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WDW Radio # 775 – 10 Most Influential Women in Disney History

This week, in honor of Women’s History Month, we’ll be shining a light on some of the incredible women who have shaped the Disney legacy, as we look at the 10 Most Influential Women in Disney History. From the foundational influences to animation legends and modern leaders, we’ll underscore the broader impact of influential women on the company, as we pay tribute to the enduring legacy of these remarkable women and discuss how their stories continue to inspire generations of Disney fans.


Summary

In celebration of Women’s History Month, Lou Mongello and Kendall Forman discuss the influential women who have shaped Disney history. They highlight the contributions of women in various roles, including educators, costume designers, artists, philanthropists, and technicians. The conversation emphasizes the impact these women have had on the Disney legacy and their role in inspiring future generations. The discussion showcases the importance of recognizing and celebrating the achievements of women in the Disney community. This conversation highlights the contributions of influential women in Disney history. From Ruthie Thompson, the unsung hero of Disney animation, to Kim Irvine, the preserver of Disneyland’s history, these women have made significant impacts in their respective fields. They have broken barriers, revolutionized animation, and shaped the Disney experience. Their stories inspire and pave the way for future generations of women in the entertainment industry.

Embark on an enchanting voyage through time as we pay homage to the trailblazing women who sculpted the magical world of Disney in this inspiring episode of WDW Radio. Join host Lou Mongello and guest Kendall Foreman as they weave a narrative celebrating the unsung heroines whose vision and tenacity have forever altered the fabric of The Walt Disney Company.

Discover the quintessence of determination and grace with Lillian Disney, who was more than just Walt Disney’s wife but a benevolent muse who nurtured his dreams and left her own indelible mark on Disney’s legacy. Marvel at her strength and the artistic passion that led to unique contributions like the whimsical petrified tree gracing Disneyland’s landscapes.

Kendall Foreman deservedly puts Becky Cline on the list, the esteemed director of the Disney Archives, who not only safeguards the company’s cherished history but brings it to life for generations of dreamers. Experience the vigor of Sharita Carter, an Imagineering executive producer, who’s shaping the future of immersive park experiences and advocating for diversity with projects like Tiana’s Bayou Adventure—promising the authentic scent of New Orleans beignets!

Celebrate Ruthie Thompson, a luminary in animation whose influence danced across the screen and through the decades. Peer into the captivating artistry and innovation of Harriet Burns, the first lady of imagineering, who pioneered experiences like the Enchanted Tiki Room, and uncover the multilayered stories of iconic Disney characters brought to life by Marge Champion’s expressive dance.

Through Women’s History Month and beyond, this episode glorifies the contributions, pioneering spirit, and resilient legacies of the influential women who helped shape the wonder of Disney. Lou and Kendall invite you to reflect on the varied criteria that define our Disney heroines—historical impact, innovation, cultural significance, and the enduring power of their stories.

Rekindle fond memories with Kendall as she shares her cherished Disney character, Ariel, and her modern-day admiration for Elsa’s complexity. Meanwhile, Lou extols the virtues of quintessential characters like Mary Poppins and Tiana, who redefine the narrative of what it means to be a princess.

Contributions from Annette Funicello to Jennifer Lee, Zenyamuka, and Peggy Ferriss showcase the breadth of influence exerted by women in various facets of Disney. From Alice Davis’s iconic costume designs to Mary Blair’s revolutionary use of color, we illuminate the lives and careers of women who not only crafted Disney’s artistic heritage but who also shattered glass ceilings along the way.

Prepare to be enchanted and inspired as WDW Radio presents the “10 Most Influential Womeni Disney History. Tune in to this episode to celebrate the magnetic women behind the magic and share your own picks for Disney’s most influential women. Subscribe, listen, and let the stories of these pioneering women beckon you to believe in the power of dreams and the ones who dare to make them come true.


Takeaways

  • Women have played significant roles in shaping Disney history, from pioneering animators and storytellers to visionary leaders and imagineers.
  • The contributions of women in various fields, such as education, costume design, art, philanthropy, and technical roles, have had a lasting impact on the Disney company.
  • The stories and achievements of influential women in Disney history are now more accessible through platforms like D23 and the Disney Parks blog.
  • Recognizing and celebrating the achievements of women in the Disney community is essential for inspiring future generations. Women have played crucial roles in Disney’s history, from animation to imagineering.
  • These women have broken barriers and made significant contributions to their fields.
  • Their stories inspire and pave the way for future generations of women in the entertainment industry.
  • Disney continues to prioritize diversity and representation in its storytelling and leadership.

Timestamped Overview

  • [00:00] Introduction
  • [00:30] Celebrating Women in Disney History
  • [01:14] Guest Introduction: Kendall Forman
  • [04:23] Defining Influential Women
  • [06:39] Nelbert Shinnard: Educator and Philanthropist
  • [11:21] Alice Davis: Costume Designer
  • [14:25] Mary Blair: Artist
  • [23:24] Becky Klein: Director of the Archives
  • [27:10] Sharita Carter: Executive Producer at Imagineering
  • [30:35] Ruthie Thompson: Technician
  • [31:01] Ruthie Thompson: The Unsung Hero of Disney Animation
  • [36:16] Harriet Burns: The First Lady of Imagineering
  • [42:20] Annette Funicello: The Face of Disney
  • [46:06] Zenya Muka: The Controversial Protector of Disney’s Image
  • [47:03] Jennifer Lee: The Chief Creative Officer of Disney Animation
  • [48:15] Peggy Farris: The Woman Behind the Scenes of Disney Conferences
  • [49:52] Meg Crofton: The Leader of Operational Excellence
  • [51:46] Julie Andrews: The Iconic Mary Poppins
  • [55:16] Kim Irvine: The Preserver of Disneyland’s History

Who is a woman in Disney history that has inspired or influenced you, and why?

