Life is good. I’m enjoying my delicious breakfast on the beautiful patio of Walt Disney Imagineering. The sun is shining and the pleasant sound of the nearby fountain is quite relaxing on this plesant Wednesday morning. I’m suddenly greeted by a young woman who stops at my table. Though we had not met before, it appears I knew both her parents. This kind of thing is hardly unusual here at the Walt Disney Company. I’ve met a number of young men and women who’ve reminded me that I had worked with their parents in years past. I immediately remembered the talented background artist and the young woman from Disney’s Ink&Paint Department as though it were yesterday. Of course, the artist and the painter were her parents and it all came back in a flash. This kind of “Disney Time Travel” is a regular occurance in my life.
It was fifties Disney and the motion picture, “Sleeping Beauty” was roaring to the finish line. The woman’s father occupied a room in the background department. This was B-wing on the second floor of the Animation Building where color stylist, Eyvind Earle and his team were creating the final backgrounds for the film. On occasion, the young woman’s mom, a tall, attractive woman with long braided hair would visit her boyfriend. Then, glancing at her watch, she would hurry out of the building and back to Ink&Paint lest Grace Bailey noticed her absence. It was quite amazing that the events of the nineteen fifties could suddenly return as though it were yesterday. In case you’re wondering who Grace Bailey was, I’ll enlighten you. In the nineteen fifties Disney’s Ink&Paint Department numbered in the hundreds. You needed this much man power (in this case, woman power) to complete a massive inking and painting effort on the film, “Sleeping Beauty.” The department was managed by a tall, attractive woman named, Grace Bailey and she ruled with an iron fist. If you think the young women feared her - you should have seen the men. I actually witnessed grown men hid in the hallways or cower in fear lest they be discovered by Grace Bailey in her building. When I hear stories about women under the thumb of men at the Walt Disney Studios, these people clearly never heard of Grace Bailey. Anyway, Ms Bailey was her mom’s boss, and it was fun remembering a Disney Studio long forgotten.
We continued speaking of the wonderful Disney artists we’ve known over the years and the amazing work accomplished. The young woman’s dad was no slouch himself. As a matter a fact, he and a number of others led an artistic rebellion at the Walt Disney Studios in the nineteen fifties when the young men and women pushed for more artistic freedom in the Disney animated films. I know it must be difficult to think of the nineteen fifties as a rebellious time with the young Disney artists demanding change. Yet, little of this is covered in the animation history books. I suppose it’s because those who write the history were not around during those times. After a bit, our conversation ended and I returned to my breakfast. Yet, I continued to think about the Walt Disney Studios in the fifties and the amazing people who worked here. It’s good to be reminded of that creative time and the talented artists. Even if it’s their children who do the reminding.