DISNEY’S FIRST FEMALE ANIMATOR STILL INSPIRING GIRLS 75 YEARS AFTER DEBUT
Disney’s first female animator, Retta Scott, probably never realized the impact and inspiration she should have on women everywhere, especially not 75 years after her work debuted in the classic 1942 feature Bambi.
In the 1940’s animation, among most other jobs, was considered a ‘man’s job’. While women were able to work in the paint and ink department, which is basically a glorified coloring book, the job of actually drawing the characters was reserved only for men. But Walt Disney saw the pure talent that Scott possessed and knew she was something special.
Scott had an ability to portray the animals she drew with a boldness, and this made her the perfect fit to animate the sequence in Bambi when dogs attack Bambi’s mate, Faline. Walt saw her work on the storyboards and knew she was the right person for the job and she became Disney’s first female animator.
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But not everyone was happy with this decision to hire a woman to do a ‘man’s job’, no matter how much talent she showed. Some people felt so threatened by her new position as the first female animator, that Walt felt it was necessary to give a speech to the entire studio on February 10th 1941.
“[An] ugly rumor is that we are trying to develop girls for animation to replace higher-priced men. This is the silliest thing I have ever heard of. We are not interested in low-priced help. We are interested in efficient help… First, I would like to qualify it with this: that if a woman can do the work as well, she is worth as much as a man… [T]he girl artists have the right to expect the same chances for advancement as men, and I honestly believe that they may eventually contribute something to this business that men never would or could.”Walt Disney
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Today, some of the best animators in the field are women, who were inspired by Scott and have proved Walt’s decision to be right. Scott battled against the patriarchal society to prove herself worthy as the first female animator at Disney and paved the way for women to follow her. But it wouldn’t have been possible without Walt’s progressive vision and public stance that women should be given the same opportunities for advancement as men.
As a longtime lover of everything Disney, the next time I watch a Disney movie, (which let’s be honest, is probably this evening) I’ll be thinking of Retta Scott, who opened doors and paved the way for women today.
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