theme park attractions during the 1960s.