From the WDW Radio Archives… one of my all-time favorite interviews, and one that listeners reference all the time, Disney Legend, Alice Davis.
I had the honor of spending the day with Alice Davis in her home, where we discussed her fairy tale story of how she came to work for and with Walt Disney through her marriage to Marc Davis, one of Walt Disney’s Nine Old Men.
In addition to discussing her relationships with both, we also closely examine her work on classic films such as Sleeping Beauty, and attractions such as it’s a small world and Pirates of the Caribbean. Alice shares her very personal stories and humorous anecdotes about her work and life, from her early beginnings to the World’s Fair, to her ongoing connection to Disney enthusiasts today.
It is the only episode and guest I ever had to bleep…. listen and find out why. Sadly, Alice Davis passed on November 3, 2022, so I consider it a privilege and a gift to have been able to capture her stories in her own words… more importantly, in her own voice, and be able to share it with you.
You can listen to the original episode in it’s entirety at WDW Radio # 193
Let me help you build your brand and business and turn your passion into your profession, or speak at your event, conference, or school! – Learn more at LouMongello.com
You can listen to the original episode in it’s entirety at WDW Radio # 193
What part of Alice’s story did you enjoy most, or find the most surprising, fascinating, or funny?
Share yours in our discussion in the WDW Radio Clubhouse HERE
Comment and share your questions, thoughts, and tips in our WDW Radio Clubhouse Community on Facebook or call the Voicemail and be heard “On the Air” at 407-900-9391
Listen to this week’s show and use the form below to enter our weekly trivia contest for a chance to WIN a Disney Prize Package!
Book your trip to Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disney Cruise Line, Disney Destination… or anywhere through our friends at Mouse Fan Travel. Contact them for a free, no-obligation quote!
[00:00:00] Alice Davis: What we gonna do right here is go back,
[00:00:03] Lou Mongello: way back, back into time.
Welcome to the very first episode of WW Radio from the archives. And if this intro music sounds familiar, it's because it's the same intro music I use on the very first and first couple of episodes on the show. So I only thought as long as we're going back into the archives, that I go back into the archives and find that same song.
So each week I'm gonna select an Evergreen episode to share with you that maybe you haven't heard before or one that you haven't heard in a long time. From interviews to top tens, relevant reviews, guides, way back machines, and more. It's a great way to visit or revisit some of our favorite episodes, including ones that you have suggested I share from the vault.
And rather than upload the entire episode, I'm gonna take out the relevant segment and cut out the intro, outro contest, et cetera. And. We're applicable the now out of date news and rumors, et cetera. If you want to hear the full episode, and maybe sometimes it's fun to revisit the news and rumors and see what was going on and what we predicted that may or may not have come true.
I'm also gonna let you know the original show number so you can always go back into your podcast player or feed or the ww radio.com website and listen to the full episode. And like I said, I am not taking anything away and I'm not gatekeeping anything new that you have to pay for. This is just in addition to the current feed.
It's a great way to share some of our favorites that maybe you missed or ones that you never heard before. And we're gonna kick off this week with one of my all-time favorites and one that continues to get referenced all the time. And I'll go back to show number 1 93. And my interview with Disney legend Alice Davis.
And to give you a little bit of context, it is [00:02:00] October, 2010. I am out in California, and a friend actually introduced me to Alice Davis and made this interview happen. And the reason why it's that's important is because this didn't take. Over Zoom because there was no zoom in 2010 or at an event, but instead it took place at Alice Davis's home, the one that she shared with her husband, Disney legend Mark Davis.
Needless to say, I was understandably and ridiculously excited, maybe a little bit nervous to be able to go to her home and spend the day with this incredibly fascinating woman who also happens to be a Disney legend, and she was so incredibly gracious and kind and sweet and invited me into her home as if I was a friend.
That she had known. She took time and just gave, gave me a tour of her home and showed me personal things that she had exchanged with her husband and told me stories about artwork and her own artwork and Mark's artwork that was on the wall while we were touring her home. The phone rings and I hear her inside talking to none other, like Marty Slar just happens to call her home While I was there, I remember just looking around and, and being in awe at this treasure trove of personal items.
She and her husband, who she loved dearly collected over the years. I still remember as I was getting ready to leave, standing in her entrance foyer. I looked down and there is an original Mary Blair just sitting there, like waiting for her to find a place to hang it on the wall. And just as I was about to leave, she goes, oh, by the way, do you want to come down and see Mark's studio?
Like it took me a second to compose myself and not scream. Yes, of course. And she took me down to small detached studio where her home [00:04:00] was. It is up like in the hills, so you had to go down these stairs into this small studio. And it's where Mark Davis did his work. And it was this snapshot in time as if he had just left and she closed the door behind.
And so many of his own personal effects and things that he had taken from the studio and the work that he was doing after he had left the company. And I, I still remember there was a second desk there and it was his desk from the studio. And next to that desk was this very non-descript chair. And Alice told the story about how that was Walt's chair, that is the chair, that he would come in and sit down and say, okay, mark, tell me what you're working on.
And she's like, do you wanna sit in it? like, and again, I was like a kiddo, a kid when, of course. And I had gotten like almost emotional, right? It was just a chair, but it was Walt's chair and I was, SI I don't know. It we, it's silly, but that's just what that meant to me and what that experience meant to me.
But anyway, Alice's story is fascinating and it is a true fairytale of how she came to work for and with Walt. Mark and, and the nine old men, her relationships with both her husband and Walt Disney. Her work on classic films like Sleeping Beauty and Attractions, such as It's a Small World and Pirates of the Caribbean.
Ellis is, is so generous and gracious with her storytelling, uh, so many personal stories and funny anecdotes about her work and her life and going to the World's Fair way back when to her ongoing connection to Disney enthusiasts. And sadly, Alice passed away in November of 2022. I consider it a, uh, a privilege and a gift to have been able to capture her stories in her own words, more importantly, in her own voice and be able to.
With you, and this is surprisingly, and it's the reason why this episode comes up a lot. It is [00:06:00] the only episode and the guest that I ever had to bleep this nice, sweet, old late. Well, you'll have to listen in, find out where and why, and. How it all happened, and I hope that you enjoy this. Look back into the WW Radio archives.
If so, let me know. You can email me lou ww radio.com or talk about this episode or anything else that you wanna see brought up from the archives by being part of the community and conversation over in the WW Radio clubhouse at WDW radio.com/clubhouse. And now without further ado, Disney Legend. Alice
[00:06:36] Alice Davis: Davis.
[00:06:43] Lou Mongello: The name Davis is one that is synonymous with Disney Magic and Disney legends. Mark Davis was extraordinary. While his wife Alice's accomplishments are equally as impressive, the story is a true Disney fairytale. From the fortuitous meeting of her husband and fellow Disney legend to her work on classic films such as Sleeping Beauty and Attractions, such as it's a Small World and Pirates of the Caribbean.
I am truly honored and privilege to welcome Disney legend Alice Davis to the show.
[00:07:18] Alice Davis: Hello there, . I'm very glad to be, um, requested to speak in front of your audience.
[00:07:26] Lou Mongello: Well, I, I, before we get started, I can't tell you truly what a thrill this is for me on a personal level because of the admiration and the appreciation I have for.
Your work and your husband's work. So when this opportunity came up, uh, I was , I was excited personally, as well as just for being able to share, uh, your important stories with, with my audience.
[00:07:51] Alice Davis: Thank you very much.
[00:07:53] Lou Mongello: So I, I wanted to, before we started talking about the work with Disney, uh, talk about your early career because I think it's a [00:08:00] fascinating journey going from really designing ladies undergarments to becoming, uh, you know, a Disney legend and really now kind of a Disney household name.
Uh, tell us a little bit about that, tho those early days, uh, which are, which are education and your early
[00:08:16] Alice Davis: work. Well, I think that the interesting part of my, my, uh, walk, shall we say through the youth of my life, um, was I won a scholarship to Sard Art Institute out of high school and. When I went up to sign up for the.
I've said that I wanted to become an animator. And Mrs. Shinard, fortunately, was the one helping the registrar. And, uh, she, I happened to get her to register me. And, uh, she said, well, we, we don't train girls for animation because the animators are all men in the re the girls are the incom paint artists.
And I said, well, that's like, I don't wanna be an incom paint artist, because that's like coloring a coloring book when you're a child putting color in between, uh, lines and not going over the line. And, uh, she, she looked at me with, uh, knowledge of knowing what I was talking about. And, uh, so she said, but I can't put you in school.
