Tag Archives: Walt Disney Studios

Author Highlights Contributions Of Disney’s Women Animation Pioneers

Author Nathalia Holt talks about women animation pioneers and her new book, Queens of Animation: The Untold Story of the Women Who Transformed the World of Disney and Made Cinematic History, at the Buena Vista branch of the Burbank Public Library tonight, Tuesday, October 22.

“I became interested in this subject during research for my last book, Rise of the Rocket Girls, about the female pioneers of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory,” explained Holt. “One of the women I interviewed had previously worked at Disney and her stories of the studio during the 1940s and 50s were highly entertaining.”

Portrait of Retta Scott working on Bambi (Photo Courtesy Ben Worcester)

“I was struck by how many women were in her tales, so I decided to read several biographies of Walt Disney,” Holt explained. “However, the names of the women, whose work was so critical to the studio, were entirely missing.”

“It is so rewarding to finally share the stories of a few of these pioneers and how their work shaped the classic films beloved by generations,” she added. “To launch the book in Burbank, where so much of the action takes place in the book, is truly a privilege.”

In Queens of Animation: The Untold Story of the Women Who Transformed the World of Disney and Made Cinematic History, Holt profiles Bianca Majolie, Grace Huntington, Mary Goodrich, Mary Blair and Retta Scott.

women animation

Mary and Lee Blair sketching in Rio de Janeiro (Photo Courtesy Estate of Mary Blair)

Majolie went to school with Disney and was the first woman to work in the story department.

“She transformed Pinocchio from the violent puppet in the original book to a sweet character who shows the meaning of being human,” explained Burbank Librarian Hubert Kozak. “Bianca was frequently humiliated to tears by her male colleagues, and she and the other women who worked on Pinocchio were not listed in the film’s credits.”

In addition to their work at Disney, both Huntington and Goodrich were both amateur pilots. Goodrich was the first woman to fly solo to Cuba and Huntington set an altitude flight record in 1939.

“One of Walt Disney’s favorite artists, Mary Blair created groundbreaking concept art for features such as Cinderella and Peter Pan, and designed Disneyland’s “It’s a Small World After All” ride, all while struggling in a physically and emotionally abusive marriage,” Kozak added.

Sketch by Grace Huntington displaying the overwhelming nature of work in the studio. (Photo Courtesy Berkeley Brandt)

“Scott’s genius at drawing animals gave her a key role in the development of Bambi, and led her to become Walt Disney Studio’s first credited female animator,” he also said.

Holt previously visited the Burbank Public Library to talk about Rise of the Rocket Girls, which profiled the women “computers” who worked at JPL.

“Like that book, [in Queens of Animation] the author profiles a number of women who she has researched in depth, not only their professional lives but their personal lives, and poses them against the challenges women faced in finding a place for themselves in a field dominated almost exclusively by men, and accomplishing some remarkable work that has gone largely unrecognized,” Kozak commented.

“I think you will find it surprising to learn of some of the Disney story lines and characters that these women were central in developing.”

Retta Scott display at the Buena Vista branch of the Burbank Public Library. (Photo Courtesy Hubert Kozak)

“While I always have found her approach to the subjects interesting and that it creates an interesting dynamic for her narrative, I guess what I like most about this book was that I learned a lot about classic film animation that I never knew, like just how labor intensive and painstaking it was,” he also said. “And I was charmed by just imagining all of this taking place just a few blocks from the library, and picturing  Walt Disney stopping to give some of these women a ride on their walk into work.”

Holt’s presentation on Queens of Animation: The Untold Story of the Women Who Transformed the World of Disney and Made Cinematic History begins at 7:00 p.m. at the Buena Vista branch of the Burbank Public Library located at 300 N. Buena Vista Street in Burbank.

The author will sign books and the newly released book will be available for purchase.

Image Courtesy Burbank Public Library


Burbank Man Pleads No Contest to DUI Pedestrian Death

Photo taken by @myBurbank follower @DeliaRae

On Monday, February 26, Stergios Antonios Economos, 37-year-old Burbank resident, pleaded no contest to one count of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and driving under the influence of drugs. While in court, Economos also admitted two allegations of inflicting great bodily injury on two victims.

