Animation

Author Mindy Johnson, at left, and Disney animator Jane Baer discuss films that have received a woman’s touch.

BY JULIE FARREN

Record Gazette

Jane Baer’s connection to the classic Disney film “Sleeping Beauty” is special.

The 84 year-old Los Angeles resident was one of the few female animators at the Disney studios in the 1950s and worked on the film, which was released in 1959.

She recently attended the Turner Classics Movie Festival at the Egyptian Theater with fellow animator Floyd Norman, and they talked about the film for 15 minutes to the audience.

The two animators saw the film together after all these years.

“It was like seeing it all fresh to me,” said Baer, last Saturday afternoon during a talk at the Edward-Dean Museum in Cherry Valley.

Baer was speaking at a presentation on female animators led by author Mindy Johnson, who wrote the book “Ink & Paint.”

Johnson wrote 400 pages about the women and their work and contributions to animation.

Walt Disney and his brother Roy Disney were the first male animators at the company when they started their own studio in 1923.

Chuck Jones and Winsor McCay also were hired at the Disney Studios.

Johnson said the female animators had as much talent as the men.

“There are thousands of women who are on the same extraordinary level,” Johnson said.

Animation

Samples of works by Disney animators visiting the Edward-Dean Museum.

Silent films were being done in color, but there was a price to pay, Johnson said. Color was costlier and the movie theatres were having to charge more for tickets.

Johnson said that the audiences were demanding color films.

One of the first female animators was Helena Smith Dayton.

More women were hired by the Disney studios, including Kathleen Dollard, Margaret Winkler (the first woman in the producer’s guild), who gave Walt and Roy their start.

Johnson showed one of Disney’s first movies, “Plain Crazy,’’ starring Mickey and Minnie Mouse.

She shared a secret about the film: Walt Disney was the voice behind the early Minnie Mouse character.

Johnson said that 250,000 celluloids were used in the film “Snow White.”

Baer said that the profession of female animators was so novel in the industry.

“We were so young we never really fully appreciated the opportunity we had,” Baer said.

Baer worked on the main character of Princess Aurora, also known as Briar Rose.

“It was really intensive work,” she said.

She said they did approximately six to eight drawings a day.

Baer said there were 600 people who worked on the film, including editors and storyboard. She also worked on the film “Medusa” and “Mickey’s Christmas Carol.”

Baer met her first husband, Iwao Takamoto, on the film “Sleeping Beauty.”

They married in 1957, two years before the release of “Sleeping Beauty.”

They had a son, Michael Takamoto, who worked as an animator for Hanna-Barbera studios.

Iwao Takamoto passed away in 1962.

She met her second husband, Dale Baer, in 1976, and was married to him for 16 years until they divorced.

They worked on “The Rescuers” and “Who Framed Roger Rabbit.’’

They owned The Baer Animation Co., which was hired to work on the film.

They were set up in a warehouse in Glendale and worked between six months to a year on Roger Rabbit.

The Baers worked on the Toon House sequence and Benny the Cab character.

They re-designed Benny the Cab.

Kathy Hickman of Sun Lakes was attending the event because her late mother, Connie Phelps worked as an animator for Disney from 1936 to 1946. Phelps is included in the “Ink and Paint.”

Johnson said she didn’t realize how much information she had for the book until she started writing it.

“I thought it was going to be a charming little book,” she said.

The exhibit, “Enchanted Lines: The Story of Animation,” is at the Edward-Dean Museum through June 1. Hickman loaned some of her collection to the exhibit.

Staff Writer Julie Farren may be reached at jfarren@recordgazette.net.

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