Share your thoughts in the WDW Radio Clubhouse at WDWRadio.com/Clubhouse, or call the voicemail at 407-900-9391 (WDW1) and share your story on the show.


Episode Transcript

Click Here To Read The Full Podcast Episode Transcript

Lou Mongello (00:02.398)
In cel- oh, hi. Puberty. I'm Lou. Try again. Take two. In celebration of Women's History Month, I think it's important that we continue the legacy and tradition of commemorating and encouraging the observance and celebration of not just the vital role of women in American history, but in our case, celebrating the incredible women who helped shape the Disney legacy from

the pioneering animators and storytellers to the visionary leaders and imagineers. This week, we're going to dive into the stories of the 10-ish most influential women in Disney history. And these are the Trailblazers who haven't just contributed to the magic that we love today, but I think also have helped pave the way for future generations of women to dream and believe and create. And joining me this week.

is a woman whose own storytelling contributions on the WW Radio blog and with me on the podcast have not only been impactful but continue to be enjoyed by people who just found the show and the site. I want to welcome back to the show, Kendall Forman.

Kendall (01:14.192)
Hey, thank you for that kind introduction. That means a lot. I always hope that people get a lot out of the blog posts.

Lou Mongello (01:20.778)
I think they do and I love having you on because I think we're both really clear the extent of how far our fandom and nerddom go in terms of our love of Disney history. And I think too, specifically this week, Kendall, the people who helped shape it. And I think for a long time, a lot of these were not just faceless, but nameless people before things like social media and even D23, a lot of the work of these people and

for this week's show, specifically the women who've helped impact and influence the enduring legacy of Disney really were not very well known.

Kendall (02:02.464)
Yeah, I think if you had asked me to contribute to this, you know...

four or five years ago, 10 years ago, I would have struggled to come up with names, possibly, of 10 names. But the other day when you mentioned that you wanted to do this, I was sitting with someone and I said, oh, Lou wants to do a podcast on the most influential women. And they kind of looked at me and they're like, well, who are you gonna pick? And I just immediately rattled off, like 10 names just off the top of my head that I'm not sure I could have done that years ago. And I think that's definitely a testament to D23, to the Parks blog,

that have come out in recent years that are available now, not just to know these women's names, but to also know their stories.

Lou Mongello (02:43.21)
Yeah, that's one of the things I've loved about not just D23 and D23 Expo, but the legend ceremony and destination D23 and getting to hear from these people up on stage, especially as, you know, some of them are getting more advanced and we start to lose these people, you know, year over year. And in the past, I remember not too long ago, I guess back in 20, probably 2020, 2021, we looked at sort of the top,

10 Disney heroines and on that list it was interesting because there were some fictional heroines and there were some real heroines that made that list. I know for me I wanted to focus on the real flesh and blood, women on my list this week. Maybe I was actually thinking about writing. I think I need to almost write something for the blog, which I don't normally do because the problem that I had with my list is that

it wasn't just me coming up with five, maybe 10 in case it was overlap. I wanted to list like 50 because the more that I started to think about it, not just in terms of, well, who worked for the studio, who's in the theme park, you know, women who, maybe whose names we don't hear enough because of the role was not necessarily front facing. My list ended up being

much, much longer than I expected. But when I said this to you, what were sort of some of the factors that you were, you know, actively or sort of subconsciously considering when you were putting together your list?

Kendall (04:23.5)
Yeah, I very quickly had to come up with a definition of what I thought influential meant. So what I went with was not just exceptional at their craft, but someone who did something that created such an impact within the Disney company that it was fundamentally different. Something in their field was fundamentally different because this person existed and because they did what they did. And I also tried really hard to pick someone from different areas.

have some overlap. I do have more than one Imagineer between my long and my short list, more than one animator potentially, but I tried really hard to look at all aspects of the company when I was selecting my top choices.

Lou Mongello (05:07.682)
Yeah, I did the same thing because I started off sort of subconsciously and then I was sort of jotting down notes and words, right? So, you know, the historical impact, you know, how did something that they do impact the direction or techniques? Did they pioneer something that was new? Did they have any, was there any sort of maybe like cultural significance to their contributions, you know, whether it's, you know,

the hiring of the first woman in a certain department, you know, diversity and representation over a period of years and decades, innovation, vision, leadership roles, as well as what the legacy and sort of the endurance of what they contributed still might be today. You know, how did they, how did they maybe not only just

break new ground, but challenges that they had, lessons that maybe people, women, young girls, anybody can sort of be influenced by what they did and how it shapes the future of Disney. So again, I believe in Ladies First and you are my guest and I am so very curious to hear what is, who is going to be on your list first and this is going to be, wow, we have a lot of ones that match.

or the creativity that you came up with in putting your list together. So.

Kendall (06:39.792)
I think I'm going to start out back, back in time to the early days of the Disney company. This woman was originally from Minnesota. She was trained at the New York Pratt Institute and later moved to Pasadena, California. She was an artist and an educator. So I'm kind of categorizing her as the educator and philanthropist on my list. She actually.

Lou Mongello (06:43.854)
I'm going to go ahead and close the video.

Lou Mongello (07:04.35)
I feel like I'm on Jeopardy and I'll have to like write down my answer to see if I'm right.

Kendall (07:09.432)
She actually never officially was employed by the Disney Company, but she had a huge impact on the company. Her name is Nelbert Murphy Chouinard. If the name Chouinard sounds familiar, it's because of the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles. That institute was founded by Mrs. Chouinard in 1921.

She was a war widow. She had worked in education and in fine art education at some other institutes But she saw a different way of doing things She wanted to open up her own school which at this point in time to have a woman found an art institute is unheard of and She starts the school which was responsible for training so many of the Disney legends later on Alice Davis Mary Blair Ollie Johnston Frank Thomas

others. And not only was she impactful because she started the school that trained these individuals, but in the late 20s when Walt was wanting to transition from cartoon shorts to full-length features, he recognized that his animators were going to need some different training in order to fully capture what a human being looks like in animation versus these cartoon characters. But money was tight.