Uh, for two years. We have a two year waiting list because it was right after the second World War and all of the, uh, Young men who didn't, who blew their first chance of getting into school. And that, uh, had a chance on the GI bill to go. So they were all signing up for, for art school because they wanted to go into advertising and things of that type.
So, Uh, also into the motion picture business. Um, so, uh, she said, [00:10:00] just a minute, I started to cry because I, I knew that if I didn't get going in school with the, the scholarship, I would never get to go. And so she left and she came back and she was standing in the doorway with a woman with a, a white smock on, with a tape measure hanging around her neck.
And then they walked away. And Mrs. Sard came back a few minutes later and said, you're starting school Monday morning, and you're going to be a costume designer. You're going to be in the costume design department, because that's the only opening I have on the school. And so I said, fine, but I, I didn't know Dior from a.
When I had the first test I had in the class, I got zero because I'd never heard of the people before . And so I knew I got a, I had to keep a b plus average to keep my scholarships there. Boy, I had to really dig in and, and study and, uh, but Mrs. Chenard said at the same time, uh, and this is the interesting part, is that she said, I know you have your heart set on being an animator, but she said, you know, she said, we have a Mr.
Mark Davis, who is starting on Monday teaching animation, drawing on Tuesday nights. And she said, if you'll call the RO role for me in the classes, in the evening classes, uh, I'll let you take his class free. So I studied with Mark for two years. And called the roll and then continue. Oh, and I had to take two pieces of white, perfect white chalk to Mr.
Davis for his, his, uh, lectures when he talked with the class. And, um, so I did that the whole time. I was a student at the school, take the chalk to him, and everybody tried to, to make big things out of, uh, hanky pany going on and so on. And I've heard all kinds of marvelous stories, but they never [00:12:00] happened.
I mean, he was, he was Mr. Davis, and I remember when he started the class, you know, everybody was calling him Mr. Davis, and he said, uh, don't call me Mr. Davis. Just call me Mark. Nobody would, because it was a matter of respect in those days to call people by their last name. So he never got called Mark. It was always Mr.
Davis. . In fact, even when we started going together and that I was still calling him Mr. Davis, and he finally said, the name is Mark . But, uh, that's, that's the way it was. And so the day I graduated from, from Shinard, I got a job right out of school designing Brazils and Girdles and lingerie. And I learned a lot about elastics and that was very helpful to me.
Plus Mark's class in learning how the body works and functions and the structure and the, the gravity and everything else was the best thing I had in regards to designing clothes because I knew how far you could pull an arm, how far you reach with the arm, uh, Also in, in girdles, and that you, you learn where, uh, you can hold things tighter with elastic and not have them roll or move around, you know?
And I always felt it was a good profession to be in because you never saw the wrong person wearing one of your garments with the fat rolling over the top of the bottom. So I'd always think to myself, that's not one of mine. . But, uh, so when one day, uh, I got a call from, from Mark and he said, you're the one that I think can help me more than anyone.
He, he was working on, uh, Briar Rose dancing in the forest, and he said, we're going to take and shoot part, [00:14:00] do some live action shooting of her dancing to get the footwork and that. And he said, and I want this skirt to work a certain way. And he said, I know that you. No, what I'm talking about in regards to the movement of the figure and how the skirt should work with it.
And so he said, would you make the costume for me? And so I said, yes, of course. And I made the costume and it worked out just great. Hmm. And, uh, the dancing that you see in, in, uh, sleeping Beauty. Of Aurora and the forest with the prince was the garment that I made and the way the skirt worked and that, so I was very proud of that.
[00:14:42] Lou Mongello: And you finally got to work in animation, sort of roundabout and, and that and that love of animation that you must have had at a very early age. Do you remember when that got started and, and was it sort of the, the Disney films that impacted you as you when you were younger?
[00:14:56] Alice Davis: Oh boy. Did it. Um, we lived right near the Disney studio and there was a big sign on the top of the building of Mickey Mouse.
You know, we go by boy. That's where Mickey Mouse lives, you know, with big eyes and, and, uh, uh, Then my mother, during the depression, it was very tough to get anything. In fact, um, the vet for my dogs was telling me that when he was a young boy in, in grammar school and, and snow wide open, uh, his father couldn't afford to buy tickets, but he was able to, to buy a roundtrip ticket on the streetcar to go from the house to the, uh, carthy circle where Snow White was showing and see the placards out in front.
And his father took photographs of him standing and standing with Snow White and, and, and the dwarfs and that, and he was big time at the school for over a month showing the pictures of who he got to go and, and see the theater where [00:16:00] Snow White was showing. Well, my mother saved money for about six months and for my eighth birthday, she took me to see Snow White.
And of all things that I fell in love with, I fell in love with gum, uh, with, um, grumpy playing the organ and all the different animals and such bouncing up and down and such on the organ. And, uh, it, that was the day I, I was a Disney fan from there. So it really
[00:16:28] Lou Mongello: was a dream come true. And I, I can't imagine what you feel like when your mentor slash boyfriend teacher tells you, you finally have an opportunity to come and work for Disney.
Um, tell us what that was like and then sort of how you were able to, did you stay on with the company right away?
[00:16:45] Alice Davis: No, no, this was, uh, freelance from the side. I, I wasn't an employee. I just made the, the costume and there were a couple others that I made, but nobody knew I was working for Disney. Um, I was kind of like a jobber is what you'd call it.
You'd be paid by the day or by the hour, and you do what they asked of you. So we bought this house. After we got married and uh, I was stripping wallpaper and all the good things that you do when you buy a house and move into it. And, um, I was very tired this one day and, um, I called Mark at the studio and said, you're taking me to dinner tonight cuz I'm too tired to cook.
And so we were sitting having a cocktail at the Tama shelter, which happened to be one of Walt's favorite restaurants. And, uh, we were having, as I say, a cocktail. And this hand came down on Mark's shoulder and this voice said, mark, is this your new bride? And I looked up and it was Walt Disney [00:18:00] and he's sat down and joined us.
And he had a cocktail with us and he started quizzing me on what I did before I got married, how I supported myself and so on. And, and, um, when I announced Elastic, he said, I don't know anything about elastic. He said, elastic has always fascinated me. And they started asking me all the different kinds of elastic and whether it was synthetic or with cotton or with wool or whatever.
And, uh, we had a conversation for at least a half an hour just talking about elastics. And, uh, he was fascinated with it, but he always was anything that he didn't know anything about, he immediately started asking all kinds of questions and was got very interested in anything, everything interested him.
Anyway, he finally said, well, I think I better let you get to your dinner on that. And he, he said goodbye. And he started walking away and he turned around and he said, and he pointed his finger at me and he said, you're gonna work for me someday. He didn't know I did the other things. A lot of people work for him all their life and never know him.
So I was lucky from that standpoint. Very lucky. And that
[00:19:15] Lou Mongello: was, that was your first ever meeting with Walter? What was that like when Walt Disney comes over and certainly your husband had worked there, but uh, when he comes over and says to you, basically un unbeknownst to you, unbeknownst to him saying, your dream's gonna come true when you're gonna work for me someday.
[00:19:31] Alice Davis: I didn't believe in it first. I, I thought to myself, oh sure, sure. You know, and then as the months went by, I was positive. I was never going to hear from him. And it went maybe two years. And one day the phone rang and it was his secretary and she said, uh, Alice Walt wants to know if you wanna do the small world costumes, And I said, do I
And she said, we'll be here tomorrow morning at nine o'clock. So I was, and I got the job. [00:20:00] And, uh, we had one, one year to do the whole thing, to do the research, the costumes, the patterns, um, arrange all the things so that each, each costume could be made in a matter of hours if something happened. You know, like if there was a fire or a flood or something.
And, um, they had never had a system and they never made the costume, they. They never made the costumes out of the, uh, pattern. They would just make a costume and, and use it as long as it would last. And then when that went, it would be a number of days or even a week or so before you'd get another costume and things would have to shut down.
So I insisted that they have two costumes so that if something happened, you could make another costume in no time at all, and you would have a, a, a filler to take care of the situation until you got the next group of costumes made. So, uh, it was, it was, uh, a very fast, there wasn't time to do any color sketches or anything, but I, I didn't have to make any color sketches because I got to work with Mary Blair, which was a thrill of my life.
And, uh, she set all the costume colors up. And, uh, I got to work with her with that. And, uh, she was, she was, uh, an absolute joy to work with.