Flowers left by the Disney gate and markings on the street where Michelle Ann Landes was tragically killed by a driver last September

In September, Economos reportedly ran a red light at the crosswalk of Alameda Ave. and Lincoln St., and hit victim Michelle Ann Landes, 64, who was walking to Walt Disney Studios where she worked. Landes died on scene from her injuries. Economos allegedly hit another car afterwards, badly injuring the driver.

He currently faces a possible maximum sentence of 13 years in prison.

Economos’ sentencing is scheduled for May 7 at the Los Angeles County Superior Court, Pasadena Branch.

McKinley Young Storytellers Program Puts On “The Big Show”

The McKinley Young Storytellers script to stage program held “The Big Show” in the William McKinley Elementary School auditorium on April 21.

Ten fifth-grade screenwriters from the school partnered with mentors from Walt Disney Studios to develop scripts over the 2015-16 school year. Professional actors came in and read those scripts for “The Big Show” to an audience of the entire fifth grade.

The students meet at lunch for several weekly sessions in the fall and the spring with their Disney mentors and learn about script writing, explained McKinley Principal Liz Costella.

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

“Their mentors help them create a script that can come alive on the stage,” she went on to say. “Disney gets actors to act out the scripts the day of ‘The Big Show.’ The actors don’t see the script before the day of the show.”

Disney’s Robert Bishop acted as head mentor for the program.

Scripts presented were:

“DFL” – A rookie T-Rex wide receiver must learn to believe in himself to defeat his rival, a professional linebacker velociraptor, in order to win the Dino bowl.” – written by Robert Garayoa, mentored by Brian McDevitt.

“The Lightsaber Steal” – “Four people. One trophy. Who will win?” – written by Adriana Flores, mentored by Alex Kang.

“Making Friends” – “How a cat and two marshmallows become friends and help each other.” – written by Samantha Aquino, mentored by Rene Benavides.

“The Minecraft Story Mode” – “A recent college graduate sets out to write and design the coolest Minecraft game for the chance to win $1.3 million prize.” – written by Guillermo Rodriguez, mentored by Manny Lima.

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

“Castle Moonlight” – “This is a story about a princess named Sarah and a Knight named Henry who has to fight an Evil Octopus.” – written by Alexander Aviles, mentored by Natalie Steffies.

“The Magical Adventure” – “Sunset the ghost cat must venture out to find a cure for her friend, Delta the Wold, who no longer is a wolf…” – written by Danielle Yap, mentored by Marcelina Hollender.

“The Strangest Story Ever” – “This is a strange story about an ordinary potato who saves his friends by doing something simple.” – written by Kelly Fitzgerald, mentored by Diana Stone.

“A Long Journey” – “The story of two people.” – written by Betel Merida-Flores, mentored by Beau Puckett.

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

“Dun Dun Duuuun…” – “In the woods, Caroline finds a doll, but the doll is actually eveil and curses Caroline and the whole town. So Caroline, along with the help of her friend Rene, must uncurse the town, learning how to do the dab along the way.” – written by Genevieve Corea, mentored by Amanda Oberg.

“The New Kind of Donoville” – “Two brothers must compete against each other for the kingdom as the king is dying.” – written by Donovan Feinberg, mentored by Amanda Raymond.

“This a wonderful program to have at McKinley; the students involved feel pride in seeing their script come to life,” commented Costella. “The other students who are the audience members are not only proud of their friends but they get see what an idea can become.”

The McKinley Young Storytellers program culminates with a visit to the Walt Disney Studios main lot in Burbank for a wrap party. Students will visit with their mentors a final time and check out a set or sound stage on the lot.

The Young Storytellers Foundation supports the Young Storytellers script to stage program at McKinley Elementary, in addition to the Young Movie Makers program at David Starr Jordan Middle and John Burroughs High School.


