John grew up in Southern California where his father, John Hannibal (Jack H.) was a well-known set decorator who worked on projects ranging from TV's The Monkees to the live-action Disney classic 20,000 Leagues under the Sea.
While working toward a degree in engineering with a minor in art at Brigham Young University, John was drafted into the Korean Conflict. When he finished his military service in 1955, John got started in the animation business. After an animation test, John was hired at Disney. He went on to attend Santa Monica City College and the Pasadena Art Center.
Ahern’s job responsibilities included producer, supervising animation director, production manager, supervisor of layout, special effects director, animator, art director, storyboard artist, layout artist, storyboard supervisor, freelance true life and adventure cameraman. In addition, he was the president and owner of two separate studios, AM Productions and Westwind Productions.
While at Disney, he worked with his cousin Grenade Curran on live action films. Ahern continued in the industry until September 1999, when he retired from the Motion Picture Screen Cartoonist Union.
Ahern was an associate professor at BYU for the Fine Arts Department in Animation where he taught storyboard, visual arts and character design.
In all, Ahern has more than 650 film credits. Some of his work includes:
- Epcot Center
- Designs for Disneyland Park, including the Matterhorn ride
In addition, Ahern was a member of many organizations including the Academy of Motion Picture-Television Arts and Sciences, Motion Picture Screen Cartoonist Union, Local #839 of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE)] and the American Animation Institute.
Throughout his career, Ahern has won numerous awards including
- Carnege Art Institute National Scholastics 1st places (3).
- Golden Reel Award in 1985 for Producer of “Dungeons and Dragons” at Marvel, Ltd.
- Academy of TV Arts and Sciences- Emmy Award for the production of “Muppet Babies” in 1987.
- Academy of TV Arts and Sciences- Emmy Award for the production of “Muppet Babies” in 1988.
- Academy of TV Arts and Sciences- Emmy Award for the production of “Muppet Babies” in 1989.
- Academy of TV Arts and Sciences- Emmy Award for the production of “Muppet Babies” in 1990.
- Academy of TV Arts and Sciences- Emmy Award for the production of “Muppet Babies” in 1991. Ahern was the first one in film history to receive five Emmy awards in a row. The "Muppet Babies" brought home an Emmy award five years in a row.
- Certificate of Recognition from the California Legislature Assembly in 2005 honoring Ahern's career in animation that spanned more than 50 years.
- Motion Picture Screen Cartoonists Golden Award in 2005 for 50 years of service
Family and Past-times
In 1963, he married Shirley Lynn Arnold in the Salt Lake Temple. They had one son and three daughters.
Kelly Loosli organized the animation students to produce some artwork as a get-well present for Ahern while he was in the hospital, which Ahern kept long after that particular hospital stay.
Ahern died on October 29, 2008, at the age of 74.
- The Daily Universe – Former animation professor dies from leukemia (4 Nov 2008)
- The Daily Universe – Letters to the Editor: An Animated Life (5 Nov 2008)
- The Daily Universe – Teamwork Focus is Key to Progress (1 May 2008)
- The Daily Herald - Award Winning Animator John Ahern Lives in Spanish Fork (22 Dec 2005)
- Utah Valley Magazine - Reel Life Story (November/December 2003)
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