[00:21:35] Lou Mongello: You mentioned the research process. Can you tell us about that? Cuz I, I always wondered, you know, how do you go about, how are you tasked to go about and accurately portray authentic dresses from around the world, and also one that would have to be somewhat timeless because you knew that this was attraction was gonna last and be seen by millions of people over literal generations.
[00:21:56] Alice Davis: Well, the, the [00:22:00] best, uh, research that I was able to find was they had, at Disney Studios in the library, they had some national geographics that were before the turn of the century. They were 1890. Up to 1900 and that's when they had the best research for costumes of peasants and of different countries.
And that was a great help. And they had a number of other, um, fashion books, but it was mostly, um, national Geographic. And there was a, a magazine from England that was. , um, national Illustrated or something like that, that had a lot of wonderful, uh, festivals and such. You could get different costumes from, um, and then just look up, uh, lands and people that had a lot of wonderful costumes in them.
But it was the older ones, the new ones, uh, they're not that, they were not that interested in costume, shall we say, but, uh, it was, it was, uh, the research also was to find out what colors you shouldn't use or what shapes you shouldn't use. And, uh, Mary wanted to put the, the bare skin, uh, hats on the guards of the, the.
Buckingham Palace, uh, in bright red. And I said, I know I read somewhere that they had to be black and I can't remember why. And my oldest brother was a, a history nut. So I called him and asked him if he'd look it up for me, please, , because I was short on time. And it, he found it and it was, they had to be black.
If you made them any other color, you did not accept the fact that the British beaten Napoleon at Waterloo . And so they went black and stayed [00:24:00] black.
[00:24:01] Lou Mongello: And in addition to, and, and I'm interested about the collaborative process with Mary Blair, which also worked with Harry Burns and Joyce Carlson. I mean, it really was a team effort.
Tell us about the process of, of all of you working together to put this together in such, like you said, a very, very short
[00:24:17] Alice Davis: amount of time. I think one thing that, that Walt did that was, I thought most unique, we never spoke to each other by the last name. Everybody spoke to each other by their first name, including Walt.
If you called him Mr. Disney, an eyebrow would go up and you knew you goofed, . But his father, his brother, same thing. Everybody was first name and it, um, and we didn't have titles. So there was no competition to get somebody else's title or anything like that. It was, it was a very happy place to work. In fact, I thought, boy, is it ever lucky to be able to working, be working here because you were enjoying it so much, you were eager to get to work early just to get do it more of it.
And I didn't mind working on weekends and all that because it was, was a joy to do.
[00:25:17] Lou Mongello: And I think a lot of that still sort of carries down to people. And I think think that's why, what distinguishes working and going to Disney as anywhere else, because people love what they do. But Waltz also gave you some, uh, relatively unprecedented free reign to a certain degree and maybe things, something that wouldn't happen today when it came to things like budget and what those costumes gonna cost.
Tell us about sort of, sort of that freedom that he gave you when you were
[00:25:44] Alice Davis: designing the costumes. Um, he, he gave us great freedom, um, He would say what he wanted and then he would ask you, when do you think you'll have it ready for me to see? And you'd say, maybe Tuesday of next [00:26:00] week. And he said, okay, I'll see you Tuesday at two o'clock.
He never wrote anything down, but he was there at Tuesday at two o'clock and you had better be there too, , because that's one thing he did not appreciate. And that was anyone being late, you had to have an awful good reason why you were late and if you had your work done. Uh, and whether he liked it or not, uh, there was never any anger.
Sometimes he would be upset with you, but it, it was, it was done in a very mannerly way. It wasn't screaming at you or anything. Um, and he would say, let's see what we can do to change this and, and have it come around the way. Uh, I think it would work better. And he said, sometimes you can get something better out of something that you have to redo.
Um, so it was, and then, you know, sometimes if he had to have it before the date you gave him, he would have his secretary call on the phone and say that he was being pressed and pushed to have it ready ahead of time. And could you possibly do it and have it ready by such and such a time and you do your best to do it.
Uh, as far as. How much you would spend on costume and that I, I asked him, uh, how much I would be allowed to have on the budget should you know that I shouldn't go over for a costume. And he said, Alice, and he, he looked at me kind of like, oh, for heaven's sake, you know? And he said, Alice, he said, I want you to do the best costume you can possibly design that.
Any woman from the age of one up to a hundred would want to have herself would enjoy looking at and having it. And he said, we don't worry about what it costs. You always give the public more than [00:28:00] they expect and they will come back. He said, if you cheat them, you're never gonna see 'em again. So he said, we do the best and give.
The audience the best, and we will have a good show for everybody. And, and they will enjoy it, and we will enjoy seeing them enjoy it.
[00:28:19] Lou Mongello: Yeah. And I get the sense, uh, that it was, you did the best work that you could, not just because you wanted to be proud of it, but you wanted, want to be proud of. And he knew what, uh, how important it
[00:28:31] Alice Davis: was for the guests.
You wanted to have. Walt pleased with it. That was the most important thing, is to please him because he was so, so wonderful to work with. And you've got all these different people, we all got together and would, would come out with the best we could possibly put together and that would please him. When you didn't please him, you felt like a monster.
You went home with a long face and you tried to figure out what you could do to, to improve what you goofed at. And, um, You always, the other thing he wasn't very good at telling you what he thought of what you were doing. He, he would say something about, well, that'll work, or something like this. And then he always knew who your close friends were and.
On his way to wherever he was going, he would happen, just happen to go by to see them and say, Hey, you ought to go over and see what Alice is doing. She's really doing a good job. The what she's doing now is really coming out nicely. And that was your compliment cuz you, he knew that they would immediately run and tell you, but it was very difficult for him to, to, uh, tell you what, how he felt about something.
[00:29:45] Lou Mongello: And everybody seems to, that I've had a chance to speak with who worked with Walt, uh, and with is the operative word there, hesitating. They, there wasn't that fear of Walt being mad, it was that you didn't want to disappoint Walt. Right. And I think [00:30:00] the fact that you just, you, you a couple of times said, you know, working with Walt, it was never working.
It never seems like it was working for Walt, that you were all working together and he was almost more like someone that worked with you as opposed to your boss.
[00:30:13] Alice Davis: Right. Very much so. He was, he was the, the top man. And you didn't have a whole bunch of meetings. You had a meeting with him when he'd come through the shop.
And if it was something he wanted to see or, or make a comment on, he would come by and, and speak to you unless, and set up another date to see you later. But there was never all these meetings, I think on, on uh, a small world. I was maybe in six meetings with a group, a large group. Otherwise he would see.
And we got a lot more work done that way too, because when you had a group of a whole bunch of people, by the time everybody got finished putting in their 2 cents worth, the half the day was shot. And this way, uh, he got everything done the way he wanted and, and we put in a full day.
[00:31:07] Lou Mongello: You think that Walt.
Seemed to have a, a trust in the people that worked with him, and a knowledge that although you may not have ever done this before, he knew that you could get the job done.
[00:31:19] Alice Davis: Yes. You know, and he could put together people that didn't like each other very much and they would, uh, it was almost, if it was competition to put out the best.
Um, he, he always knew, um, he would go around and, and it was like, uh, uh, what's his name? The one that did the hit of the sculpture department. He was an animator and what was looking for a sculptor, and he decided that, that, uh, Blaine. Would be the one to do the, the sculpting cuz he was doing little sculpting things on this side that he sometimes had in [00:32:00] his, his office.
Mm-hmm. and Walt put him to work doing the sculpting for the, for the small world and also then for the pirates. John did a magnificent job, uh, and he did the sculpting of, of Walt standing with Mickey Mouse. It's there in the center hub of, of Disneyland. Um, and he did a wonderful, one of, of uh, uh, Roy Walt's brother sitting on a, uh, bench that's, uh, sitting in the, the hall of, uh, the hand prints of, of, uh, the legends.
But, uh, he, he always got the right people together. And when you spoke about Harriet Burns, I called her the mother superior of the shop . She, she'd never missed a thing and she was always the perfect lady and always dressed beautifully with scarf and everything else. And she'd be working in all this, this gook and stuff, making skins and so on.
And she'd never get anything on her clothes. She was always immaculate and it, it just astounded me and I loved her dearly. And uh, she's been a terrible loss. Terrible loss.
[00:33:18] Lou Mongello: Well, you know, we mentioned, obviously your name and Harriet Burns and Joyce Crosson and Mary Blair. You spoke about how women weren't allowed to be animators, but here you were working on arguably one of the most important projects in a long time, which was gonna be something for the World's Fair.