City Year and Disney Studios Volunteers Spruce Up Disney Elementary School

More than 100 volunteers from City Year, Disney Studios and Walt Disney Elementary School joined forces Saturday, November 21, to beautify the elementary school campus. In just three hours, six murals were painted and benches and planters were built and painted, adding color throughout the school grounds.

The volunteers got to work after brief opening remarks at 9:00 a.m. from City Year’s Core Team Members, Disney Principal Molly Hwang, Burbank Unified School District Assistant Superintendent Dr. Tom Kissinger and Walt Disney Studios executives Joan McCarthy and Peter DrCecco.

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

Burbank Vice Mayor Jess Talamantes and BUSD Director of Elementary Education Dr. Peter Knapik were also in attendance.

Walt Disney Elementary School was selected to be the site of City Year Positive Impact project. Part of the nationwide AmeriCorp service network, City Year is a national service organization that emphasizes community service for older teens and young adults.

In addition to the six murals painted in various locations around the school, volunteers also added splashes of color to the school’s asphalt areas. Benches for seating were built and painted and planters for the school garden were also painted.

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

“The day ran like a well-oiled machine thanks to the behind-the-scenes efforts of Andrea Gibson and Claudia Acuna from Disney and Zach Metzinger and Melvin Noriega from City Year,” said Hwang, who is in her first year as principal at Disney Elementary.

”Walt Disney Elementary School is sometimes overlooked by the community due to our exterior,” commented Hwang. “The Disney voluntEARs and City Year changed that in a single day.”

“The outside of our school now matches the beautiful things occurring daily for students on the inside,” she added. “The students were thrilled as they walked onto campus Monday morning. You could hear them exclaiming, ‘Cool, awesome, this is the best day ever!'”

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

After the morning’s work, all the volunteers and their families in the Disney school community were invited to the Disney studio lot on Saturday afternoon for a preview screening of The Good Dinosaur.

“Walt Disney Studios is a strong supporter of volunteerism and the Burbank community,” Hwang also said, as she expressed appreciation for the “generosity of the Walt Disney Studios and City Year.”

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

Disney Asks City to Extend Master Plan

The Walt Disney Company has filed an application with the City of Burbank to extend the expiration date of the existing Development Agreement for the Disney Studios Master Plan by 18 years to November 24, 2035 (the “Proposed Project”). The discretionary approval requested from the City is a formal amendment to the existing Development Agreement associated with Planned Development (PD) No. 91-13 (Disney Studio Master Plan) that was approved on October 20, 1992.

No changes are proposed to the type of land uses, square-footage, or intensity of development allowed by the Development Agreement and Master Plan. Completion of the remaining development would implement the City’s vision for the Media District as a regional employment center comprised of a variety of media-oriented and commercial uses. The Burbank2035 General Plan previously analyzed full build-out on the Disney Studio property as envisioned in the Development Agreement.

Environmental Review: The City, as the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Lead Agency, has determined that a Supplemental EIR is required, and has hired an environmental consultant to prepare the document. All interested persons may provide input to the City and the consultant regarding the scope of the Draft Supplemental EIR.  To begin this public process, a Notice of Preparation has been circulated, and a Scoping Meeting (noted above) will be held so that all interested persons may provide input, verbally or in writing, regarding any potential environmental effects that you believe should be studied through the EIR process. The public comment period for the Notice of Preparation (NOP) is a total of 60 days, beginning on December 8, 2014, and ending on February 5, 2015. Your written comments must be received by the City of Burbank Planning & Transportation Division no later than February 5, 2015 (you may send written comments via email to: bfoote@burbankca.gov ).

After the Draft SEIR has been prepared, the document will be circulated for the required 45-day public review/comment period. The public and all interested persons will have additional opportunity to provide comments at that time. Check the Planning & Transportation Division website (http://www.burbankca.gov/departments/community-development/planning-transportation/current-planning/disney-studios-development-agreement-amendment) for updates and more information.