And so he talked to Mrs. Chouinard about this, and she really believed that Walt had something to offer to the, to American art, to American society, and she offered to let his animators come there for free at the time, that they would pay her back later for the classes and the education that they received. Which if you listen to some interviews with some other people who went to Chouinard over the years, this was not uncommon.

Kendall (09:01.838)
a lot.

And she continued to send people over to the studios for years after that to offer training on evenings. And she just had a very close relationship with Walt up until, you know, she later in life, she had a stroke. The Institute kind of had some hard times. And at that point, Walt came in and served as a director up until the time when then the Chouinard Institute got enveloped into what became CalArts,

Kendall (09:33.295)
many of the animators both from Disney and Pixar.

Lou Mongello (09:40.686)
And Kendall Foreman, this, this is the reason why I love having you, I love, love that answer. And it was not even on my radar. I love how you connected the dots and you're right. I mean, in terms of somebody who did not just impact the life of a single person or a couple of people, I mean, the ripple effect, you know, the pebble in the water, the ripple effect of what she did and the number of people that she impacted.

Kendall (09:43.204)
Yeah.

Lou Mongello (10:10.466)
And how that had such influence on the company as a whole is, is almost hard to quantify. And like you said, even sort of continuing as CalArts, which for years has always been a place where so many legendary Disney artists and animators and creators have attended. So, wow, nice. I like that. I like that a lot. And, and just-

I should have said this as a, as a, early on we were sort of setting this, this segment up. I think what will be fun to do is we're going to probably hit on a number of people. And I think some of them are certainly going to warrant, as we've done in the past, we've sort of looked at some Disney legends in the past. Some of these might be an introduction to somebody and then we can go back at a later time and really sort of do a deep dive on some of these whose, whose work sort of warrants their.

own segments that we've done in the past. I know we, I think our most recent one may have been, was it Mark Davis? I think Mark Davis was relatively recently.

Kendall (11:19.385)
We did some of his projects, yeah.

Lou Mongello (11:21.31)
Yeah. So, I'm going to, I'm going to go out of order because I want to sort of connect the dots because when you said Cal Arts, the first thing I thought of and then you mentioned her was Alice Davis who was absolutely on my list. I had a chance to interview Alice Davis back in 2010 on show 193 and she was almost like the first person that, that came to mind because of

not just her work in costume design, actually was one of the most memorable interviews I was ever part of because she was just such a wonderful person, so creative the way she spoke about her husband and the ability to meet and chat with her in her own home. But, you know, she started off, you know, designing women's lingerie before making her way to Disney and then designing costumes for Small World and Pirates of the Caribbean. And it wasn't just about

her costuming characters in legendary attractions. But I think her work ended up sort of setting the stage for other people. She established costuming procedures, a manufacturing base, quality control, and refurbishing techniques over at WDI, and really helped to sort of, I think, set the standards for.

three-dimensional characters in Disney attractions and shows. She was obviously, you know, deservedly given a, the Disney Legend Award back in 2004. But I think...

pioneering costuming design for audio-automatonics figures and that new level of realism and immersion and attention to detail and the meticulous research that she did not only set the standards, but I think again, according to what my qualities needed to be, I think it did, she obviously has helped to inspire countless artists and designers and imagineers.

Lou Mongello (13:34.218)
with, you know, the work that she did.

Kendall (13:39.756)
Yeah, I definitely had Alice Davis on my short list. And something else I think maybe not a lot of people know about her and her husband, Mark, was that they were very charitable. They often would help other artists where, you know, if someone had a flat tire, they'd pay for the new tire. Or if they needed a meal, they'd have them over to their house. They had special close relationships with people like Pete Docter and Christopher Merritt

mentorship type relationships, familial almost in some situations. And I think that's also very influential and inspiring to other people who came along in the company.

Lou Mongello (14:23.566)
Who's next on your list?

Kendall (14:25.492)
I'm actually, I'm going to go with another Chouinard student. And I kind of look at her as a Renaissance woman. She's definitely influential to me, and that would be Mary Blair. Just.

As an artist, her work to me is unparalleled. I love it because it's so contrary to what, I mean, sometimes I consider myself an amateur artist, but her work is so different from what I do and how my brain thinks. And it takes a special person to be able to make a green sky and orange mountains, and it makes sense, and it's beautiful.

And I look at her work almost, you know, her work within the animation department especially, almost the way you see the transition from Renaissance paintings and into, you know, Impressionist or modern art, where you go from these animated features that have more of a, you know, muted color tones and more of a realistic look to them, like Snow White and Pinocchio and even Dumbo. And then when Mary comes in with her concept art for a film like Cinderella or Peter Pan

And you can see situations where her concept art is almost translated one for one into scenes that ended up in those films. And just memorable moments and pieces of art you would want to hang on your wall. And I know there's quotes from several of the people that she worked with, like Mark Davis. He said she brought modern art to wall in a way that no one else did.

And I love Frank Thomas' quote where he says, Mary was the first artist I knew of to have different shades of red next to each other. You just didn't do that, but Mary made it work. And I kind of think of it too like dissonance in music. Like some people can sit down to a piano and play a strange chord and it just sounds terrible. But somehow, with Mary's paintbrush and Mary's paper and Mary's tiles, it made sense. And just in a way that no one else was doing.

Lou Mongello (16:25.25)
She was actually number one on my list. When I put pen to paper, hers was sort of just the first name that fell out. Because I think you're right. There's something special and unique about her work with that use of bold colors and the imaginative designs. I know we've seen people sort of compare her work in style to a

like Matisse in the way she uses color and design. And the same thing, we continue to see her work, not just on things like Cinderella and Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan, but I think most notably and recognizably in places like It's a Small World. But, you know, I think, and Mary Blair definitely deserves her own segment, she will get one. Her...

approach to color and design. I think she helped sort of introduce modern art to Walt and the studio and the influence that sort of overarching blanket and umbrella of introducing this style of art to the studio was absolutely impactful. You know, she came from MGM, Metro-Golden-Mayer first.