Did you realize at that point that maybe you hadn't. Broken a barrier or that Walt was giving you an
[00:33:42] Alice Davis: opportunity? Oh, Walt gave up, gave me a marvelous op. He gave all of us and, and, uh, um, uh, hey, Carlton, Joyce Carlton. She was somebody else that was terrific, just marvelous. And she spent her [00:34:00] whole life with, with the small world.
Uh, she was, uh, in ink and paint, but she could match paint. You know, the paint was one color when it was wet and when it was dry, it was another color. She could mix it and mix it so well that when it dried, it would match perfectly to the dried one. And I've never seen anything like it. She had a wonderful eye for it.
And, and, uh, um, ward Kimball's wife Betty, she also was very good at mixing paint and matching it up, and that's not easy. So
[00:34:40] Lou Mongello: what was the opening of the World's Fair and the opening of Small Worlds to incredible response? Like for you personally?
[00:34:49] Alice Davis: Well, there were, there were some funny things that happened and some things that were kind of wild that I think one of the funniest ones was the skin on the, the Dolls where, where there were dolls that were dancing, like the CanCan girls doing the kicking the skin on the knee would tear before 17 hours, they had to go 17 hours a day, seven days a week.
And the first day after just a few hours, the skin would rip. So I had designed the, the co the costumes, just like they are in France with the little panties, ruffled panties and the, and the skirts. So, What were we gonna do about the skin because we couldn't get it to work. So, um, I put long pantaloons, just just below the knee with a little ribbon and lace, you know, and so on.
And, um, It was about two days before the show was to open and we had everything up and working. And, uh, Walt came through with his, his, uh, Admiral and General, general Potter and, [00:36:00] and, uh, Admiral Fowler. And the admiral was standing up at the back of the boat. The only thing missing was he didn't have his hand inside his vest,
And, uh, Walt was sitting in the front of the boat with the, with General Potter, who was making all the, the, uh, later on made all the, the, uh, waterways and everything down in Florida. And Walt saw me, I, there was a bridge that went over the top where you come in with a boat to change, uh, to get out of the boat and get into the boat.
Walt called me. I was walking across on the bridge. I was about the center of the bridge, and he said, Alice, how come you put long pantaloons on the CanCan girls? Well, I knew he didn't want a big, long story about what happened in this. So I, I looked at him and I said, you told me you wanted a family show,
And then I took off and ran like crazy getting off the bridge. So he couldn't ask me any anymore questions. working on the, working on the, the show's opening at the World's Fair. Um, the small world part was marvelous. Uh, but I was scared to death because they were having the, uh, UNICEF people coming in with their children and also having the United Nations come in with their children and all of these people from all these different countries.
And I was thinking, what are they going to tear apart , you know? Oh God. And I was just a nervous wreck. And, uh, I was shocked beyond belief. I didn't have a single complaint, not one, and I couldn't believe it. Then I, then I didn't know quite what to do, whether I was walking or floating . But, uh, that was one of the great joys of doing the, the small world [00:38:00] to have it come out so well.
And, uh, I owe a great deal to, to everybody that worked with me. You know, it was a, it was a group effort. Yeah.
[00:38:12] Lou Mongello: So when, when the attraction opened, when the, when the fair opened, you went up to New York and did you stay up in New York for a while just to make sure everything was okay and then
[00:38:19] Alice Davis: eventually go back?
Oh, I went to New York ahead of time to dress all the figures, and it was difficult to do because the unions in New York are something else, and you're not allowed to touch the fabric. So if you're trying to tell them how to fix something and that you can't touch it, you have to try to explain to 'em.
And of course, they wanted to get as much hours in as possible so they don't understand what you're talking about. So, uh, I would wait until everybody left. And then the things that I wanted to have done that I had to touch, I would take home and sit up all night at the hotel, doing it all by hand and running back before anybody came to work in the morning and, and putting it up.
So, I wanna talk to you
[00:39:06] Lou Mongello: obviously a little bit about more, a lot about prior to the Caribbean, obviously your, your husband Mark do the concept sketches, but then you have to go from working out in every little girl's dream to, to dress up dolls all day, to turning his two-dimensional sketches into three-dimensional.
Costumes and really pieces of art. Tell us about that process.
[00:39:29] Alice Davis: Well, the first thing about it that, that, uh, I used to say about it was I went from sweet little children to dirty old men overnight, . Um, and also that Disney got, uh, three and one when they, they got me to do the designing because when you graduated from, when you got a graduation certificate from, from, uh, Shinard Art Institute in, in the costume design, you had to be able to [00:40:00] do children's clothes and the patterns and such.
You had to do women's wear and the patterns and cuts, and you had to do men's tailor. And I thought, I don't know why I have to take those. I'll just take, I just want the woman. Mm-hmm. . And they said, if you want your certificate, you gotta do all three. And I had to keep the, the grades up in the whole bit.
So, uh, it turned out that whenever they tell you you have to take something, you don't want to graduate, take it . Cause you never know. It turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me there too. Shinard did a lot of good for me and that was really the beginning of everything for me is to be able to go to Shinard.
But, uh, um, doing the Pirates, there was a lot of things in the Pirates. Um, The sculptors were very difficult to work with at first, and, and, uh, I would try to tell Blaine certain things and Blaine, uh, would turn red and get very embarrassed and wouldn't be able to talk about it. But like, uh, they brought in some sculptors from New York that were, uh, very, very good at doing the classic figure.
And, uh, they were very good for, for doing the bodies for the, the men and women, uh, the pirates and, uh, The problem was, is that they would do, when a woman got older, she would have sagging bosoms. They would sculpt the sagging bosoms, and it would be, be, um, cast in solid butyric. You can't change the shape of it.
Um, and it is a shell, but this, this is very strong stuff. In fact, it's a lot of the figures are still the same ones from 67. [00:42:00] Uh, so Anyway, um, I would, I would go over and, and tell them that women wear corsets in that, and so the bosoms are where they should be and some are bulging over the top purposely by pushing them up and they just didn't understand.
So I went and bought a bunch of, I went to the, the department store and bought a bunch of Brazils and brought them back and put them on on the figures and said, you see. It's changed. And they said I finally got that through to them. But then the other problem came as to, uh, the way they were sculpting the gentleman and
So I would say to him, uh, you're giving me a big problem because you're, you're sculpting men, just the way God made them. But he said, when you put pants on them, they wear thems, they dress themselves to the right or the left. And uh, so they got very angry with me. We scoped the way God made them and that was it.
And they wouldn't change. So I told him, uh, it would be very difficult. To dress them the way they're doing this. So, uh, I had to drop the crotch about eight inches to make room for it. It looked like I didn't know what I was doing and I was angry because it was making me look bad and I couldn't get them to understand.
So the uh, uh, auctioneer I was working on the auctioneer. Walt wanted to see the auctioneer first, and that's the only figure he ever saw. He passed away before I saw any of, of the other pirates, and he was so looking forward to the pirate show. Um, it was a shame. But anyway, um, I did the costume for the, the auctioneer and he had a vest that came just above the knees and I knew what was going to happen.
And he had the fancy lace [00:44:00] cuffs and collar and all that, and the hat and this scarf around his head and the wig and so on. And he was, uh, Perfectly dressed. He looked magnificent. And then when we turned him on, his face worked. And all this sudden, everybody was just in awe. You know, we'd never seen anything like this before.
And, uh, so I knew that there was gonna be a problem though, because the way they cut the, the figure to make it work, they take and cut the backside of the knee out and have the, th the, the, uh, calf of the leg and the thigh come together. But it could to be able to bend your knee and that you can't have the butyrate in the back.
So that would be cut out and the inside of the arm would be cut out. So you could build, end it, the elbow, and you would cut the waist, a section of the waist out so that you could have the, the, uh, ribcage and the pelvis work separately and you'd cut the thighs out of the. Pelvis said that the pelvis could work separately to the thighs and so on.
And when they, they, they turned on the, I had all of the, the sculptors, all of the machinists, everybody come to see this working. And so everybody that worked on it got a chance to see it the first time it went to work. And when the ox auctioneer was throwing his arms around and talking and so on, he was, it was just terrific, perfect movement.
Very smooth. And when he leaned back and said, how much am I bed this great? Came up through the vest, no need to expose your super structure, . And all those sculptors went, you know, like this. And they, oh my [00:46:00] God, now we understand what you were talking about. You know? And Walt was going to be there in a half an hour and they said, what are we gonna do?
