Today’s interviews from the 1987 Golden Awards Banquet feature two more women from Disney’s Ink and Paint Department, Grace Bianca Godino and Betty Anne Guenther, who both began there in 1937 during the final rush to finish Snow White.
Godino had been an art major in college before she was hired, initially inking and then also painting, and working in the Shadow Department with Wilma Baker on special effects animation. Most of her animation career was at Disney, but she did brief stints elsewhere, working for Walter Lantz, Hanna-Barbera, Ron Campbell Films, Marvel and UPA, as well as being a color modeler on the very un-Disney The Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat.
Like some other inkers and painters, she had interests outside of animation. For instance, she had something of an acting career and worked with future movie star Glenn Ford at a production at Miles Playhouse, in Santa Monica, during the 1930s; her friendship with Ford led her to become a stand-in for superstar Rita Hayworth in her most iconic film, Gilda (1946), as well as The Loves of Carmen (1948). She did some voiceover work and was a model for the character of Madame Adelaide Bonfamille in The Aristocats. After retiring from animation, she became a watercolorist and had her own studio, called appropriately enough “The Mouse Trap”.
One of her most exciting animation memories was her “first look at Snow White in the rough. We were called over to the soundstage; there was no seating arrangement, we sat on the floor, and there was just a big screen at one end of the soundstage. And the feeling of that picture we got when we saw it as a whole, as an entirety—part of it was in color and part seeing original animation—the feeling that it was going to be great. And walking out there, as young people, you know, we were all in our early 20s, and it was the most exciting thing that I ever experienced in the animation industry. Humming the songs when we went out and knowing we were a small part of it.”
There are two oral history interviews with Godino in local L.A. libraries: one done for Women in Animation at UCLA’s Center for Oral History Research and one at the Santa Monica History Museum’s Research Library.
Guenther came to Disney after attending Pasadena Junior College, starting out as an inker. “That was the highest you could go,” she noted, “because Walt figured that all the women were going to get married.” She remembered the several months spent as an unpaid trainee—three, three-hour night classes a week. In Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston’s Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life, she is quoted as saying that, “Every Friday was Elimination Day, and we all shook in our boots, for fear that we would be let go. Everyone was so scared and worried they could hardly relax enough to do their work.” This was, after all, still the time of the Great Depression, when people, especially artists, were lucky to get a job.
After Snow White, she was involved in an early effort to do cel setups before going back to inking. On Mother Goose Goes Hollywood, she remembers, “I had tracebacks of the egg, which was the bottom of W.C. Fields [Humpty Dumpty], and a big round circle; a gal, I really liked her, said, ‘Well, you aren’t doing so well.’ And I said, ‘No.’ And she said, ‘Well, why aren’t you doing something about it?’ And I was really crushed. She didn’t mean it the way it sounded, but I was, you know, when you’re young, you’re sort of sensitive.”
After six years, Guenther became an inking supervisor, where she had her own “inking corridor.” When cel xerography was introduced, using “those big, specially-built [machines] of Ub Iwerks’ design,” and continued in a supervisory role. She “enjoyed [it] the most…because I got around, I did a lot of traffic work; it was fun to go around and deliver it to people and see what they were doing, because, in the beginning, the animators were in the Animation Building, [and] the ladies were in what we called The Hen House.”
Next week: Leo Salkin.