And then contributed to, you know, a number of other films. She was art supervisor on the three Caballeros and Saludos, Amigo, and you see a lot of her influence in, in things like that. And like we said, you know, certainly in Alice in Wonderland as well. The Grand Canning Concourse at Walt Disney World, the contemporary, that mural is, is

typical on the largest scale possible, Mary Blair. But that use of color and the use of design to continue to influence, I think contemporary design and animation continues to be felt even till today.

Kendall (18:36.576)
Yeah, I would encourage listeners. It's not a long video, but there's a video out on YouTube that Disney Plus actually put out last year for Women's History Month that features Laura Leibovet, who is one of the production designers on Incanto. And she talks about Mary Blair and her concept work and the translation, the animation and the impact that it had on her as an artist. And it's just a really neat feature.

Lou Mongello (19:03.838)
You know, I'm struggling who I want to mention next because I'm like, well, do I save her till the very end because of how significant, but am I also afraid that Kendall is going to steal her first? I'm going to go with the latter. And I have to include Lillian Disney on this list. Um, as, as Walt's wife, she played a crucial role, um, not just in the early days of, of Walt and the Disney company in terms of guidance and support, but

even after his passing and her philanthropic efforts as well. We know the story. I've heard the story about her being credited with naming Mickey Mouse. But I think it's the conversations that we don't know about, that we sort of just hear hearsay stories of her role in supporting Walt in his dreams and project and sort of being the quote unquote, the only person.

you know, who could say no to Walt Disney and helping to sort of be that balance of some of his ideas that might have seen, seemed more daring or almost more fanciful. And also, you know, I'm sure she was the person that at the end of the day, Walt would come home to and be the sounding board for and probably had far more influence that, that we might be privy to know.

because of those, you know, behind closed door conversations between the two of them. I mentioned just briefly her continuing contributions to art and education, the $50 million donation to build the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles just shows that ongoing testament to her commitment, I think, to the arts and the community. And you mentioned CalArts before too.

She continues to support Cal Arts and I think Walt's vision for an institution that can help support and nurture future generations of artists. So, yeah, Lily and Disney might not necessarily have her name on the end credits or the title credits of any production or any attraction, but

Lou Mongello (21:27.262)
I think a lot of what we see and enjoy and experience today would not have happened without Lillian Disney being Walt's wife.

Kendall (21:37.716)
Yeah, she was definitely on my longer list. And I did not know that she was an ink and paint girl for the studio before she and Walt got married. And also you just have to give her credit for donating that petrified tree to Disneyland. Ha ha ha.

But yeah, most definitely, she most definitely, I mean, as a wife of someone like Walt, she certainly had to have patience. I'm sure she had to have a childlike level of encouragement in some ways. I mean, how many of us as wives would willingly let our husbands build, model?

Lou Mongello (21:58.658)
And little.

Kendall (22:22.868)
ride on trains around our houses. But I mean, it's clear to see she must have been encouraging Walton what he was doing and also being a stabilizing force.

Lou Mongello (22:24.214)
I don't know.

Lou Mongello (22:33.398)
Yeah, I'm sure somebody's going, you know, I can't hang my lightsaber over the fireplace, but she allowed him to build a full-scale train in the backyard. And there was two bits of trivia that I had, one that I had known and one that I didn't realize. I think we've talked about her, especially, I think we mentioned her when we talked about the heroines, the top 10 heroines. But I thought it was fascinating that she grew up on the Nez Perce Indian Reservation where her father was a blacksmith and a federal marshal.

Kendall (22:40.085)
Hahaha

Lou Mongello (23:03.018)
And what I didn't know was that after Walt's death in 1966, she remarried John L. Truyens, a real estate developer, at 1969 until he passed in 1981.

Kendall (23:15.978)
I did not know either of those.

Lou Mongello (23:19.95)
All right. So who is who is next on your list?

Kendall (23:24.288)
I'm going to go with someone who is still currently employed with the Disney company, who I believe has definitely had an impact over the last, you know, 14 years.

14 years in the role that she's been in and I believe she has the opportunity to be equally as impactful, if not more, going forward in the future and that is Becky Cline. Rebecca Cline as the director, as the director of the archives and obviously the archives was founded by Dave Smith, but Becky started working there prior to his retirement.

She originally had pursued technical theater in college and didn't have a job right away. So she started working in the rare books department of the Huntington Library in San Marino, California, which I think is fascinating and most certainly had to help prepare her for what her job was going to be. And then when Dave Smith retired, she became the director, which the archives not only is a museum,

of, you know, props and books and documents and artwork and merchandise and

choosing what to collect and how to store and everything. And I'm very jealous of you that you've been able to visit the archives. But it also serves as a repository of information for everyone from the company. I know you just had Stephen Vagnini on, and he talked about Imagineers coming there and being able to research the stories. What are canon stories for these attractions, for these locations within our parks? And Becky, as the head of the director,

Kendall (25:09.998)
going forward and that has an impact of what we as fans think about the company and the way that the company moves forward based on its history and I love that she serves as the director of that tie between the past and the present and the future.

Lou Mongello (25:26.562)
I am, first of all, I love this entry and I'm embarrassed that I did not think about Becky Cline, especially just having Steven on a few weeks ago on the show. And I've, I've known Becky for ages and I, and I've seen her present at the archives, at the studios, at D23 and she's an amazing person and I can't believe I didn't think to put her on this list, which she absolutely deserves to be on. And I think as time goes on and as-

podcasters decades from now look back and do a list similar to this. Becky Cline will absolutely be deservedly on that list.

Kendall (26:07.852)
Yeah, and I love too that she's not just a woman in an office. She's very forward-facing for the company, that she does seminars and talks. And I love the Armchair Archivist series that they did on YouTube, that D23 did on YouTube back probably a decade ago at this point. But she's featured in several episodes of that. She's on the Adventure Through the Walt Disney Archives documentary on Disney+.