What are we gonna do? And I'm the only female there. And I said, you get a hacksaw saw off . And, and there was quite an emotional moment, with all of them. And they, they finally did. And the sculptors came and apologized to me for not understanding what I was telling them. And it was a shame that Walt didn't get to see it, but we weren't sure whether he'd blow his stack or laugh.
You know, it was a serious moment. He had an awful lot of money invested in that. So, uh, unfortunately he passed away a few weeks after that. So even if he got angry, I think he would've laughed when he got away from us and got his snickering. But, um, it's, uh, Probably not the best thing for the the public to know what, what happened to that.
But it was, uh, it was an interesting moment in regards to the, the Pirates, but there were lots of other things that, that there were, you know, that happened. And, and when I did a remake on the, the, uh, the, um, general Electric show, there were a lot of funny things that happened in that too. But some of the things weren't so funny, , so they kind of, but, but when, when you're doing something like this that had never been done before.
Yeah, it was, it was, uh, uh, I don't know. You felt like a pioneer, um, being, and I, I don't think I could make clothes for a human being again, because I'd be looking for where the hydraulic. Uh, tube came through with the red oil that stained everything when it burst and would ruin the costumes. [00:48:00] But the, the idea of my making two costumes instead of one was one that, uh, nobody bought.
And I said, but, uh, if you don't have a, a costume to fill in, in case something should happen, you're not gonna be able to open, keep the ride open for, for a week or more till you get everything made. Because some of the hats take a whole week, um, because you have periods, you have to sit and wait for it to dry and then do something else and wait for that to dry.
So, uh, I was told to go to. The pencil pusher and tell him how much yardage I needed for each shirt or each pair of pants. And I had a book this thick of all these orders and so he would okay them and he didn't know what I was talking about. And so I was ordering material for two costumes, not one. And I had them all made and I hid one set and back cuz the girl could cut them out at the same time.
There was, you know, if you did a time emotion study, I saved lots of time for that. And then, uh, when they're putting 'em together, they can put two of them together much faster than one, and then go back to do a second one sometime later and try to remember how she, how it fits together. So, um, oddly enough, I think it was about five weeks later after when the pirate ride opened, there was a fire and the sprinklers went on.
And it ruined a whole section of the f the fire area. Oddly enough, it was, the fire was in the fire , so, but it wasn't because of the fire, it was because of some electrical, something in the building. And, uh, so, um, Dick Irvine, who was the president of, of Imagineering, he, he came running out [00:50:00] to me and saying, Alice, how long is it gonna take you to make the costumes to replace the ones that were.
Damaged or ruined. And I said, well, if you bring me the fishing pole that the hats are on for the pirate that's holding the, the, uh, chest. And then he is got some jewelry and such on it. And then he is got all these hats stacked on his head. Well, they're on a fish pole and it will move around, but the hats won't fall off.
So I said, you can have everything in a half an hour. And he goes a half an hour, and his eyes got big and, and he didn't know whether to hit me or kiss me. . He, he stabbed his feet a couple of times and took off back up to his office. But, uh, the, the was only closed for one day. Wow.
[00:50:49] Lou Mongello: Yeah. And you alluded to, because I had to imagine being used to designing clothes for.
People and then designing clothes for the animatronic dolls whose range of motion, obviously certain as wasn't as much as an audio animatronic figure, had to present a, a great deal of challenges for you because you are doing, you were doing something that nobody had done before, which also had that same challenge to a certain degree that you had a small world, which was that level of authenticity in trying to create pirate costumes from the 17th, 18th centuries, trying to keep those accurate and authentic and then still trying to maybe tailor them for a Disney
[00:51:29] Alice Davis: attraction.
Well, it wa it was, um, mark sketches more or less set up the, you know, the period and everything else for it. But also it was something there you had where you could put a lot of different things together. Because what the pirates were wearing were things that they privileged, uh, pill. Pill, I can't say ,
[00:51:55] Lou Mongello: pillaged pun.
Plundered rifle. Yeah.
[00:51:57] Alice Davis: Yeah. . They're plunder that [00:52:00] they, they took, um, my, my tongue is not doing what I wanted to do today. Um, anyway, uh, it was imagination. A lot of it was being the swashbuckle bed of your childhood when they were doing all these, these films and, and such of, of the pirates. And so it was, uh, the imagination of, of yourself and things that you saw that were the pirates and all the little kids were running around with sticks and so forth and having battles with it.
So it was, uh, you didn't have people to, uh,
Uh, imagine, uh, you had to dress them to be what your imagination was and try to catch the imagination of others. But I think Mark did a marvelous job of putting it all together really. It was
[00:53:04] Lou Mongello: a, and again, you, you brought his drawings to life and, and what, if you can, what was the dynamic like working, especially on a project like this, probably so relatively closely with your husband.
How did you sort of collaborate at work and then did you, were you able to sort of leave work at work or was this always sort of the subject of dinner table conversation and you were talking and
[00:53:28] Alice Davis: sketching and, no, no, it, it was, uh, mark always closed the door when he came home. Uh, once in a while I would be asking questions and so on, and he would take it for so long and then, No more , but there was never any arguments.
We never had any arguments. And, uh, Mary was a great one to work with too, in regards to, uh, what she wanted color-wise and that she [00:54:00] was always very good at setting up the color patterns. But Mark also was very good with color and good to set it up. And they worked very well together.
[00:54:10] Lou Mongello: When, uh, pirates was updated back in 2006, were you consulted on, were you brought on at all for, for any sort of discussion about the changes?
And then what did you think of some of the changes and the additions that came to Pirates?
[00:54:25] Alice Davis: Oh, you're walking on difficult territory. . . Um, I was not questioned on any of it. And also they changed so much of it in the staging and that's. The staging and the lighting is what I complained about more than anything.
I didn't complain actually to, to them. Um, I asked them why they did certain things and then I was surprised that, um, some of them told me that Mark had left notes behind the sets saying why it should be, how it should be staged and why, and Mark was a master at staging things and I couldn't believe that they changed so much of it and it was not, not staged well.
And, uh, I didn't, uh, spare any horses of staging that I didn't like the staging. Um, and so I wasn't invited to the, the opening. They finally invited me the day before it was to open with the red carpet and all this. And I said, I'm very sorry, but there's no way I can possibly do that because I have to get somebody to stay with the house and the dogs and, uh, it's just that I can't go.
And I said, if you would let me know ahead of time, and they said, well, we're so sorry, we forgot. And so it's imagination of the forgetting too, but, so I didn't go, [00:56:00] I couldn't go.
[00:56:02] Lou Mongello: You, uh, you also mentioned working on, again, another classic iconic attraction like carousel progress. I think maybe a lot of people aren't familiar with what you did there.
Tell us a little bit about your work on that project.
[00:56:15] Alice Davis: Well, that, that was, I was doing a remake on it because General Electric wanted it to be brought up to date all the time because it w they last part of it was all the new. Such new things that they had to show that you could spend money on. Um, so they wanted to have the costumes change to go with the time, and, uh, that's what I was doing, was changing the, the costumes.
But, uh, um, the General Electric wanted to have as much publicity as possible from the show. And, uh, so they eventually moved it from, from, uh, Los Angeles to, to, uh, Florida because in here in Anaheim, um, the majority of people that go to Disney Land are, uh, about 70% local. And they would get a small amount of travelers where in Florida they get travelers from all over the world because it's cheaper to come to Los, to the United States and go to, to Disneyland than it is to go to Disneyland in Dallas, France.
[00:57:41] Lou Mongello: When you look back and, and I know it's the unfair question, but you have to ask anyway. Was, was there one pro, I mean, was small world sort of the thing that you, that you look back on most fondly or most proud of?
[00:57:52] Alice Davis: I, I look back on it, uh, from being proud of it and for, for having things run [00:58:00] smoothly and everything going together.
Um, but I also, uh, look at it from the standpoint of, of the pleasure and the ability of being able to, to, uh, dress. Figures like that, that you don't know where the, the controls are going to be coming out of and or going into which you have to hide and have it look normal and natural. Um, there were so many different things that, uh, you had to use your imagination for.
Sometimes I'd lie in bed at night, wide awake, looking at the ceiling, trying to figure out how in the world I was going to get around the, some control that they had to have. Um, and, um, I don't know exactly what you would say was the hardest, but the part that I enjoyed the most of it was that I was a, a, a depression child.
