Saturday, October 07, 2006

John Sparey's "Types I have known": Bea and Liz

Two women artists highlight today's entry from John Sparey's portfolio ...

Bea Tamargo and Liz Zwicker

Assistant animator Berta "Bea" Tamargo (left) started at Disney in 1946. In 1958, in John's words, she "spoiled her euphonious name" by getting married and becoming Bea Jones. That same year she was let go in the infamous "Black Friday" mass layoff at the end of Sleeping Beauty, and she appears to have left the business.

Inbetweener and breakdown artist Elizabeth Case Zwicker (right) was the daughter of Nelson Case, a famous radio announcer of the 1940s and 1950s. She wrote about her Disney experience:

In 1956 I had just divorced and had to go to work. I was living in Glendora, California. One Sunday I opened the Los Angeles Times, to the help wanted. It was divided back then into men and women. I was reading men's jobs and women's jobs. Nobody ever said I couldn't; I never had any boundaries. I did a lot of things that other people didn't because I didn't know better.

I found an ad that said "Fine artist wanted" for Disney studios. I called and made an appointment to show my portfolio. I didn't even know what a portfolio was and had to go buy one. I put in a lot of stuff from art school and also some "cute" drawings. I added what I consider now as very amateur work, as well as some copies of work that was in the college museum.

I took it to Burbank and in the interview they asked me, "Do you have another source of income? We don't pay very much." It was $32 or $35 a week, and I assured them that I had child support. Everybody was very honest. They telegraphed me over the weekend that I was hired.

I found out later that it was an experiment. They were looking for fine artists and they still do. They want people who can draw; not people who cartoon. You have to know how to interpret human movement. If you are drawing a teapot, that nose has to twitch. The ears have to go back and forth like flaps.

I did birds in Sleeping Beauty. I studied how birds fly in the research library. I developed a bird consciousness. Then I did the jester with striped sleeves; the stripes are very difficult. The day the movie was finished, we were all laid off. I was the last one laid off (my last name at that time started with a "Z"). They offered me work in layout. I was crushed. I couldn't imagine life without animation. I didn't want any other work there, even for more money.

Although she never returned to the animation biz, Zwicker led a fascinating life post-Disney (as we found at this website). A poet and painter, she was involved with the San Francisco beat movement; she wrote that Lawrence Ferlinghetti threw her out of his City Lights bookstore because "he wasn't going to have any blankety-blank women or women's poetry, drivel." She became known as the "Mother of the Beat Generation".

Zwicker went on to illustrate children's books, and painted a mural in the children's reading room of the Old Bridge, N.J. public library that was moved when the library relocated in 1995. She passed away in April 2006 at the age of seventy-six.

3 comments:

Jenny said...

Great artwork, even better stories; the reminiscence by Ms. Zwicker is fascinating.

I've posted another link to this entry along with a copy of Sparey's great caricature on my blog, as I'd like as many people as posible to come & read this. I hope that's okay, Steve.

s.r. hulett said...

Link away. The more eyeballs, the better.

Hans Perk said...

Around July 25th, 1946, Bea Tamargo shared room 1C-1 with Mary Boylan, Tex Henson, Grace Kappler and Carmen Singer.

Though it is near impossible to tell which function the other at least 17 ladies (who were not in the official Stenography dept.) on the 1st floor of the animation building had (Inbetweener? Secretary? Stenographer?), the above mentioned ladies likely all were inbetweeners or trainees, since they shared the room with Bea Tamargo and Tex Henson, who also inbetweened at this time, I believe.

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