So it's just, it's very neat to be able to see something like that and hear from her firsthand of the job that she's doing.

Lou Mongello (26:43.726)
That's awesome. Um, gosh, I don't know where to go because every woman deserves to be on this list and every woman deserves to be quote unquote next. But again, we're not going to any sort of specific order. All right. Since, since you're going with someone who is currently employed, I will follow suit. Um, and somebody whose work we have enjoyed, um, somebody whose name and face we have seen.

a number of times on places like Disney Plus, on stages at D23, on Disney Parks YouTube channel. And we're about to enjoy, I think, some of her most impactful work with the opening of a new attraction coming this summer to Walt Disney World. I am, of course, talking about Charita Carter. And she is...

She's a fascinating individual who has served a number of roles over at Walt Disney Imagineering. I think she's currently an executive producer focusing on creating experiences for the Disney parks. I believe she may be the first African-American woman who is the an executive producer at Imagineering. She's the lead on the development of Tiana's Bayou Adventure. I had a chance to meet and spend some time chatting with her.

unintentionally to say, quote unquote, down in New Orleans and the passion that you can see that she has for these projects. And she came from an accounting background. You know, I tell my kids who are in college right now that you don't know, you know, what you choose right now might not necessarily be the path that you end up. So she starts in accounting and finance and moves from, you know, somebody who's about the numbers to a creative role.

really I think showcases her versatile skill set and the ability to not just adapt, but really thrive in different roles in the company. She's also worked on Runaway Railway. Wow, I really can't talk to it. Runaway Railway. And she's also too, she's been a very prominent advocate for diversity and inclusion within storytelling and experiences. And

Lou Mongello (29:05.026)
helped sort of create some of these initiatives to not just represent, but celebrate a lot of diverse voices and perspectives. So, I think she, I think she not only serves as a brilliant creative force, but I think that's an inspiration to a lot of people, not just from her own personal journey, but I think the importance of some of these things like representation and perseverance and bringing some of these stories to life in the parks and the attractions.

Kendall (29:35.104)
Yeah, I love watching videos with Charita Carter. She has such a joy for what she's doing and a desire for authenticity. And I am definitely looking forward to Tiana's Bayou adventure.

Lou Mongello (29:48.926)
Is it just for the beignets or is it, or are you actually looking forward to the? The best smell it's or scent that they can come up with might be beignets in the attractions, so.

Kendall (29:49.449)
Okay.

Kendall (29:52.761)
I mean there better be beignets because they tell us we're gonna be able to smell them on the attraction So if there is not a place for me to purchase those I'm gonna be very upset

Kendall (30:03.725)
Hahaha

Kendall (30:08.9)
For my next choice, if you're ready to go on to the next one, I'm going to go with a technician. We hear a lot about girls and science and STEAM and STEM and how do you get girls interested in science. And I think this woman definitely had an influence in that area. And her name is Ruthie Tompson. And that might not be a name that a lot of people recognize.

She is a Disney legend. Her family moved to California when she was little, and she grew up right down the street from the Disney Brothers Studio. She used to play out in the street with her friends, and Walt and Roy would go out and film them to kind of get a movement of kids to use as an example for some of the artwork in the Alice comedies, which I just find that fascinating that she was kind of working for the Disney company as a child, you know? But she...

Lou Mongello (31:01.584)
Probably didn't even realize it, she was that right.

Kendall (31:03.84)
Yeah, and she would walk down the street, she talks about peeking into the window and watching the girls in the ink and paint department and just being fascinated by what they were doing. And as she got older, she had the opportunity to then work at the...

at the Disney Brothers Studios. She advanced into being a part of the animation checking and scene planning, then advanced into being supervisor of the scene planning department. And it was there where she really understood the movement of the camera. And Floyd Norman actually has a quote where he says, Ruthie was our computer before computers were invented.

She understood the mechanics and the mathematics of it and how to guide the camera for the movement in those animated films. And she ended up working in some capacity on every film between Snow White and the Rescuers. And she actually was one of the first women to be admitted into the Hollywood Camera Union.

And she lived to the age of 111 and passed away in 2021, which at the time when she was still alive, she was the only living person who had known Walt in those very early days of the studio.

And in the ink and paint, the women of Walt Disney Animation, there's a quote in there that says, Ruthie was a living witness and a vital contributor to the progress and growth of the animation industry as we know it today. And I had not, I mean, I might have seen Ruthie Tompson's name in a credit on one of these films, but I did not know her story prior to researching this for you. So hearing that quote and what an impact she had, I love that I found her name and got to learn a little bit.

Kendall (32:48.114)
bit about her.

Lou Mongello (32:49.806)
I love it. And exactly what I wanted in part this segment to do is bring to light some of the names that maybe we don't know, right? Maybe we don't hear that. Maybe we don't have giant murals in the contemporary or whose name we see on end credits of a film. In keeping with that same philosophy, I will, I'm going to read you a quote from something that you could find in Walt Disney World on a window. And it says, the future is in your palm.

the great astral Marge sees all. That is a window. Do you know where you can find that?

Kendall (33:29.248)
I don't? I mean I guess... No, I don't know.

Lou Mongello (33:34.47)
So, in Disney's Hollywood Studios over Keystone Clothiers, so if you look at Keystone Clothiers on sort of the, the backside of Keystone Clothiers, on sort of that the Mesoamerican revival side of, that sort of faces men and bills, there's a window that says, the future is your palm, the great Astral Marge sees all.

Kendall (33:37.394)
Okay.

Lou Mongello (33:59.81)
I believe, and as do others, that is a reference to Marge Champion. Again, somebody whose name you might not know or recognize, but you have in a derivative way seen her in an animated film because she was a prominent dancer and actress and student of ballet, but she served as the live action model for Snow White.

and her movements and her dancing was studied by the animators to create more lifelike animations than had been seen previously in the short form films that Disney was putting out. So her work in, not just in Snow White, but working on other films as well. She also modeled the Blue Fairy in Pinocchio and Hyacinth Hippo in Fantasia.

