Elizabeth Grace Randall was born on New Year's Day in Willoughby, Ohio, in 1901. After studying art at the Cleveland School of Art, Grace started at Disney Studios in 1932. With her art background, young Grace was placed in charge of the paint used on the cels in the earliest days of animation. "It was a small studio," Grace recalled, "everyone knew everyone and everyone called Walt 'Walt,' and he called everyone by their first name." Grace arrived as Mickey and Minnie Mouse were celebrating their 4th birthday and animation was about to burst into a technicolored art form!
Working under the direction of Hazel Sewell, Grace was part of the teams that made the transition from black, white and gray paint, into a veritable rainbow of color. "We went into color in the Silly Symphonies, and then from there on, practically everything was in color," Grace recalled of their work on Flowers and Trees (1932). "Yes, it made it more complicated. And the colors were washed out...they didn't have the brilliance or the definition (and) we had a limited range of colors."
Advancing throughout the ranks of Inking & Painting, Grace Bailey took over in 1954, and ran the legendary department—overseeing the artistry of hundreds of Inkers, Painters, Checkers, Color Model Supervisors, Paint Lab Chemists, Xerox® and Cel Service teams. A commanding presence, Grace was both revered and feared amongst her teams. "She had a way about her," noted legendary I&P artist Ginni Mack,"and she was really respected. She had this 'thing' you felt (and you wanted to know if she was in the room, so you wouldn't misbehave)." A code name was developed to pass the word on of Grace's presence. "The ladies would say, 'MYRTLE!' And that meant she was in the room," laughed Edle Bakke, Grace's longtime assistant.
Throughout her stellar career at Disney, Grace Bailey and her teams transformed the color and artistry of Walt Disney's animation. Before retiring in 1972, Grace trained many of the women who later held the reigns of the Ink & Paint Department. She died in 1983, and her teams paid tribute to their long-time boss, as Ginni Mack recalled, "when she passed, the staff planted three little myrtle trees outside her office window." This loving tribute to the woman the girls coded as "Myrtle" to track her presence in the corridors exists today. Over the years, with various construction projects on the studio's lot, the three "Myrtle" trees were potted. Today, they continue to grow and gently shade the benches outside the entrance to the current Ink & Paint Department of the Walt Disney Studios.