Scoping/Community Meeting: A Scoping Meeting and Community Meeting will held on Wednesday, December 17, 2014, beginning at 5:30 p.m. to receive public comments on the proposed Supplemental EIR. The meeting will be held in the Community Room (Room 104) on the first floor of the Community Services Building at 150 N. Third Street in downtown Burbank. Representatives from Disney Studios will be present to respond to any questions about the project, and City of Burbank staff and the City’s environmental consultant will be present to receive comments and provide more information about the EIR process.

For further information, or if you have any questions, you may contact the project planner.

Brian Foote, AICP, Senior Planner

Office: (818) 238 – 5250

Fax: (818) 238 – 5150

E-mail: bfoote@burbankca.gov

Website: www.burbankca.gov/departments/community-development/planning-transportation

Disney Partners With Jordan For Young Movie Makers Program

Students from David Starr Jordan Middle School recently attended a private screening of their own short films at the ABC/Disney Studios in Burbank. The short films were created as part of the Young Movie Makers (YMM) weekly program, with input and advice from student mentors from John Burroughs High School.

Approximately 25 students in one of teacher Richard Lightfoot’s advanced computer science classes participated in the Young Movie Makers program at Jordan. Guest teachers from the program, arranged via the Young Storytellers Foundation (YSF), visited the class to discuss and demonstrate various aspects of film making.

Jordan teacher Richard Lightfoot (left) with Jordan and Burroughs Young Movie Makers, along with Laura Manchester and Bill Thompson from Young Storyteller's Foundation (right.) (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

Jordan teacher Richard Lightfoot (left) with Jordan and Burroughs Young Movie Makers, along with Laura Manchester and Bill Thompson from Young Storyteller’s Foundation (right.) (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

“Students work in groups to conceive, edit and produce a film by the end of the program,” said YSF Executive Director Bill Thompson. “They work with high school theater and film students as their mentors.”

“The groups write a three to four-page screenplay and plan pre-production,” explained YMM coordinator Laura Manchester. “They film and operate the cameras, edit, use a green screen and add special effects all themselves.”

The culmination of the year-long program is a luncheon and screening of the six student shorts, hosted by Disney Studios.

Young Movie Makers mentors from John Burroughs High School. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

Young Movie Makers mentors from John Burroughs High School. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

Manchester also teaches some of the YMM classes, along with other industry professionals.

“I’m able to take some of what they teach and add to my own curriculum,” said Lightfoot, who teaches several computer science classes at the middle school.

Students in his classes learn basics of photography, videography, storytelling, Microsoft programs including Office and Excel, Google Docs, and programming skills in Perl and Python. They also produce the daily Cougar Vision school television program and the school Yearbook.

“I really love having the high school kids come down and through their conversations with the kids they get to know each other and work together,” added Lightfoot.

“They were unbelievably mature and worked so hard and were really into it,” JBHS student Sabrina Wrabley said of her group of middle schoolers, “It was fun.”

(Photo By Lisa Paredes)

(Photo By Lisa Paredes)

“We wanted it to be a thriller,” said student Troy Outwater of his group’s film Day and Night. He explained the idea started from a dream had by classmate Sawyer Kaplan.

The YMM program is in four middle schools in the Los Angeles area, including Burbank, Culver City, Venice and Inglewood. YSF’s Script to Stage program is in 36 school across Los Angeles and New York City. The program at Jordan is supported by the Burbank Arts For All Foundation and Disney Studios.

For the 2014-15 school year, YMM will move to an after school program at Jordan, with initial spaces available to students already in the program and entering the middle school from the YSF Script to Stage program at Disney Elementary. YSF will also debut the Script to Stage program for students at McKinley Elementary in the coming school year.

(Photo By Lisa Paredes)

(Photo By Lisa Paredes)

(Photo By Lisa Paredes)

(Photo By Lisa Paredes)

(Photo By Lisa Paredes)

(Photo By Lisa Paredes)



Providence St. Joseph’s Medical Center Gas Leak Shuts Down Buena Vista

A Propane gas leak from a 10,000 lb. storage tank at Providence St. Joseph’s Medical Center prompted the Burbank Fire and Police Departments to shut down part of Buena Vista St. and the neighboring Providence High School gymnasium yesterday, January 14. After a sensor alerted the hospital Facilities Department to a small leak in one of the two 10,000 lb. Propane/Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG) storage tanks, the Burbank Fire Department responded to the site at 1:00 p.m. to investigate and monitor the situation, according to Medical Center spokesperson Patrician Aidem.

