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Harriet Burns, first female artist at Walt Disney Imagineering, dies

Harriet Burns, the first female artist at Walt Disney Imagineering and a designer of several famous Disneyland rides, has died. She was 79.

Burns died Friday at USC University Hospital of complications from heart surgery, a spokesman for Glendale-based Walt Disney Imagineering said Tuesday.

She worked for Disney from 1955 to 1986, beginning as a prop and set designer for TV's "The Mickey Mouse Club." She designed and built the famous Mousketeer clubhouse, according to a Disney biography.

She later worked on attractions for Disneyland, helping create the models for Sleeping Beauty's Castle and the Matterhorn. She painted underwater figures for the Submarine Voyage attraction, put feathers on birds for Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room, and helped with the design and construction of Pirates of the Caribbean.

In 2000, the Walt Disney Co. named Burns a Disney Legend, an honor that acknowledges people "whose imagination, talents and dreams have created the Disney magic."

Born in San Antonio, Burns obtained a bachelor's degree in art from Southern Methodist University in Dallas and studied advanced design at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.

Burns, her husband and young daughter moved to Los Angeles in 1953. In 1964, She worked on Disney-produced attractions for New York World's Fair, including "Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln."