The Disney Women

There were no women artists at Walt Disney Productions back in the fifties…or so they say. In truth, there were more woman than you realize. Let me name a few, and I mean just a few. Kay Silva, Mary Anderson, Fran Marr, Doris Collins, Sylvia Niday, Sylvia Fry, Ruth Kissane, Elizabeth Case, Sammie June Lanham, Gloria Wood, Phyllis Thompson, Jane Fowler, Sylvia Roamer - and I could go on because I haven’t even named half the women I knew. Suffice it to say, Walt Disney Productions had its fair share of female artists and these talented ladies were not restricted to Walt’s Ink & Paint Department.

The attractive young woman correcting drawings in the photograph below is animation artist, Lois Blomquist. The very young Ms Blomquist was already a Disney veteran by the time we arrived at the Mouse House in the fifties. Lois spent a fair share of her time mentoring us cartoon newbies because we were green and still had a lot to learn. My pal, Rick Gonzales was lucky to be mentored by the attractive, blue eyed young blonde. He could have been saddled with a fat, balding old guy who would be correcting his drawings. Rick was a very lucky kid to have scored company of the lovely Ms Blomquist.

I remember being summoned to the office of Doris Collins in “dreaded” D-wing back in 1957. I was still going through my feature animation training to determine whether I was worthy to work on Walt Disney’s latest feature film, Sleeping Beauty. Doris had given me a small stack of drawings to be inbetweened and now it was time to show her my work. The lovely, young woman studied my drawings for a time. Then, she put down her cigarette (everyone smoked in those days) and picked up her pencil. Doris was very deliberate as she corrected my humble sketches and pointed out a series of mistakes. I stood looking over her shoulder like a scared school boy who had done less than stellar work. In time, Doris Collins and I became good friends, but I’ll never forget our first meeting when the attractive young woman had me scared to death.

Like many of the men in Walt Disney’s animation department, a number of women chose to move up and out of animation. Contrary to popular belief this lateral move was possible even back in the fifties. Sammie June and Sylvia made the move to layout, while Gloria Wood looked forward to being a background artist. The talented, Ruth Kissane decided to remain in animation and became a damn good animator. However, the point of this little story is to remind people that Walt Disney Productions was not exactly a “Man’s World” even though it’s often characterized as such. Woman played a considerable role in Walt Disney animation as far back as the fifties. This is a fact, and I think it's something you should know.

The lovely, Lois Blomquist and her trainee, Rick Gonzales. Who said there were no women at Disney?

The lovely, Lois Blomquist and her trainee, Rick Gonzales. Who said there were no women at Disney?