In Monday's installment, we began our conversation with Joyce Carlson who started as a traffic girl at the Disney Studio in 1944 and then went into the Ink and Paint Department before becoming an Imagineer. Joyce was officially named a Disney Legend by the Walt Disney Company in 2000 but for those of us who know her, she has always been a legend. Age and company politics have not dimmed her feisty spirit nor her generosity with her co-workers. Here is the second part of a glimpse into what life was like at the Disney Studios during the time that Walt walked the halls.
Jim: I also understand in those days, the color keys were also done on ditto?
Joyce: In color models, they got the drawings of the characters(s) in the feature and they would put color to the pencil lines and then they'd write down the color of the areas on the cels.
Jim: So instead of painting the cels, they sometimes use ditto in the color ditto and the color pencil for that. Now, you started in 1944, which was toward the end of the war...did you have any security clearance problems that you went through?
Joyce: Oh yes, we all had to wear our badges to get into the studio and there was alot of security and then they took our badges away after a while so we could just drive in, didn't have to go through security. But, uh, that was during the war, yes.
Jim: You stayed in ink and paint for about 16 years, you say?
Joyce: Pushed a pen around for 16 years, no wonder I can't see today (laughs).
Jim: What did a typical day look like for an inker?
Joyce: Well, we had a commissary and that was it for an eating place. It was very nice. And we'd come in and go up the corridor. We all had our own desks. There were about two desks next to you and there were about 20 girls. Sometimes it'd get real cold in there, y'know, and you can't move your hands, so we couldn't ink. So, we'd call the air conditioning man and he'd come up and get it nice and warm. We were happy at the end. The temperature was pretty good there, in the middle it was pretty good, but up front it was too hot. So everybody complained, you know how girls are (laughs). But we'd sit down and we'd have our five field cel, 6 1/2 field cel and three pan cels , we'd have to roll them up and put them on our boards.
Jim: For those who are unfamiliar with term, field is basically the area that that camera can "see".
Joyce: We had our work or we'd call into the supervisor if we were running out of work. My supervisor nicknamed me "Hot Shot."
Jim: Why'd you get nicknamed "Hot Shot?"
Joyce: I had red hair and freckles, y'know (laughs). I looked like that cartoon strip, y'know, the pilots, I can't think of the name of the comic (TERRY AND THE PIRATES), but I looked like him, so she started calling me "Hot Shot." That name stuck with me for quite a while, I even had a sign: "Hot Shot."But, uh, we'd call in for work and get maybe six drawings, depending what character you were on, and we'd have to order from the paint lab, paint and we had a 'dummy' in the hall, the paint lab was right down below, and they would put the paints on it and send them up and then the color models would get their paints and we would get ours, black ink and certain colors that we needed for the cels that we were doing. We'd have to fill out a form and get our paints that way.
Jim: Did Walt ever visit you girls in the inking department?
Joyce: Oh, he used to come over. He used to walk through or bring guests through to see what we were working on. But otherwise, that was it.
Jim: Did he ever bring anything like compacts or nylons?
Joyce: Christmas time, he'd bring compacts, powder, nylons and he'd go around to all the girls and you could pick what you wanted. Merry Christmas (laughs).
Jim: How would you describe the 'Walt Disney' you knew?
Joyce: Well, Walt was, special. You saw him coming and he was someone you could look up to and you wanted to please, do a good job for him, help fulfill his dreams. It was exciting, you'd get on the elevator with Walt and he'd talk to everybody. It was wonderful, you'd just admire him so....we miss Walt, I miss Walt.
One time, it was '54, I got a new car and a girl in Ink and Paint gave me a box of candy and a little metal car, you pull the handle and it scooted across the floor. So, I was walking out to my car and here comes Walt, he was going over to camera, and he passed me. Then, all of a sudden he stopped and he came back and he said "What do you have there?" and I said "Oh, Walt, I got a new car, so someone got me some candy and this little toy" So he picked it up and looked at it and he said "Oh, that's nice" He never missed a trick.
But, uh, that little car has fond memories because he admired something and when you're doing the shows, he'd always be there. When we'd do our reviews for our scenes that were inked and painted that day, he'd be up there in our box. We'd always have to fill out a paper, what we thought of the color or if it wasn't inked too well. But he'd read them, he was always out in the hall. He'd read them later, but he was always collecting them, he wanted to know what we thought.
But, now when I see all our tapes on t.v., like Lady and the Tramp, and all this, inked and all those features, beautiful, the inking was beautiful. Of course Xerox now, is quick, but it's nice.
Jim: How many cels in a day would you get through as an inker?
Joyce: It depends, if you were doing mud or water, you could whip those up first. There's an average system too, you're either on the top, or on the bottom. But now, if I had mud or water, I could be up on the top of the average. But, if I had someone like Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty, I'd get about 6 drawings of that character. That took a while, because sometimes, the characters had 12 colors and that took over an hour just to do one cel.
Jim: Did you have any particular deadline or quota where you had to put a certain amount of cels per week?