And this is when she's, you know, 14 years old. I think I started to sort of think long term. I think what she did, right, sort of being the first to do this, literally helped revolutionize animation, right? Because she makes these characters more realistic, more expressive. And I think, you know, through an iterative process we see now it's a completely different world with things like

motion capture and AI and things like that. But she has this long career in film and television and Broadway. But I think she, her work is sort of foundational as that live action model to create for the Disney animators more lifelike, more believable animations, which sets a new standard, I think, for character animation that continues to influence Disney films because she brings

where she brought that grace of a dancer and a new sense of expressiveness to the Disney characters, which helped in turn Disney achieve, I think, new heights of realism and what they were able to do in hand drawn two dimensional figures in animated feature films.

Kendall (36:16.016)
Definitely, and you have women like Margaret Carey and Helene Stanley who did similar things in subsequent Disney films.

Absolutely having those life models makes a difference. Being able to see the way that fabric moves on a human body, the way that their face looks when they react to something is hugely important for an artist. And with that in mind, I'm gonna use that to transition to my next choice. This woman actually had a parrot or a bird, I don't know if it was specifically a parrot, but she had a bird that she used as a life model.

The bird's name was Joker, and Walt gave it to her. And this was Harriet Burns, the First Lady of Imagineering. And she had this bird, just to kind of finish out that bit of trivia, but she had this bird because she was charged with designing and feathering all of the birds for the Enchanted Tiki Room. And I just.

I think it's really interesting because I think back to the first time that my family watched the Enchantantiki Room in Florida. And I remember my mom mentioning, did you notice that those birds were breathing? Like that their chests moved. And this was something that...

directly came about because of Harriet Burns. She was charged with making these birds look lifelike, and you can read the story of how she was watching Walt's elbow in a sweater one day in a meeting, and the way that it moved on the fabric, and this gave her the idea for creating this woven fabric to use for those chests of the audio-animatronic birds so that they could move and take in air whenever they were supposed to sing and make them look more lifelike. Harriet was

Kendall (38:09.384)
I think she's just fascinating because she was the first woman in a man's world as far as imagineering was concerned. And you'll hear Alice Davis and others talk about how she showed up to work in her dresses and her high heels. And there she is with, you know, the power saw and the tools and everything in the model shop with the guys. And that she at the end of the day, she still looked perfect. She designed the clubhouse for the Mickey Mouse.

The Mickey Mouse Club TV show, the original clubhouse that they had, she designed and built that. She worked on, I mean, Storybookland Canal Boats, one of my personal favorites, Sleeping Beauty Castle, New Orleans Square, the Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, like the list just goes on and on of these attractions that she had her hand in and had an impact on.

Lou Mongello (38:58.734)
I love this inclusion. I really, really love your list and I love the fact that you have her and you sort of placed her here because she did, you know, her work was not just about the attraction, right? Working on these individual attractions in Disneyland and working closely with Walt and-

the techniques. There was a lot of innovation that she brought to the table and to Wed and Imagineering in terms of model making and design. And she was also, you know, she was not somebody who just worked in a single medium. She worked in woods and plastics and fabrics and things like that. So she was able to bring these stories to life. But I think what she also represents, Kendall too, is representation itself, right? You talked about sort of being the first woman in a man's world. You know, Walt

was somebody who was forward thinking in terms of, you know, yes, for a long period of time, women were primarily in the ink and paint department, but allowing and inviting them and bringing them and having them be a part of Imagineering and the theme park design. Harriet Burns was one of, if not the first to break through that barrier. And I think continue to allow for opportunities, not just for women.

you know, going forward. So that's a great addition to the list too.

Kendall (40:19.392)
Yeah, I think you mentioned that. I think there are a lot of cases where even today, there are some situations where women have to be absolutely exceptional in order to be offered a seat at the table. And even sometimes when they're exceptional, they're not. And I think within the Walt Disney Company, and was it perfect back then? No. But when there was someone exceptional at their job, be that Harriet Burns or Mary Blair or Alice Davis or other, I won't take any other names in case they're on your list.

He recognized that exceptionality and gave them a place.

Lou Mongello (40:55.126)
You know, as I was thinking about putting together my list, it was very easy for me and I'm sure you to find a lot of these women, especially in Imaginary, right? Because I come sort of from a theme park mindset first. But I also try to think on a broader scale. And I looked at the company as a whole. And one thing that's always been fascinated about the Disney company is

When you think of the Disney company and you try and put a name or a face to it, it's obviously Walt for a number of years in the 80s and 90s. You know, Michael Eisner was the face of the company. Is, is Bob Iger the face of the company now? Maybe. But there was a time during the 50s and 60s when a woman was not just the face, but I think really almost the symbol of the company itself.

It was, she was a person who helped the company and Disney transition into television because of her influential work on things like the Mickey Mouse Club. And I have talking, of course, about the one, the only Annette Funicello. She was without question, far and away, the most popular of all of the Mouseketeers. Supposedly she was getting six.

that her alone was getting 6,000 letters per month. She was relatable. She was friendly. She was adorable. There was this wonderful sort of shyness, but approachability to her. After the Mickey Mouse Club is over, she's in Zorro and the Shaggy Dog and Babes in Toyland and the Monkey's Uncle and she recorded Tall Paul and Pineapple Princess.

She went on to movies in the 60s, you know, all the, all the beach party films in the 60s that were such a huge commercial success and was, became a legend in 1992. Annette Steiner in Disneyland Paris is named in her honor, I think sort of putting, you know, front and center her enduring legacy in history as well as in pop culture.

