Monday, June 19, 2006

Disney, 1939: "Girls are not considered for the training school"

Disney's Hyperion lot. In Jeff Massie's comments from the Geena Davis discussion below, he mentioned a form letter that Lillian Friedman received from Disney when she applied after five year's experience as an animator at Fleischer. Here's a version of that form letter ... from TAG's archives...and Tom Sito's upcoming Drawing The Line: Here's the text -- in case reading the above gives you eye-strain...
May 9, 1939
Miss Frances Brewer 4412 Ventura Canyon Avenue Van Nuys, California Dear Miss Brewer: Your letter of some time ago has been turned over to the Inking and Painting Department for reply. Women do not do any of the creative work in connection with preparing the cartoons for the screen, as that work is performed entirely by young men. For this reason girls are not considered for the training school. To qualify for the only work open to women one must be well grounded in the use of pen and ink and also water color. The work to be done consists of tracing the characters on clear celluloid sheets with India ink and filling in the tracings on the reverse side with pain according to directions. In order to qualify for a position as "Inker" or "Painter" it is necessary that one appear at the studio on a Tuesday morning between 9:30 and 11:30, bringing samples of pen and ink and water color work. We will be glad to talk to you further should you come in. Yours very truly, WALT DISNEY PRODUCTIONS By: [Mary E. Cleave]
We were going to say "Good thing that doesn't happen any more." But judging from the statistics, one almost wonders how much the business has improved. After all, thanks to ink-and-paint there were a lot more women working in animation in 1939 then today.

11 comments:

Jenny said...

I've seen this--someone gave me a copy years ago. What a document. The wording's pricelss-so unequivocal. It's also a lie--or shall we say, inaccurate. At that very time there was at least one woman, Bianca Majorlie(I'm misspelling that I'm sure), who worked in story and in visual development; I also believe there were others, Retta Scott among them, training to animate.

They certainly were doing "the creative work". It's a pretty stunning and kind of baffling blanket form letter...imagine if this woman, whoeever she was, had been another Milt Kahl--or Fred Moore--or Kimball, or Nordberg, or Joe Grant? It's possible. What a waste of talent.
And along those lines, I've always wondered how, for instance, Betty Kimball's art looked, in her pre-Disney days. I'll bet it was sharp; all the women in the ink & paint dept. had to be crack artists, at least as good if not better at drawing than the hired trainee in-betweeners.

Jeff Massie said...

A line from the letter that I paid no attention to at first:

Your letter of some time ago has been turned over to the Inking and Painting Department for reply.

I have this vision of some secretary in what passed for the artist recruitment department in 1939, sorting letters by gender and sticking the ones from "girls" in the bottom drawer until there were enough to bother sending over to ink-and-paint ...

Speaking of things that haven't changed ... except that today at a lot of studios it would be the letters from anyone with more than five years' experience ...

Anne-arky said...

>>After all, thanks to ink-and-paint there were a lot more women working in animation in 1939 then today.

There are tons of women working in the industry today. Maybe not as many as in 1939, but at least today they trust us to do more than just paint by numbers. ;)

I agree with Jenny's comment above...what a mind-boggling waste of prospective talent.

Anonymous said...

another thing of note is the word useage of "young men" and "girls" as I'm sure she was the same age as some of the "young men"

Diane said...

Re the above: Sounds like "casual media" usage in the UK (less common in Ireland, it must be said), where women are likely to be referred to as "girls" until they're about eighty. (eyeroll)

And re the posting itself: Priceless. (tongue waaaaaay over in the cheek)

Jason Scott said...

I think that a lot of actions by a lot of companies would be considered a staggering waste of talent, in retrospect. You end up with a company shutting out all of "A" (where "A" is women in certain positions, stores in certain locations, work from a certain subcontractor) and then later it turns out they turned up their noses at an entity that went on to change everything. Isn't that really what happened with Lasseter and the mid-50s effects guys?

lesliet said...

I was getting the same sort of thing at Harvard in the 60's. Women were excluded from a programming job I applied for because a requirement of the job was being able to carry heavy boxes of punched cards. (I wish I had saved that one in writing!). At Harvard Stadium, men were booth captains and women were booth workers. (Although in my junior year, I finally broke down that barrier and became the first woman booth captain!) When I graduated from Radcliffe College in '67 and applied to Arthur D. Little I was told they weren't hiring any women programmers but I was welcome to apply for work as a secretary.

So I'm not at all suprised to see this sort of discrimination in the 30's.

Anonymous said...

Yeah and recently AdCritic ran a feature "Creativty 50" -- guess how many women are listed?

None!
Unless you count the 2 who are sub-listed under firm headings.

Pitiful.

shallwedave said...

ahh...the good old days?

this is 'the greatest generation'?

Keith said...

Interesting stuff...

Keep it coming!!!...

Aaron Astor said...

Lillian Friedman Astor is actually my grandmother. I've seen the rejection letter; it's actually in color! She quite Fleischer studios when he went to Florida. Some people thought she was a union buster but family lore has it that she was actually a spy for the union. Who knows? She and her husband Nathan (my grandfather) didn't want to go to Florida with Fleischer and she started applying to studios elsewhere, including Disney. After the rejection from Disney she retired and moved with her husband to Wynantskill, NY, which is just outside Troy. Shortly afterwards she gave birth to my aunts and, in 1944, my father. One of my aunts still has all of Lillian's (Grandma Lily to us) oridinal art.

Site Meter