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Toon Tuesday: A tribute to Hurricane Eva

Toon Tuesday: A tribute to Hurricane Eva

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If you were a young woman working in Disney's animation department in the 1950s, chances are you were pretty darn good. Though it was clearly a man's world back then, you might be surprised to know that the Mouse House had a fair share of young women toiling away at animation desks.

Savvy young women knew their chances of scoring an animator position were extremely rare. Although some proved themselves capable clean-up assistants on many of the Disney films. In some cases, such as the detailed drawings in "Sleeping Beauty," a woman's touch was definitely required.

Still, it was not an easy time for a young woman. And I actually heard Disney directors say they would never allow a woman to animate on any of their films. Grudgingly accepting their second-class status, a dozen or so talented young women lent their considerable talents to a number of animated motion pictures even though they may have been more qualified than their male counterparts.

 This is the Eva Schneider I remember from the fifties at Walt Disney Studios

One such was a young woman who had made her way to the Walt Disney Studios all the way from Switzerland. Like many of us, Eva Schneider had fallen in love with Disney animation. So she left her native homeland and headed for America, hoping to land a position at the Mouse Factory.

In spite of her artistic gifts, Eva was not what one would call a Hollywood babe. She had no interest in trendy clothes, fancy hairstyles or make-up. I don't think Eva would be upset if one referred to her as somewhat plain. As a matter of fact, she seemed to take a certain pride in her unadorned style, and never wore anything other than a plain, shapeless print dress and sandals. Eva Schneider was a Hippie long before the term had been invented.

Like most Disney artists, Eva Schneider had a great sense of humor and was not above laughing at herself. I once drew a cartoon of her at work in her plain print dress with her long, straight, reddish hair hanging limply on her shoulders. I then followed this drawing with a view of the other Eva. The one we never see at home. Only now she was garbed in a tight fitting dominatrix outfit complete with net stockings and stiletto heels. Needless to say, Eva found this depiction of herself hilarious.

 I got a laugh out of Eva when I showed her this cartoon I drew back in the sixties.
Proof that Eva had a sense of humor

Talented and low key, Eva Schneider proved herself a capable assistant animator, and must have worked on dozens of Disney animated movies throughout the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, when she eventually left the business. She chooses to retire in the most unlikely of places: New Orleans, Louisiana. A far cry from her homeland of Switzerland. Yet there was something about the free and easy life style of the Big Easy that must have appealed to her. She purchased a small home, and settled in with her pet dog. After laboring a few decades at the Walt Disney Studios, she was ready to accept a new challenge. However, Eva could not have predicted how daunting the new challenge would be.

In the late summer of 2005, a category 5 storm was headed for New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. As thousands scrambled to get out of the city, Eva Schneider decided to hang tough. She was determined to ride out the storm, even though it hit New Orleans with a vengeance.

Hurricane Katrina had wreaked havoc on the city of New Orleans, and when the storm had passed, the press descended on the beleaguered city to interview the survivors. The survivors who had been brave enough, and yes, maybe even crazy enough to remain behind and face whatever Katrina had to dish out.

One of those survivors was Eva Schneider. Eva's full-page color photo appeared in the 2005 September issue of Vanity Fair, as she stood triumphant on her front porch, with her dog by her side.

The Grande Dame herself. This full page photograph appeared
in the November 2005 issue of Vanity Fair magazine.
Copyright 2005 Condé Nast. All rights reserved

A woman had to be strong in order to compete side by side with a man back in the 1950s. Opportunities definitely fell on the side of the man at Walt Disney Studios. In spite of this, women animation artists made their mark anyway because of their talent, resilience and strength.

I'll always remember Eva Schneider, and I'm proud to have known & worked with such a talented animation artist. She was a clever, delightful woman who could deal with both the shortsightedness of her former employers as well as a killer hurricane.

Now that's a survivor.

Did you enjoy today's "Toon Tuesday" column? Well, that's just one of the hundreds of amazing tales that Floyd Norman has to tell. Many of which you'll find in the three books Floyd currently has the market. Each of which take an affectionate look back at the time that Mr. Norman spent working in the animation industry.

These include Floyd's original collection of cartoons and stories -- "Faster! Cheaper! The Flip Side of the Art of Animation" (which is available for sale over at John Cawley's cataroo) as well as two follow-ups to that book, "Son of Faster, Cheaper" & "How the Grinch Stole Disney." Which you can purchase by heading over to Afrokids.

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  • That was quite an interesting article, Norman. As an aspiring female filmmaker, I like hearing stories about women working in the film industry and animation industry. Its inspiring to read about women who were able to survive well in such male-dominated industries. Unfortunately, because of sexism and biaising, women are still having trouble finding jobs in Hollywood. This issue means a lot to me.

  • Is she still alive?  The article refers to her in the past tense, but she obviously was alive two years ago, and the article makes no mention of her passing away.

    It's kind of confusing.  Is she still around?

  • Sorry about that.

    The Grande Dame of Disney is alive and well and living in New Orleans.

  • Why we don't hear more about women like this is beyond me.

    Thanks, Floyd, for shining the spotlight on someone who deserves to be there.

  • Great job! We need more articles like this!

  • Thanks Floyd,

     But I'd sure like to see a follow-up. I know you're an artist and former colleague ... but I'd sure like to hear more directly in quoted material about her memories of working for Disney.

    Give her a call or put her in touch with Jim ... I think several readers here would like to hear more about her life ...

  • Dear Mr. Norman,

    Thank you so much for writing this story!

    I liked your drawings of Mrs. Eva, they made me smile.

    I was blown away by the tale of her versus the hurricane, and I am so glad that she survived it.  That is an amazing tale to inspire anyone!

    Thanks again!



  • This lady is actually a resident at our nursing home!  What an wonderful thing to learn about her.  This will be shared

  • Our Aunt Eva, "The Grande Dame" passed away on June 16, 2013 in New Orleans.

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