Lou Mongello (43:18.538)
But, you know, she was, she really helped sort of lay the foundation of the Mickey Mouse Club as an original Mouseketeer, which that show itself is an important part of Disney's television legacy. She transitions to become a, a true team idol. And I think too, I think Annette represented everything that, that Disney did, right? She, she was sort of the embodiment of

Disney values, that wholesome family friendly value that, that Disney had, which I think why her popularity endured for so long with so many people in, in an audience of Disney fan. And even later in life, you know, she had a very public battle with, with MS that demonstrated her, her strength and resilience and I think brought,

you know, her work with her fund for neurological diseases showcase not just her own struggle, but the struggles of others as well. And I think even beyond Disney, she, she was a cultural icon, not just for the company, but I think for the 50s and 60s, you know, that post-war innocence and optimism really is sort of, you know, wrapped up in a, in a wonderfully cute little bow that was in that Fugnicello.

Kendall (44:45.068)
Yeah, and at Flunicello made my extended list for sure. And I agree with you. She's iconic for the Disney company at that point in time. And you want to talk about the word influential and what that means. She brought people into the Disney company because there was such a fandom surrounding her.

Lou Mongello (45:09.838)
How many more people do you have on? I mean, I have about 60 more people on my list, but for the purposes of this segment, how many more do you have on your main list?

Kendall (45:14.916)
I'm out.

Kendall (45:18.888)
Well, I mean, I did my, I told you beforehand that I wasn't sure who my five were going to be, so those are my five that I went with, but I actually have probably, oh my, I don't know how long do you want to be here. I could probably give you decent information on four more, but I can cut it down if you don't want that many.

Lou Mongello (45:23.97)
Hehehehehehe

Lou Mongello (45:41.772)
All right, why don't we do this? Why don't we give me like one or two sentences on three more significant women in Disney history.

Kendall (45:48.876)
three more. Okay, first up I'm gonna pick one that I had her on the list and I think she's a little bit controversial. Some people viewed her as a villain, some people view her as a hero depending on your position within the company. And that's Zenia Mucha.

Lou Mongello (46:06.23)
I think I know where you're going.

Oh, no I don't.

Kendall (46:11.68)
She was born and raised in Poland, grew up till the age of nine in a home with no plumbing. Her family moved to New York. She worked her way, worked at Gimbels, worked her way up through politics as a communications director, and eventually, come to present day, she became the executive vice president and chief communications officer for the Walt Disney Company. And some people consider her a villain because she very vehemently protected the image

company, but that is immensely important to the company. When a crisis happens, she was, you know, as Bob Iger said about her, she's unrivaled in times of crisis. So very, very influential and important for the Walt Disney Company. Another person I want to mention is Jennifer Lee.

She's the current Chief Creative Officer of Disney Animation. She was the writer and co-director of Frozen, which became the highest grossing film of all time. Writer, co-director of Frozen 2. Continues to have executive producing credits on subsequent films from the Disney company. It's just shepherding that whole portion, the animation studio. And I would suggest listeners, if you have not, go watch

on Disney Plus. It is a fantastic docu-series. It will give you, if you don't have an appreciation for Frozen 2, it will give you one. If you already had one, it will give you more of an appreciation for that film.

And then the last person I want to end up with is Peggy Fariss. She had a 50-year career with the Walt Disney Company. She started out as a guide on the Storybookland canal boats in Disneyland and ended up working the conferences for Walt Disney World. So when Disney held conferences for politicians and

Kendall (48:15.244)
business people and things before the opening of Walt Disney World. She worked the conferences there, and because of that, then she was parlayed into some other jobs within Imagineering. Marty Sklar asked her to work the Epcot conferences, which I just think are a fascinating topic in Disney history. And from there, she did, helped with the development of World Showcase, the development of Spaceship Earth. She, if you ever want to know why Walter Cronkite was chosen as the voice there,

story on that. And eventually worked in corporate sponsorship, which is massively important to the parks. And in working, she talks about working with those companies on, you know, what products are we going to feature in our park? How are we going to feature them? How can we best feature your logo or, you know, within our park and still maintain the thematic quality of these parks? Just a really interesting and long...

history again, working in a way that in the 70s was still considered a men's world, working with these corporations and sponsorships and things like that. So I encourage listeners to go look up more about Peggy Fariss.

Lou Mongello (49:31.182)
When you said, when you said before somebody who, you know, you weren't sure if they were appreciated or vilified, I'm like, is he going to say, is she going to say Kathleen Kennedy? So, I wasn't sure where, where you were going. You know, I have a number of other people on the list that I

Kendall (49:42.629)
Oh! Yeah?

Lou Mongello (49:52.63)
are deservedly on it. And that's why I think I need to do sort of a blog post and sort of name a lot of these people just to sort of give them recognition that they deserve. So I try to think, you know, who is somebody like a Charita who is a more moderate, very easy for us to look back because the impact and the legacy for some of the women from, you know, the 30s, 40s, 50s is a lot clearer.

what's the long-term impact of some of these newer influential women is yet to be seen and determined. Right? So I thought of somebody like Meg Crofton who was a leader at Disney who strategic vision I think is felt now and will continue to be felt for a while. She played, you know, I think in a very important role in enhancing the overall guest experience and

I think the operational excellence under her while she was president of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts really was sort of stepped up a lot. I think she helped to oversee a period of significant expansion and innovation, including the launch of My Magic Plus, you know, using this technology in its infancy to help continue, I think, to revolutionize the overall guest experience by

simplifying things like reservations and payment processing. And I think the personalization of the experience is going to continue to go on. How much is going to be connected to Meg in the future as yet to be seen. Reda Scott was on my list. I went back and forth on this next one. And I shouldn't because how do we talk about influential women?

and not mention Julie Andrews. Like I, like I know it's a singular role that, you know, yes, she won an Academy Award for and she sort of got those, those public accolades for. But I think, I think her role in this character, right, we know the story of bringing this story to life and eventually getting the rights and the ability to make the movie. But her portrayal of this character that

Kendall (51:50.145)
Yes.

