He was born in Cincinnati, Ohio and raised in Colorado. He attended East Denver High School and the Art Institute of Denver. While attending the Art Center School of Design in Los Angeles, an instructor sent him to interview with Walt Disney.
Lounsbery was hired by Disney on July 2, 1935, beginning as an assistant animator on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. He went on to work on numerous other short features in the 1940s, while continuing to serve as part of the animating team on nearly all of Disney's most famous feature-length animated films. In the 1970s, he was promoted to director and directed Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too! and co-directed The Rescuers.
John Lounsbery died on February 13, 1976 in Los Angeles, California of heart failure during heart surgery at aged 64. At the time of his death, he was working on the The Rescuers and still directing at the Walt Disney Studios. He was named a Disney Legend in 1989.
He was animation director for:
- Dumbo (1941)
- Song of the South (1946)
- The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)
- Alice in Wonderland (1951)
- Peter Pan (1953)
- Ben and Me (1953)
- Lady and the Tramp (1955)
- Sleeping Beauty (1959)
- Goliath II (1960)
- One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961)
- The Sword in the Stone (1963)
- The Jungle Book (1967)
- Robin Hood (1973)
Characters animated by Lounsbery
- Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs - Assistant to Norm Ferguson on Witch
- Pinocchio - J. Worthington Foulfellow and Gideon
- Fantasia - Hiacynth Hippo, Ben Ali Gator, the alligators and the hippos in "Dance of the Hours"
- Dumbo - Dumbo and Timothy Mouse
- The Three Caballeros - Donald Duck, José Carioca, Panchito
- Make Mine Music - Wolf in Peter and the Wolf, "Willie the Operatic Whale"
- Fun and Fancy Free - Willie the Giant
- Melody Time- "Once Upon a Wintertime", "Blame on the Samba", "Pecos Bill"
- The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad- Ichabod Crane, Katrina van Tassel, Brom Bones, the villagers, the animals
- Cinderella- Lucifer, Mice, Bruno, Major
- Alice in Wonderland- Flowers, Caterpillar, Cheshire Cat, Mad Hatter, strange creatures
- Peter Pan - George Darling, Captain Hook, Indians, Wendy Darling, John Darling, Michael Darling, The Lost Boys
- Ben and Me- Thomas Jefferson
- Lady and the Tramp - Tony, Joe, Bull, Beaver
- Sleeping Beauty - King Hubert, King Stefan, Goons, Prince Phillip, Queen Leah, Samson, animals
- Goliath II - Goliath II, his Father and Mother and the Elephants
- One Hundred and One Dalmatians - Colonel, Jasper and Horace Badun, Sergeant Tibbs
- The Sword in the Stone - Wart, Merlin, Archimedes, Wolf, Sir Ector, Kay, Pelinore, Pike, Kitchen Woman, Madame Mim
- The Jungle Book - Colonel Hathi, Winifred, Junior, bugler elephant, and other elephants, King Louie
- The Aristocats - Edgar, Georges Hautecourt, Madame Bonfamille
- Robin Hood - Tournament Crocodile, Sheriff of Nottingham
- The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh - Owl, Eeyore, and Gopher
- Mickey's Christmas Carol - Jacob Marley, Ghost of Christmas Present, and Bob Cratchit
- The Great Mouse Detective- Basil of Baker Street, Dr Dawson, Olivia, Toby