Farewell to the Woman Behind Walt Disney's "Chip"
Norma Swank-Haviland, one of the few surviving artists of animation at Walt Disney Studios during the 1940s, passed away in early April 2022. Beginning at Disney in 1943, Norma Swank-Carrier-Haviland enjoyed a 28-year career within the Ink & Paint Department, working as a Painter and later as an Animation Final Checker.
Born in Alaska, she grew up in Washington State. Following her graduation, the family made their way to Glendale, California, and after holding various jobs, Norma began working in Traffic at Walt Disney Studios. "I was so happy to be in the movies," she recalled, "even if I was behind the scenes." She quickly advanced into the Ink & Paint Department as a Painter. The first film she worked on was The Three Caballeros (1943). "That particular picture had a lot of feathers," Norma laughed, "that was a little difficult for a beginning painter with all those little pointy things!"
Working in the Ink & Paint corridors of the Burbank Studios also offered opportunities beyond painting and checking responsibilities within the department. "I was also doing voice overs," Norma noted. "When I first started there, they were making 'Casey at the Bat.' Some of the ladies on I&P went to the soundstage and we did everything they told me. I said 'Kill the umpire!' Oh, Boy! I was in the movies!! That was my debut."
Norma's biggest voice-over role came in the form of a buck-toothed duo. "They did ask me to do Chip in the 'Chip 'n Dale' movies," Norma recalled. The ancillary chipmunk characters made appearances in various shorts before they stepped out in their own featured shorts. Norma was called in to voice the black-nosed "Chip". "That was my big part," Norma declared! "I was happy to do that." Frequently called to help out with "walla" and other sound work, Norma lent her voice to a wide range of projects. "I did help with the little mice in Cinderella and I did a lot of crowd scenes and choruses, too. I also sang on 'Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom' – in Portuguese!
Later in her decades-long career at Disney, Norma moved into one of the more exacting roles within animation. "In the Final Checking, which was much more demanding, I had quite a bit of training." Norma noted. "We had to know everything about 'camera', and we had to go through each scene as if we were shooting in camera."
Norma left the studio early in 1971, shortly after her second marriage. She and her new husband moved to Boston, ending her extensive career in animation. They later settled in Half Moon Bay, CA and enjoyed a vibrant retirement. Norma continued painting and enjoyed keeping up with her many friends. Summing up all that she experienced and accomplished within her animation career in an earlier interview, Norma noted: "The main thing I was most proud of, was the fact that I was at Disney's. I was doing motion picture work and I've always been a motion picture buff." Well into her nineties, Norma echoed her earlier answer – "I still am very proud of the fact that I worked at Disney's."