Contributed by Hoang Tran, Director of Archives
Donald Erik Chandler (1922-2005) was a creative artist who had a long professional career creating some of America’s most iconic characters.
Before becoming an artist, Chandler proudly served in the United States Navy during World War II. After he was honorably discharged on December 18, 1945, he applied to numerous art schools including the Corcoran School of Arts and Design in Washington D.C. and San Francisco State College.
Almost two years after being discharged, Chandler applied to and was granted enrollment to PAFA with the support of the GI Bill. At PAFA, Chandler studied sculpture and went on to win the Stewardson Sculpture Competition Prize in 1949.
After completing his training at PAFA, Chandler began his career as a technical illustrator to work on America’s Apollo program. Perhaps Chandler’s most notable and recognizable contribution was actually in the American film industry 25 years after leaving PAFA. His first big break was his 25 foot sculpture of a great white shark for the 1975 Steven Spielberg film Jaws. The following year, Chandler with a team of sculptors created a 40 foot tall King Kong sculpture used in the film. Other pop culture characters include his assistance on creating the Pillsbury Doughboy and characters for McDonalds–the Hamburglar, Grimmace, Mayor McCheese, Officer Big Mac, Captain Crook, the Fry Guys and the Hamburger Patch.
After Chandler’s death in 2005, his family made a contribution to name a school studio in honor of his memory. Even after all these years, his legacy still lives on here at PAFA in studio #1018. Thadius Taylor, a BFA + Certificate student is currently using the space to create art.
Don Chandler’s second cousin, Jeff Chandler, reached out to PAFA’s archives a few years ago to start the research process of compiling Chandler’s biographical information. Jeff recently published a short story about the artist’s personal and professional life and donated a copy of the book to the archives. Those interested in reading the book should contact the archives or you can access the digital copy here.