Fantasia's Female Forces
11/13/1940 – Walt Disney's Musical Masterpiece Fantasia, released in theaters nationwide. This visual and audio tour-de-force was unlike anything experienced before, largely thanks to the feminine forces at work within virtually every aspect of production at The Walt Disney Studios.
Bianca Majolie, Sylvia Holland, Ethal Kulsar and several other women of the Story Department vividly conceptualized most of the story sequences, while Shirley Soderstrom and several other lady artists provided three-dimensional sculptures of the various characters. As animator Richard Huemer recalled,"These better artists would give us an idea of what it might look like in color and treatment...you could actually see Fantasia right up there."
By 1938, the largest contingent of women to date were in training to animate and several, including Viola Anderson, worked as In-betweeners and Assistant Animators on Fantasia. Color Animation was completed by Mildred Rossi, Marcia James and several other "skirted animators."
Marge Belcher-Champion choreographed teams of women dancers whose referenced movements achieved the right balance, poise and humor for an anthropomorphized hippo, pirouetting ostriches and a gravity-defying herd of dancing elephants.
New materials to support groundbreaking techniques were developed in the Paint Labs by Mary Weiser and her all-female chemist teams. The Ink & Paint artists developed new applications and achievements including expanded highlight techniques, shaded tones, stippling and other visual effects, required to give each sequence its own unique look and to heighten the visual experience.
The first female Music Editor in Hollywood, Luisa Field, was employed to tailor the classic arrangements conducted by Stokowski into an animated context, and all of the musical elements were later housed in the studio's new Music Library which was run by a woman.
The great Gyo Fujikawa designed the film's concert program, as well as a full line of themed consumer products. Publicity for the film was shepherded by Janet Martin and the films credits featured the largest female contingent to date!
The work of these remarkable women has been largely overlooked, but with a clearer sense of the feminine talents at work behind the scenes, we can re-experience Fantasia with a new appreciation for Walt Disney's animated musical masterpiece!