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Movie Mom

The Women At Disney Studios

posted by Nell Minow

Vanity Fair’s annual Hollywood issue has an article by Patricia Zohn about the “ink and paint” women who worked on Disney’s classic animated films.

Much has been written about the prodigiously talented men who brought Snow White, Pinocchio, Fantasia, Bambi, and Dumbo to the screen. But if behind every good man stands a good woman, behind Walt Disney and his “boys”–the all-male assembly line–once stood 100. Walt was the impresario of a troop of young women, most under 25–a casting director’s dream of all-American acolytes–who made the screen light up, not with feathered swan dives or the perfect tip-tap of a patent-leather heel, but by making water shimmer or a tail wag just so. It was a job complicated by his unrelenting perfectionism–Jiminy Cricket required 27 different colors–but reducible to a simple imperative of the time: ever nimble but never showy, their job was to make what the men did look good.

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She tells a related story in a great Huffington Post piece about another woman who worked behind the scenes — and later went on to appear in movie musicals.

I could not resist the opportunity to interview one other treasured behind-the-scenes woman, Marge Belcher Champion, famous as half of the dancing Champions of screen and stage, but known to Disney aficionados world wide as the real-live model for Snow White.

Champion was only 14 and still in school when she received $10 a day to act the part of Snow White for the Disney animators to use as their model. She later went on to partner with her husband Gower Champion in films like “Show Boat” and “Jupiter’s Darling.” But here she is helping the first Disney feature film come to life.

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