Uh, my father would say it was bad in, uh, 19 29, 9 was bad enough to get through, but you had to come too another mouse to feed, you know, which he meant as a fun and a joke, but no dolls, no fancy clothes or anything. So, um, they always say if you wait long enough, you'll get what you wish for. So, um, I waited until I was in my twenties and was, uh, Pushing 30, I think at the time.
And, uh, to be able to play with dolls, I had the best dolls in the world to play with. So that was, that took away the, the part of not having the dolls when I was little, but I had the best. So there too . Do
[00:59:53] Lou Mongello: you ever get a chance to go back and, and ride the attraction again as a guest and sort of look back at your
[00:59:59] Alice Davis: [01:00:00] work now?
Yes. But you. Disneyland has never been the same because when you work on it, when you go through the ride in that you always look for something that's not working and you're very concerned about it, and you wanna tell something, you know, to somebody. When, when I was doing it, I had a, a group of girls that would go through every morning before the show opened and we'd check all of the, the costumes, the, the heads, the wigs, everything else to make sure everything was I proper order and working before it opened up.
And that doesn't happen anymore. But, uh, it's, it costs a lot of money to do that too. And the money keeps getting shorter and the problem's. Because most of the figures are the same ones. But now that the ones for a small world have been changed, uh, they're different size now. I always,
[01:01:00] Lou Mongello: you know, in, in preparing to, to get a chance to, to speak with you, I, I pictured in my mind's eye, you riding small world and getting off and saying, excuse me, miss, but the doll in France or something wrong.
And they, and them saying, lady, please just move along. You don't know what you're talking about, .
[01:01:15] Alice Davis: No, no. I, I didn't do that. But I, I, uh, sometimes would see somebody I knew that was in the department and say, so, you know, and they'd say, what do you think of the ride? And I'd say, fine, accepting so and so isn't standing right.
Writer. That address isn't fitting correctly. Or something like that. But, um, I must say I've, I've gone to the sewing room a number of times, and, um, the girls that are working there are so proud of what they're doing, and they, they have my sketch and they hold a sketch up and say, see how close we are to do a, the, uh, costume and that, and they, they're following.
And the other thing was I made insisted that there'd be a loose leaf [01:02:00] notebook of every figure with the fabric, the patterns. Mm-hmm. and I had a hook with the, the patterns to scale, you know, to, to make the garment from perfect patterns for everyone. And then, uh, listed in the book of the fabric and so forth, and the colors and so on.
And, uh, They had never done this before and they had never made perfect patterns for the costumes before. And, uh, the last time I was there, there was a room bigger than this whole house and it's filled with all kinds of notebooks and such on every single figure and all the information and such. And I was, they were so proud that they had kept all this.
They wanted me to be sure and see it. Uh, and they have things in the department now where, uh, instead of having to go over and search everywhere for, for, uh, fabric to match, they have a machine now that, um, you put the plane. Background fabric in, and it will take, uh, they make a, what they call a cartoon or a card that has the design or just the fabric itself with the design.
And it will go through this computer and it will print the pattern onto the fabric. Uh, where we were making block prints, or, or stencils to get certain little pieces of material for one little thing. But, uh, it was, uh, it did my heart good to see that something that I, I started has gone through and now they have everything to where they can just go and pull out a, a book and there it is, everything that they need for each figure.
Can I ask you
[01:03:52] Lou Mongello: what you thought of the relatively recent changes to Disneyland, where they added some of the [01:04:00] classic. Uh, animated film characters into small world.
[01:04:06] Alice Davis: I'll tell you this, I am very proud of Kim Irvine and the job she did with changing that. Now you have the superiors that make the, the decision that this has to go in the show and you have no control over it, but you have control of doing it in good taste.
And she did it in the best taste possible, and everybody was on her back complaining, oh, it shouldn't be touched and it shouldn't this and shouldn't that. And I said, how can you say what she's going to do? You haven't seen it yet. You know, you have to wait. And, uh, everybody was, was torn up over it. I think I was more torn up over what they did to the pirates than to the small world.
But, um, You know, it's like if you're gonna make a film and say the film was, was, uh, uh, built on the, the, uh, success of the Pirate ride, why did they change it? I, I, I didn't understand that, but, uh, I'm one against many . But, um, the, the thing with, with Kim, I, I said to, and when it finally came out, they, they were ha they were very kind and had a, a luncheon for me at the studio for my 80th birthday.
And the show had just opened and, um, they wanted to do question and answer after. The lunch. And so they were asking, I knew the first question they were gonna ask was asking what I thought about the small world ride and the change. And I said, you know, I think we all should take [01:06:00] a, a bow and take our hats off to, to Kim for the job that she did.
I think she did a marvelous job under terrible pressure. And, um, I said that she, she, uh, was born with a Disney spoon in her mouth. Her both her mother and father worked for Disney. She was a second generation. And, um, she did a, a very good job and placed the, the figures, uh, with good taste. And, uh, she had to do what was asked of her.
And I said, you have to realize too, she has to pay the rent and, and buy food to eat just like the rest of us. And she has to do the orders that were given to her else. She'd lose her job. And, uh, I said, I don't think any of us could do it any better, in fact, as well. And, uh, so she was, she, uh, let me know.
She was very pleased at what I said and made her life a little easier.
[01:07:04] Lou Mongello: Uh, again, certainly incredibly high praise, especially coming from you.
[01:07:08] Alice Davis: Well, she earned it. She worked hard at it. She earned every, every bit of it. And she had had known Mary and worked with Mary, and she knew what Mary wanted too. So, um, Nobody had to ask.
She, she knew what she was doing and she did a very good job of it. And again, I'm lucky to have her
[01:07:31] Lou Mongello: keeping that integrity of the story and the characters carrying forward. Right. Um, if, if I can, I wanted to ask you about Walt, um, and your relationship with Walt, because I know people talk about Walt as a mentor, a father figure, a demanding boss, whatever it might be.
But can you tell us about what your relationship was like with him and, and sort of your memories of Walt?
[01:07:57] Alice Davis: Well, my relationship with him was a little [01:08:00] different than most, uh, and sometimes it would be difficult, , sometimes not so difficult. But the difficult part of it was, is that, that he asked me to do the job and I didn't have to compete as hard as others to get the job.
Um, Also I was Mark's wife, which was different too, cuz when I worked there the first week or two, they didn't know who I was. And then when they found out, things changed a bit. But, um, we still got along very well at work and, and, uh, did our job without any problems. Um, well at different, it was different at different times, like with everybody.
And also the other thing was, is some very dear friends of ours were friends of personal friends of, of Roy and Edna Disney. So I had a, a different. Uh, friendship there, which would show only, um, in, at the shop. And that was because when he would come into the shop, he would always come over and throw his arms from me and give me a big kiss.
And that was, I always said, was the kiss of death. , . Cause everybody thought I was freeloading and I wasn't. I was working my tail off and I was working weekends and all this. And they didn't know that they were all making far more money than I was because I was hired as a jober. I was never hired as an employee and I never got paid for, for holidays.
And if I worked weekends, I never got paid for that either. I just got paid for by the day and if there was a day I missed, that was no money. So, and they all thought I didn't need to be a a, um, how would you say. An employee because my husband was, and he was getting all the perks, so I didn't have to [01:10:00] worry about that.
Well, uh, there were some things that weren't so good about it, but those are the things you take for getting to do what you wish to do. So I, I did, I am, I decide to give all that up for, for being able to work there. And I, I have never, um, thought back about it or been upset about it at all. I was just overjoyed that I got to work at Disney Studios and get to know all the different people there.
Um, who many are very dear friends and still are. Um, and Walt was a good conman too. , and I think the biggest con he pulled on me was, uh, um, I was, uh, Mrs. Mrs. Shinard was another idol of mine, and to be able to know her very well was another pleasure of my life. And, uh, she was losing the school, um, because of some bookmakers that were, well, her, her, uh, bookkeepers, I called them, were bookmakers cuz they were cleaning her blind.
And Walt was very, um, close with Mrs. Shinard because when he wanted to do Snow White, he knew his animators weren't the, um, draftsman that he needed to be to do live figures and, uh, make people believe that they were real people and not just a drawing on the wall. So, um, he went to all the different art schools, and this was during the height of the depression and asking them if they could train his animators to be better draftsmen and carry him on the books until the film [01:12:00] opened.