Joyce: Oh yeah, but it was usually close to the bottom. My supervisor would always say "Don't worry about it, just do your inking" so that worked out okay.
Jim: Now, did you go to Disneyland when it opened in 55?
Joyce: Oh yeah, I still have my ticket, opening day ticket (laughs).
Jim: What was opening day like?
Joyce: Yeah, we were all invited, there were so many people that weren't invited. Oh, it was terrible. It was a hot day. Walt was real thrilled, y'know, he had Art Linkletter and Bob Cummings and he was so excited about the show. But it was dusty and there was still alot of dirt around.The only thing I rode was the carousel. That was the only thing I was able to get on, and I had a coke, that was my day. Oh, it was fun, we had a good time that day.
Jim: Have you ever seen anything like that? I know that there's Long Beach Pike and everything out there.
Joyce: No, it wasn't anything like that. I know that Walt used to go on the corner of Fairfax and Beverly and they had a Ferris wheel and he'd take his girls there, Diane and Sharon, on Sundays. So they could ride some of those, but that's all we had. By Vons market, they'd had some ponies, I used to take my nieces there. That's all they had, little ponies to ride, or a train that went around. So I guess that's when he dreamed up Disneyland. He's saying "The girls are having fun and I'm not" and he's sitting there watching, dreaming up Disneyland.
Jim: Obviously, you've been back to Disneyland, so you've had a chance to ride more than the carousel?
Joyce: Oh yes, I had to go back and ride It's a Small World.
Jim: Was that one of your favorites?
Joyce: Oh yes, I worked with Mary Blair on that show and Rolly Crump and Marc Davis and all of them.
Jim: In '61 when they went into xerography and they fired the entire ink department, what did you do?
Joyce: Well, they showed me the door. All us inkers left, of course. But, one thing about inking is you can always get a job on the outside in the ink and paint services. I used to do that for a little extra money overtime and working Saturdays and Sundays with ink and paint services because they'd all call the Disney ink and paint girls and try to get them to hire us. Some of us got into model making for the Studio. We were doing the little furniture for the set piece, little ladders and refrigerators, all old fashioned. So *** Irvine came around and decided to keep us girls because they were going to start the Worlds Fair projects. We didn't have all the necessities to work with, y'know. So on the shows (CAROUSEL OF PROGRESS, IT'S A SMALL WORLD), Leota Tomb's father gave her some chewing gum, wires and earrings. We'd use everything off those earrings, the little jewels, the back piece for the little hinges and all for the model. That was fun.
When we finished, Walt used to bring guests to show them the projects and he'd say "Do you believe that this whole set was built on earrings?" and everybody would go "Earrings?!"
So we did a lot of things. Alot of secretaries would bring their jewelry in so we could use the beads and stuff for other projects. But oh, it was fun, those earrings really came in handy.
Jim: After working with inking, was it a shock working three-dimensional? Or because you had some sculpting background, did this all seem natural to you?
Joyce: Wood carving, that was back in my high school days. Santa Monica High, with a pen knife, I used to just do carvings, y'know. I didn't have all the tools or anything like that. I used to go to Beverly Hills, in the back alleys, and pass the stationary stores and they had boxes and all these interesting things they'd throw away. So, I'd pick it all up, take it home and work with it. It was handy.
Jim: WED was off property, due to security reasons, right?
Joyce: Off over by the San Bernadino Road, yeah. It was a little place and they had a carpenter's shop in the back, but we didn't have too much room in there. That's where we did all the toys for Small World, for the New York World's Fair. That was fun. Walt used to come in with Rolly Crump early in the morning and we'd have the coffee truck back there and he'd have a cup of coffee. Come sit with Rolly and talk about the toys, Rolly toy shop. Then all the big boys would come in and snatch him away. (laughs). But he'd come in all the time and talk to everybody, even Christmas time he would show up. They would say "I think Walt's coming to the party" and they'd say "no, he isn't going to come", but he did. He'd always show up!
He'd talk to the traffic boys and tell which project, like the Haunted Mansion, was coming up and they'd stand there listening to Walt and he used to be so excited telling them about all the new projects. He was wonderful and the boys were just so thrilled.
Jim: Did Roy come by too sometimes?
Joyce: I've never seen Roy, he could have been there too.
Jim: What about the time you were working on the zebra?
Joyce: That was for the Jungle Cruise. I never painted a zebra in my life, full scale y'know. I thought all the stripes were the same, but they're not. There's about four different species of zebras. So I picked up all these books from the library and I said to Marc Davis, "Which zebra do you want?" and he said "that one" so I mixed the colors and pained that zebra.
I was just finishing it up and putting the eyelashes down and putting the mane in and the tail. We had this horse hair and a needle you stick into the skin and Walt came by and looked at the zebra and says "Oh, that's a nice animal" and I said "Oh, thank you Walt" and then Roy came by and Roy was bald and said "Joyce, could you put a little hair in my head like the zebra and the tail?" and I said "Sure, but it'll smart a little" So he walked away and later on he came by and says "I changed my mind. If it smarts, I don't want it. I'll just stay the way I am" (laughs). He was fun, Roy was very nice.