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The Women Who Animated the Movies: Uncovering a Colorful History

Evening Program with Book Signing

Evening Lecture/Seminar

Thursday, March 7, 2019 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET
Code: 1A0075
S. Dillon Ripley Center
1100 Jefferson Dr SW
Metro: Smithsonian (Mall exit)
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Master chemist Mary Weiser established the Walt Disney Studio's Paint Lab in 1935

From the very beginnings of celluloid to the digital revolution, women have shaped the animated form. One such trailblazer was Mary Weiser, a Disney studio painter of the 1930s who took it upon herself to study chemistry and then established the first and only lab in the world to create paint exclusively for cel-based animation. Weiser and her all-female chemists in the Disney Paint Labs transformed the palette of the studio’s early three-strip Technicolor animation: from 80 colors in the 1932 Silly Symphonies short Flowers and Trees to more than 1,500 shades for The Old Mill five years later, as well as the first surviving hand-painted animated feature film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

Mary Weiser is just one of the many women in the industry whose mostly unknown contributions defined the legendary animated classics of our time. Mindy Johnson, a leading expert on women’s roles in animation and film history, examines these groundbreaking and game-changing women. She discusses the progression of women and their roles in the industry, including the earliest women animators like Helena Smith Dayton, a suffragist who went on to become the first known female animator and a pioneer in stop-motion and clay animation techniques around the time of World War I. Johnson also focuses on the women of Disney animation, exploring historical contributions and advancements women have made to the animated art form and the artistry of our film heritage.

Johnson’s most recent book, Ink & Paint: The Women of Walt Disney’s Animation, (Disney Editions) is available for sale and signing.

Other Connections

Listen to Mindy Johnson’s interview on the Not Old Better podcast with host Paul Vogelzang.

Take a look at how the work of Mary Weiser and her fellow chemists transformed the expressiveness and depth of Disney’s animated Technicolor work by comparing the shorts Flowers and Trees and The Old Mill—separated by just 5 years, but more than 1,400 colors.

American Women's History Initiative