Friday, July 4, 2008

A Disney Legend: Joyce Carlson

As the Disney Legend's website says, the Disney Legend award was created "to acknowledge and honor the many individuals whose imagination, talents and dreams have created the Disney Magic" There have been 216 Disney Legends awarded since the inception of this award in 1987. Many of the names on this list are known to most Disney enthusiasts, but for every well known legend there are 10 that you might have never heard of. These are their stories.

Dolls by Miss Joyce, Dollmaker for the World. If you were walking down Main Street in the Magic Kingdom of WDW, as you pass the Toy Store next to the Arcade, take a look up at the windows and you’ll catch a glance of a very prettily decorated window with the above text written on it. From that one line you might be able to deduce that Joyce Carlson might have had something to do with the It’s a Small World attraction. Dolls and a World theme as the give away and you would be right. But there is so much more to Miss Joyce-y, as she was know to her close co-workers than It’s a Small World.
Joyce Carlson was born in Racine, Wisconsin on March 16, 1923. She and her family moved to Southern California when she was 15. After finishing High School in 1944, Joyce was in need of a job and was hired at the Disney Studios as a ‘traffic girl’. That is pretty much someone who delivers things through the company such as mail or office supplies to the animators through-out the studio. She earned herself the nickname ‘Hotshot’ after a character she resembled from a Comic Strip called Terry and the Pirates. It stuck with her for a while. After working
with the company for over six months Joyce decided that she wanted to do something more and interviewed for an Ink and Paint job. She had been busy in her first months at Disney and had a very nice portfolio put together that ensured her the job. At that time the Ink and Paint Department had the non-pc name of the ‘Nunnery’ for it was staffed almost exclusively with female employees. Miss Carlson worked on a number of projects in Ink and Paint starting with a number of the Training Film shorts for the government during the war. Joyce then moved up to features including The Three Caballeros, Cinderella, Peter Pan, and Sleeping Beauty. She was promoted to Lead Ink Artist for the production of Lady and the Tramp. With the 1960’s there was a big change in the animation process. With the Xerox machine Ink and Paint artist were not needed as much. Joyce was fortunate enough to get moved over to W.E.D. which would later become Walt Disney Imagineering. She was part of the team that created the models and designs for the It’s a Small World attraction for the 1964 Worlds Fair. Miss Joyce is credited with designing many of the singing and dancing dolls found in this attraction and she helped bring this attraction to many of the Disney Parks. Joyce has also worked on Carousel of Progress. She has worked with many Disney Legends including Mary Blair and John Hench. Through-out the 1980’s and 1990’s Joyce continued to work with Imagineering. Part of her job was ensuring the quality of any of the new attractions would be first-rate. Another part of Joyce’s job in her last years at Disney was in passing down to new Imagineers some of the tricks of the trade passed down from older animators/imagineers to her. Joyce was the first female Disney employee to have a 50 and 55th anniversary with the company. In an interview with Jim Korkis in 2000 Joyce says:
"I always
wanted to be in the creative end and I got my dream. I've still got lots of ideas and boxes and drawers filled with things and tools. Around Christmas, I get ideas and I make things out of Styrofoam. I love working with Styrofoam. I still have one of my pens from my ink-and-paint days where I can get any kind of line you want from thin to thick. I still get out into the parks. I still ride Small World."

Joyce Carlson passed away in January of 2008 at the age of 84. The next time your in the Magic Kingdom walking down Main Street or riding through It’s a Small World. Give a thought to the Imagineering involved and give a big Thanks to Miss Joyce-y.