And then he'd pay them cuz he had no money to pay for him at the time. He was lucky to be able to get the, in fact, they were even washing the, the cells and reusing them. They were so hard up for money. And, um, he, he, uh, Uh, would say that, you know, would you keep, you know, I'll pay you when the film comes out.
And they say, there's the door, . So he went to Shinard Art Institute, Mrs. Shinard, and he asked her and she said, Mr. Disney, I admire what you're doing. She said, um, the change from, uh, Steamboat Willie to the present time is amazing that you did it so rapidly and, uh, I admire, uh, what you're doing. And she said, um, you are creating an Art for America.
She said, the Europeans have the old masters. The Orientals have their oriental work from years and centuries ago. They. Eastern Europe, the same thing that we don't have a true Art for America. And she said, you are building the True Art of America. And, uh, he thanked her for that. And she, she really believed it.
And she said, you send down your boys and we'll train them in whenever you can. We'll worry about that later. And so she trained them for two and a half years. They went to, uh, uh, one night a week to this art school and, and studied with Don Graham. And, uh, he eventually, Walt uh, hired him to come two days a week or so to the studio and continued training.
Uh, new animators coming along, and the nine old men went to Shinard at night, and my husband [01:14:00] said that sh that, uh, Disney Studios was the finest school he ever went to because Walt was constantly bringing in all kinds of foreign films and, um, speakers and, and, um, art, art majors, um, not art majors, but, but artists that were the major artists of the time to give classes and such at night to the, the, the animators and different people working at the, the studio.
And, uh, it was better than any mu any. College or university would have, and what he was doing. And, uh, I really do think he has made the, the animation, the art of the United States. And,
[01:14:47] Lou Mongello: and I think the genius of Walt Disney was that from the very beginning he always surrounded himself with the most brilliant minds and the finest artists.
Uh, what was his passing like for you because of your special relationship with him and, and really for the company at that time?
[01:15:06] Alice Davis: Oh, it was devastating. Absolutely devastating. It was like your father died in some ways worse. Um, Just the genius of the man. He was always thinking 20, 30 years ahead of time.
And he, he loved new and different things. Anything that was, uh, new, he had to know, know everything about it. And anybody who he admired their genius, he would always somehow get to know them or, or have them come to the studio and give lectures for the, the employees. Um, and he was, he was always, uh, even when he was, uh, under tremendous pressure, very seldom did he ever, um, become [01:16:00] irritated or, uh, angry about things.
He always had a way of controlling himself, but sometimes if he did lose control, I, I wouldn't blame him the least , because they. Well, it was like with Abraham Lincoln. Abraham Lincoln was fantastic and nobody had ever seen anything like this before. And they, when they first opened in the World's Fair, uh, people were talking about how he stood up and walked forward.
Well, he never walked forward, but they never saw anything like this, you know? And here he would stand up out of this chair and start delivering his speech. Um, in fact, one of the little kids in the neighborhood went to see Lincoln and she said, boy, he was really scary. And I said, scary. I said, what was scary about it?
She said, well, he kept tapping the, the chair with one of his fingers. And she said, we all knew he was dead, but he was moving , . And then when he stood up, she says, that was really scary . So, uh, it was, was interesting, the different attitudes, but when they were trying to, they were trying to, to, uh, operate the figure beyond what anything had been created yet.
It didn't have computers and so on. And they were trying to get this thing to work. And every once in a while he would stand up and he'd start this speech, and then all of a sudden he'd sit down, something would, one of the, the controls would break down or something, and he'd sit down and he'd just splitter the chair.
The chair would just, it was a beautiful oak chair that would just be splintered . So, uh, that, that, uh, he was, he was a couple of weeks late opening in the World's Fair. And it was because, uh, You had to run him all the way through and make a perfect pattern. And if there was the worst little glitch or [01:18:00] something, he'd all of a sudden jerk up or, or sit down and mash the chair or something else.
And then to add to it when they finally got him working, uh, if something needed just a little bit of, of touch up or something, uh, or the machine needed to be tightened up a little, uh, or whatever they do to solve that problem, they'd have to go out on the stage. Well, next door to the, the Illinois P, the pavilion that he was in, uh, was a Japanese.
Pavilion and they were giving away free ball bearings. They were, had a new ball bearing that they were advertising and, and they'd give you a big handful of ball bearings to leave with. And they, they thought it was, they didn't think Lincoln was an audio electronic figure. They thought it was a real person pretending to be Abraham Lincoln.
So they'd go over with a pocket full of these ball bearings and throw it at Lincoln and it would make the noises and that, and, but the figure would keep working and going on. But the poor guys that had to go out and, and make a change or something on, they to go out and they'd be sliding all over at these ball bearings on this stage.
And some of them had terrible falls and got badly injured. And so we finally had to go over and ask them not to give away the ball bearings anymore because of the, everybody was getting half killed by 'em. So, uh, but there were, there were lots of things like that, that, that happened. People throwing things at them because they didn't think they were mechanical.
They thought they were real. So we thought we were very proud and thought that was keen that they thought they were real people, , but we weren't pleased with their destroying them with, with ball bearings in rocks, in things that they'd throw. Um, I think, I think all of us were extremely proud to be in the [01:20:00] beginning of a new type of three-dimensional animation.
Um, and I think that, Uh, we made Walt proud with it. And, uh, also it was giving him something else to work with. In fact, he, he got so excited over that he wasn't too excited over the animation anymore. But his, his brother insisted that the animation continue because, uh, that's what made the studio and that, that, uh, they owed it to the animators to continue with the animation.
[01:20:41] Lou Mongello: Well, speaking of, of animation and, and sort of thinking about that legacy of Walt, about surrounding yourself with the most brilliant minds. Um, when I started thinking about people like John Lasser, I started thinking the same way and, and segueing to that, You were actually called up, uh, by, you were called on by Pixar to consult on up.
And it's a testament to the fact that still to this day, they wanna surround themselves with the, with the best minds and the most brilliant people. Tell us what, uh, what John Lasser and the boys over at Pixar called upon you four to help out with up.
[01:21:20] Alice Davis: Um, my style of life, , the way Mark and I lived in what we did, we were, we were traveling to New Guinea and collecting things.
Uh, uh, it was kind of our lifestyle I think, more than anything. And, and, um, we had, we had what we called the Atheist Fund. And the atheist fund was, I had a, a very serious horse accident when I was young. Uh, I, I can't remember, I think I was 20 and I had a tree trunk. The horse got frightened and it [01:22:00] turned and went down this deep hill between trees and the horse leaned out and missed the trees, but I didn't.
And I caught it with my left side and matched the whole side of my face in and, and broke all of my ribs and, uh, cut this eyelid loose and down the cheek. Um, and I didn't have any money. I was living like a, a lion from zebra to zebra and never knowing when the next zebra was coming along, . And, uh, I, uh, had to borrow money from my brother to get out of the hospital.
I didn't even have money to pay for the hospital bill. And when I got home, I opened up a letter that was in the post box from John and Jane Urist, whom I had met only twice in my life. And there was a good size check in the. The letter and the letter stated that, um, this was their fund. And, um, when they were very young and first married, a very wealthy person drove into them and demolished their car and so on, but, uh, had the money to beat them in the, the lawsuit and such, and they were destitute.
They were, had no money to pay for the doctor bills and they had lost, their car was destroyed and so on. And so these people gave them money for paying off their hospital bill and paying for the car and the whole bit. And so they got a new start in life. And so they were passing on, uh, The, the way that the money, the way the people gave them the money was if and when they knew somebody that had an accident happen to them to pass the money on to them with no strings accepting if and when they could to pass it on to somebody else.
So Mark and I put so much money away each year and we would give the other best one people. [01:24:00] And, uh, we helped a lot of people, but nobody ever knows who they are because we don't tell anything. And, uh, it makes it, it helps you, you know, like when the, when the car's tire would burst or something. Well that was Anbu fund, uh, um, to where they could get another tire and so on.
So, uh, I think it was just that they knew both Mark and I over the years and knew what we did and, uh, That was, that was the, we, we loved to go to foreign countries and, and study and, and go through the art schools and see what they were teaching and so on. Um, and they thought that was kind of keen and, and, and they liked the way that, um, Joe Grant and his wife lived pretty much, they were both artists and worked together and, uh, had great joy in, in meeting and seeing other people and seeing how they live and, uh, do what you can to help your friend.
I always call our house, our church. If you live a good life and you help people in need and you enjoy friendship, uh, it's a good way to.