Burbank  Fire Fighters & Burbank Police stand by as propane is burned off. at the entrance to the Emergency Dept.( Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Burbank Firefighters & Burbank Police stand by as propane is burned off at the entrance to the emergency room at Providence St. Joseph’c Medical Center. ( Photo by Ross A. Benson)

AmeriGas was called in by the hospital to provide technical support and responded with an initial plan to pump out all of the liquid fuel from the affected tank. However, the valve on the storage tank was a bit corroded and fell off, according to Capt. Peter Hendrickson, BFD Public Information Officer. The Fire Department’s Hazardous Material Team put on full protective gear and had to enter a small hole-like space, about four to four-and-one-half feet in height, to beat the valve and turn it to the right position. AmeriGas was then able to pump out all of the liquid Propane in the tank to a waiting tanker truck.

However, a small amount of gaseous Propane remained in the tank, and at approximately 1:00 a.m. this morning, January 15, AmeriGas flamed out the remaining gas, sending plumes of fire 25 to 30 feet into the nighttime sky. The burn off process took about three hours to complete, and the BFD cleared the scene at 4:15 a.m. and reopened Buena Vista St. to auto and foot traffic.

The storage tanks are located near Providence St. Joseph’s emergency room driveway entrance at 501 S. Buena Vista Street. Providence High School’s gym is also located nearby and was evacuated during school hours on Tuesday, just as a precaution. The emergency room remained open while ambulances and cars were diverted to the S. Naomi St. entrance side.

“We train all the time for these types of situations and disasters,” commented Aidem. “We were assured by the Fire Department the patients were never in danger, so we kept the emergency room open.”

Burbank Engine 15 and 3 Fire Fighters stand by as propane is burned off. ( Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Burbank Engine 15 and 3 Firefighters stand by as propane is burned off. ( Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Three fire engines stood by with hoses laid out, to monitor the situation and be at the ready. Burbank Police Department kept the 500 block of S. Buena Vista closed throughout the long process. The hospital’s two 10,000 lb. LPG tanks are an emergency supply to fuel the facility’s boilers which in turn runs the heating and cooling systems. Typically, the hospital uses natural gas, but if that supply is interrupted, the LPG tanks are switched on.

“There was a leak in the same tank twenty years ago after the Northridge earthquake,” commented Capt. Hendrickson. “And, the same driver [service tech] for the same gas company truck who responded to [fix] that leak was there for this leak.”

Buena Vista St. has been reopened and activities at the high school and hospital have returned to usual today, while AmeriGas continues its work on site, repairing the tank’s valve and fixing the leak.

Burbank Firefighters stand by as propane is burned off following a day long Hazmat situation at Saint Joseph Medical Center. ( Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Burbank Firefighters stand by as propane is burned off following a day long Hazmat situation at Providence St. Joseph’s Medical Center. ( Photo by Ross A. Benson)


Protestors Arrested At Disney Studios

Photo By Ross A. Benson

Burbank Police and Fire Department were called and responded when Disney Security found four protestors trespassing and hanging a banner across the driveway to the Disney parking lot early Wednesday morning. Several of Burbank’s emergency services were required to handle the situation at hand. Burbank Fire Paramedics, in case the trespassers fell while hanging their banner, a Burbank Fire Truck, to assist police in cutting the chains from the protestors, and several motor officers to assist in directing traffic around the incident. The four protestors were placed under citizen’s arrest by Disney’s Security, and transported by Burbank Police into custody. Bail was set at $1,000 each.

The four arrested were:
Jennifer Binstock, a 29-year old female from San Francisco
Christopher Toomey, a 52-year old male from Redondo Beach
Blake Hodges, a 26-year old male from Irvine
Alexia Dickason, a 27-year old female from Los Angeles

Photo By Ross A. Benson