Update: We got the chance to go to a panel at D23 Expo lead by Mindy Johnson, where she introduced us to four more women who will be featured in the book! Read about them below.
Before she began researching and writing Ink and Paint: The Women of Walt Disney’s Animation, author Mindy Johnson didn’t think it would be a long book. But once the research process started, she was amazed by how much she found. “This is an odyssey that has been under way for years,” she said when we got the chance to interview her about her upcoming book.
“The research on this has been pretty crazy. The bibliography on this book is about 8 pages long.”
Ink and Paint: The Women of Walt Disney’s Animation tells the history of Walt Disney Animation from an under-told perspective. In the book, Johnson explores the story of women in cinema, from the dawn of silent cinema, to the very first women in Walt Disney’s Ink & Paint Department, and beyond.
Johnson says: “It’s not just about the department of Ink and Paint. Women were everywhere.”
Families of the women profiled in the book were eager to tell their relatives’ stories. Mindy pointed out that we’ve heard all about the stories of the men who drew at Walt Disney Animation, but we haven’t heard the stories of the women until now.
The book features “some things that have never been seen before,” including previously unseen images and documents that were literally found under the beds of relatives of some of these women. This is something that all Disney fans can get excited about!
It’s not just about the Ink & Paint Department, either! The book looks at women in stenography, Imagineering, and more. There’s even a look at the Studio cats, who were cared for by the women of the Ink & Paint Department.
Here are just a few of the women you can learn more about in Ink and Paint: The Women of Walt Disney’s Animation.
Lillian and Edna Disney
The wives of Walt and Roy, respectively, were “always on hand” in the Los Angeles houses where the Walt Disney Company got its start.
“Walt knew women were the tastemakers and always had that in mind in telling these stories.”
Kathleen was the first employee of the Walt Disney Company! Says Johnson: “She was hired on to do painting—blackening as it was called in those days—because as you’ll see the cartoons were really rather crude, basic. It was really blackening in the pencil lines to convey the story.”
According to Johnson, while Ub Iwerks did “the bulk of the animation” on the Silly Symphony short “The Skeleton Dance,” Mary Tebb “did all of the inking and painting on that.”
“Hazel is a very pivotal key person who is completely overlooked in any of the books. [There are] very few mentions of Hazel Sewell or what her contributions were, but let me tell you, this woman was groundbreaking.”
She joined the studio in 1927, and was also the person who introduced the Disney men to Kathleen Dollard!
Virginia started working in the Inking Department in 1942, and then moved on to cleaning cels before they went on to photography.
“Working with ink, it has spoiled me to watch a cartoon. Because I have to see: does the eyebrow land in the same place the same time? I still can’t enjoy cartoons!,” Virginia said jokingly at the D23 Expo panel. She also mentioned that she loved her time working at the Walt Disney Company.
Jane worked in the Animation department, and recalled working with a few other female animators. Fun fact about Jane: she is the person responsible for animating the candles sliding off Aurora’s cake in Sleeping Beauty!
Gretchen was in the Ink & Paint department in the 1970s. Gretchen eventually took over the department and oversaw the change from hand-rendered artistry into digital artistry. That’s a pretty big deal, if you ask us!
Patty worked in special effects animation, and started out at Disney in a program through Cal Arts (where she was classmates with John Lasseter and Tim Burton!). She was the first woman to receive s screen credit as a special effects animator. Epic!
And so many more (check them out below!). We can’t wait to dive into our copy and learn more about all of these women once Ink and Paint: The Women of Walt Disney’s Animation is released!
Ink and Paint: The Women of Walt Disney’s Animation will be released in September. You can pre-order it here!