[01:25:27] Lou Mongello: I, I thank you for sharing that story, cuz, and I wanted you to tell it because, uh, when I mentioned the film up, I, I think a lot of people's minds probably thought they went to costumes or colors or whatever it might be, but it really was about the special relationship that you and Mark had, and that's what the Frederickson's were and that's what they came to tap into you to sort of share those stories with.
And I think hopefully next time people watch it, you'll have a better understanding that that's, that's Mark and Alice
[01:25:57] Alice Davis: Davis. Well, [01:26:00] I can't think of anything more flattering. In fact, I felt like I should tape my head to keep it from swelling after I saw the film because the film was, and it was a complete surprise to me, you know?
Um, I think about three years before the, the, the film opened, I knew nothing about it. It's just that, that Pete doctor called me whom I admire. No, and he's fantastic. Um, he and his wife, both, they're lovely people. Um, he called and asked me if he could bring his animators down to see our house go through the house in Mark's studio.
And I said, sure. And he said, well, uh, would next week or something be good to see it? And, uh, I said, fine. So he, he brought all of them and they brought all k I was surprised because they came with all kinds of cameras and everything else known to Matt . And they spent, uh, at least three hours or more going around photographing everything.
The, the, the inside of the house, the outside of the house, uh, and Mark's studio and so on. And, uh, The day that it opened before I went in to see the film, one of the young animators came up and said, do you remember me? I, I went through your house. And I said, uh, yes. I, I, uh, remember you. And he said, well, I think you'll be surprised with what you see in the film.
And I said, oh, what, what's that? And he said, well, just see, see what we saw. And they said, I don't know if you know when he's coming in down the stairs in the chair. Mm-hmm. , uh, then the, it's not the paintings that are on my wall, but there were paintings on the wall and the, the rail and such was part of the house.
And there were a number of things that picked up on it. But, uh, it was, it, uh, The first half hour of that [01:28:00] film made you laugh and cry at the same time. It was Abso, I loved that film. And when I saw my, everybody said, you have to say stay with it to the very end of the credits and this, and when I saw my name there, I almost lost my teeth.
wow, what is this? My moment of fame? . But uh, and then, then at the Academy Awards, I was the loudest one, screaming and yelling that he got the, the Academy Award. And then we were, I was at the governor's ball having dinner afterward and I was sitting at this table. And all of a sudden there was this great, wham, I was sitting talking to the person next to me, , and this, the whole table shook and this, and I looked and there was the Oscar.
And standing in the back of me was Pete doctor. And he said, look, our Oscar. And he whammed it on the table. And I bought, jumped out of my skin, but I leaped up and gave he and his wife both big hugs and kisses. It was a marvelous mount, marvelous moment. I was so sorry Mark couldn't be there, but
[01:29:06] Lou Mongello: I, I'm sure, and I'm, I'm sure he'd be proud, but do you have jokingly talked about, um, you know, your moment of fame, but I think something has happened over the past number of years or so when even in the past couple of days, things like Disney's D 23 and, and the events.
Have brought you and, and personalized who? Alice, David Davis is for us, the Disney enthusiasts. And you have, like it or not, Alice, you have become a Disney celebrity and you've become very, very well recognized over the past few years. I mean, did you ever imagine when you first started working on some of these attractions that this would, is what it would be?
And look, I sat in on, A number of panels and discussions that you've been at over the last couple of years, including one just a couple of days ago at, at Destination D in Disneyland. And I, I watched the crowd as much as I watched [01:30:00] the panel because more so than any of the other events and presentations over those two days.
I think that is where people were just fascinated. And Marty Slar kept you going longer than the hour and a half or so, but we would've sat there for hours. I mean, how does it feel to you now to be sort of, you know, people are asking for your autograph and for your picture and to be sort of thrust into the Disney celebrity
[01:30:22] Alice Davis: status?
I still feel like I should go home and tape my head to keep it from swelling. . I, but it also, it's like old family meeting, you know, it's because they, they keep coming back. They keep coming back just like Walt said they would. And, um, They become friends and I ask how their son is doing or, or their children and this, and it's, it's, uh, um, it's like a family reunion, I think I would say best, more than anything.
It's a family reunion and they're all there and it's, it's hugs and kisses and, and, uh, I, I thank them for coming because I said, if it weren't for you and your eagerness, I would not have food in my mouth or a house to live in. , you know, it takes two to tango. So. Well,
[01:31:12] Lou Mongello: your work is certainly, um, very well, very much appreciated and respected.
I, uh, certainly you were, you were named a Disney legend in 2004. You followed in the footsteps of your husband who was given that honor in 1989. What did that recogni recognition from the company mean for you?
[01:31:29] Alice Davis: It meant a great deal. A great deal, and, um, Again, I wish Mark could have been there and been able to enjoy it with me because I think I owe a great deal of it to Mark and to Mary and to all the people that I worked with.
And I didn't do it by myself. It was a group effort by all of us. And that's the way it always has been and it's why it's still a joy to see each other and, and catch up with, with time. [01:32:00] And
[01:32:00] Lou Mongello: we see that sort of love and admiration and mutual respect and that sense of family that all of you and people like Marty and Exo and Bob Guer and some of the other people that you worked with decades ago, um, you still carry that forward today.
Uh, you are certainly. So well deserved of that and that award and all the recognition that you get, uh, your work continues to bring laughter and smiles and incredible memories to generations of Disney enthusiasts like myself.
[01:32:32] Alice Davis: You did a good job to have . It's the best job. You know, this is the other part.
It was, it was so wonderful not only to work there, but to have people enjoyed seeing and, and, uh, coming back to see what we worked at and, and accomplished. And I think that's the, the best part of all is to sit and watch the people enjoy what they're seeing.
[01:32:57] Lou Mongello: Well, you should be very pleased and proud to know that the work of you and your husband will continue, your legacy will go on for, to thrill generations of Disney fans from around the world.
So for that, uh, on behalf of myself and my family, and I'm sure the other people who appreciate your work, I wanna thank you for welcoming me into your home today and for sharing, uh, your stories with us and for all the work that you and your husband
[01:33:22] Alice Davis: have, have done. That's my pleasure. But I have to make one remark of a story that I told the other night, , and that was the first day.
First time I went to Disneyland and took this little girl who was crying because she couldn't get in and I tried to pay to get in and I couldn't. And because they said they closed up. The park one hour before it was to be closed. In other words, not letting other people in because they were gonna try to get them out when the time came and this little girl started crying and she was [01:34:00] going home to New York the next morning and she'd never get to see Disneyland.
So that's why, and I don't know why it came into my head to do it that way, but I had to get her in there somehow. And so I'm waiting. I, uh, I should finish by saying that, that, uh, I said we'll just stand over there by the, the exit where they're coming out and talk and. Just walk backward, be facing the same way they're, but walk backward through the crowd.
And we got in and they were very kind and, and, uh, she got to go on the rides. Uh, I fortunately, mark had given me some books that had the key on it that employees had, so I could get her on the, the rides with the, the key and . Uh, they even kept one open for one more go around so she could see it, so she could see everything she wanted to see.
And I'm waiting for now since it's gotten out. I, my mother never even knew it. The only one I told was Mark and I, it was almost the end of a good friendship. , . Cause we weren't married then. So anyway, uh, I, I, uh, I thought, uh, any day now I'll get a bill from them for for going into the park, but that's the only time I've ever done anything like that.
And I felt guilty for a long time. But at the same time, I was proud of the fact I got her in to see the show.
[01:35:29] Lou Mongello: Well, this is good. This is very cathartic. Then
[01:35:31] Alice Davis: I'm getting it off my chest. .
[01:35:34] Lou Mongello: You know what though? You bent the rules to make magic and I think, I think that was the
[01:35:37] Alice Davis: important part. Well, I hope they keep, everybody keeps keeping the magic going because it is magic and it's a place.
I've had a number of people say, oh, Disneyland, I'm not going there. And I finally talk him into going and they become rabid fans now and they, they say it is a place you can drop all your troubles and worries and go to and have a [01:36:00] wonderful time. And it's true. And we hope that magic keeps going for many years in the future, and
[01:36:07] Lou Mongello: I'm sure it will.
Again, the legacy of Walt and you and Mark and so many of the people that, that built the foundation, uh, for what has to come in the years that followed is definitely being followed through. So, Alice Davis, Disney legend, and so much more. Thank you again so, so much for your time.
[01:36:24] Alice Davis: Well, thank you very much for thinking of me and giving you the choice of being able to spread more of the magic around.