Book Review: “Ink & Paint: The Women of Walt Disney’s Animation” is a Comprehensive Read About Walt Disney Studios History (With an Emphasis on Women)

Hi everyone!

I purchased the book Ink & Paint: The Women of Walt Disney’s Animation for myself and to review (we often get review books, but Ink & Paint wasn’t available). This was one of the books in my article 10 Disney Books I Look Forward to in 2017, From Don Hahn’s “Yesterday’s Tomorrow: Disney’s Magical Mid-Century” to “Ink & Paint: The Women of Walt Disney’s Animation” & More. I have reviewed three of those books so far, this is the fourth and I have another one to review this month.

Ink & Paint: The Women of Walt Disney’s Animation released last week, and is a huge book. I was asked if it was a coffee table book or a narrative, and it looks like a coffee table book but it is most definitely a narrative. I haven’t read every word yet because that will take me weeks and I look forward to that once back from a Disneyland trip. But I spent hours reading a variety of chapters and perusing each page – it’s an in-depth book that not only talks about the women of the Ink & Paint department, but the history of the company and personal life of Walt. So even if you aren’t interested specifically about Ink & Paint, there is a LOT here to read. The book is well written and runs from – well, even the origins of Walt himself and the women who defined and inspired him – to more present day.

The foreward is by voice actress June Foray, who says “..thanks to Mindy Johnson’s work, you won’t have to look far to find the magic of so many talented women artists within animation”.

There is a wonderful article from Parents Magazine in the beginning of the book from 1949, by Walt Disney called “What I Know About Girls”. A short intro from an adult Diane Disney Miller is also part of it. Walt talks about how he lived only 10 minutes from the Studio, but it took an hour each morning because he spent the time bringing his daughters and their friends to school. This was a special time for him to learn about the lives of his daughters, he wanted to be close with them and gain insights into their lives (which often was about the boys they were dating or not dating). It is a really sweet article.

Ink & Paint: The Women of Walt Disney’s Animation talks about Walt’s family life, his Kingswell beginnings and even how he interviewed his future wife Lillian, hired her and eventually courted and married her. The book delves some into their lives, including miscarriages before Lilliane and Walt had Diane and before adopting Sharon. The book goes into the origins of Oswald, Mickey and the cartoons and movies that were important to the Studio. Ink & Paint talks about how Mickey changed personality because he was the emblem of the Studio and Walt thought he was doing things that didn’t become that (which is why Goofy and Donald Duck came about).

There are profiles on numerous Ink & Paint girls, a plethora of wonderful photos and artwork, discussion on The Great Depression and how the Ink & Paint Department was a coveted job because it paid so well at that time. The women seemed to really like Walt, who would bring them gifts himself at Christmas and would give them paid leave instead of laying them off at times. And the Ink & Paint department had “teatime” each day, which seemed to be a favorite of the women (the men had their own place for breaks and weren’t supposed to visit the women).

I mentioned this is a history of the Walt Disney Studios, and so much is touched upon – the war, the big strike, women becoming animators and how Lady and the Tramp was inspired by a gift of a dog that Walt gave Lillian (that gift is talked about also earlier in the book). There is a wonderful photo of Walt with Sharon and Diane having sodas and ice cream at their home soda fountain – a feature he added to the house in part because he liked knowing his daughters were safely home as they entertained friends.

Ink & Paint: The Women of Walt Disney’s Animation is really a history of the Walt Disney Studios with a particular emphasis on women, particularly in the Ink & Paint department and does go into detail on the process. But it’s so much more than that, and the way the chapters and topics are divided makes it easy if you don’t want to read cover to cover to learn about a variety of aspects of the Walt Disney Studios. For example, one chapter is called “The War Years” and within the chapter there is a profile on Disney Legend Mary Blair  – as well as Bambi as it was created during World War II and about how five hundred troops moved onto the Studio lot. And there is so much more to just that one chapter, including about women in the war effort and about how women at the Studio started moving into traditionally male jobs because men were off at war – at least temporarily. There is just SO much information, it is not a quick read but well laid out to enjoy a little at a time.

Ink & Paint: The Women of Walt Disney’s Animation is very reasonably priced for the size of the book and how much terrific information is within the pages. And it will make a wonderful reference book for anyone with a Disney home library.

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