Lou Mongello (52:16.546)
has really become synonymous with Disney magic and imagination and an incredible showcase of her exceptional talents. I think because Mary Poppins is more than I think quote unquote just a film. I think it's a cultural milestone that contributed in a very significant way, both artistically as well as financially to

Disney's legacy in film and the, the raising of the bar in terms of the standard in producing very high quality, very family friendly entertainment that continues to transcend generations. And I think her, I think the role that she played, right, in turn, in terms of being a pioneering this female

role model that is independent and intelligent and compassionate and strong and smart and nurturing and all these things rolled up in this practically perfect package. It's why the film continues to be celebrated. It has, I think, timeless appeal. And I think it's due in large part to the woman that brought this character to life on screen. And I think just even-

Today when we continue to see Julie Andrews, she continues to embody that, that spirit of Disney and it is almost, you know, like Annette to a certain degree. You can sort of connect her as sort of being like the face of the company because of the character that she portrayed and-

And again, having only a very brief time to chat with her and interview her many years ago, which was a highlight of, of everything I've been able to do and sort of my quote unquote, the Disney side of what I do. She is as wonderful and warm and graceful. Like she's as Mary Poppins off camera as she is on. And they say never meet your heroes. And Julie Andrews was one that I'm happy I had a chance to talk to because she is as-

Lou Mongello (54:25.498)
wonderful as you hope that she would be, you know, outside of the costume of Mary Poppins. So I had to put her on my list.

Kendall (54:36.192)
Yeah, I debated hard on Julie Andrews. And now you're sitting here talking, OK? I have to mention one more person. Because I just took my first trip to Disneyland in the past year. And.

Lou Mongello (54:42.242)
Ha ha ha!

Kendall (54:51.052)
The thing that I fell in love with at Disneyland is I felt like I was back in 1955. I sat on the Casey Jr. circus train and I just thought I was going to look off and see women in their A-line skirts and you know it just it just it's so I hate to use this word but it's so magical and I think we owe a lot of that to Kim Irvine. She

She's, you know, second generation. She's the daughter of Leota Thumes, another woman that's worth mentioning on this list, but she has such a drive to maintain the history of that park. And even when she is directed or urged to change things within it, she does it, you know, she's shepherded Imagineers in a way that maintains that same feeling.

And my Disneyland love and heart wanted to put Kim Hyre on my list. And she didn't make it in my top five, but I had to get her on here.

Lou Mongello (55:52.955)
It's the hard, that's what's hard about a list like this is invariably we are going to leave people off. It's why I'm not kidding. I had, you know, a few dozen women on my list and I could make arguments to include any and all of them on it. Because I think that there's, you know, I think there's a lot more to this, especially when we talk about some of the women that were coming up in-

the 30s, 40s, 50s, even 60s and 70s and the personal challenges and obstacles that these influential women must have faced during their careers and how they overcame them to leave a lasting impact, not just on Disney, but the entertainment industry and the women that follow them, right? How they have in, in knowing or unknowing ways.

mentored and almost inspired this next generation of female leaders and creatives and storytellers and innovators, not just within Disney, but I think within the broader entertainment industry. And I, you know, I try and think ahead, you know, how is and how can the Disney company continue to build on the legacy of these influential women? What lessons can current and future

Disney cast members and creatives learn from the careers and contributions of these women. And then, you know, how does the influence continue to shape the future of Disney in terms of storytelling and diversity and representation and opportunity? You know, that's why I think it's so important to bring not just these 10, 12, I don't know how many names we ended up mentioning, but you know, all of these stories because the hope is that not just

that someone will find inspiration from it, but I think we on a grand scale have to just appreciate their contributions and their work and yes, take some lessons and inspiration from them as well.

Kendall (57:53.328)
Absolutely. I mean, I think you look back at the Disney Legends list, and it is predominantly men on that list. And I don't judge them for that, because it's a fact of history that for decades, when you have a company that's 100 years old, the majority of its history existed in a time when there were less women working in these fields. But we are seeing more and more women in imagineering, more and more women in leadership roles. And I think you're absolutely right. I think we're going to see more inspirational stories

go by and hopefully decades from now when someone looks back at this, you know, there'll be more women on that legends list, there'll be more stories to be told.

Lou Mongello (58:35.382)
Yes, and I know as we start to wrap this up that you who may be listening are saying how in the world did the two of you possibly leave this person off your list? You're a thousand percent right, but I absolutely want to hear from you. I want you to champion the cause of who we were not able to put on this list. And I will try and put in a blog post over at www.wredew.com. Please let us know what you think about our list. Who else you think should be included on it? You can let me know. I'll post this question over in

Clubhouse over at www.radio.com slash Clubhouse. You can also call the voicemail at 407-900-9391. That's 407-900-WDW1. Make your case and I will play it on the air. Also be sure to go to www.radio.com and look up Kendall Foreman and her, again, the legacy of years and years of so many incredible articles and contributions that you have given to the site and to the show as well. I appreciate you taking the time and

your insight in helping to put this list together.

Kendall (59:41.452)
Absolutely, it's always a good time coming on the show with you.

Lou Mongello (59:44.958)
And I know we have a lot of other things that we want to get to and cover in the future and maybe do a little bit of deeper dive on some of these women as well. Because there's also the, you know, there's also the fictional characters and sort of the influential, I almost dropped a couple of fictional characters on here, but I didn't want to take away from the actual contributions of the real world women who have done so much.

Kendall (01:00:10.176)
Yeah, I mean, the real life stories are definitely... Oh, favorite female. Growing up, it was Ariel for sure. I mean, I'm a 90s girl, so she was my favorite then, but wow, today. I don't know. Maybe, I hate to be this person, but maybe Elsa just because of some personal...

Lou Mongello (01:00:10.658)
Favorite Disney female character to go? Female Disney female character.

Kendall (01:00:35.576)
Associations with Elsa and what the complexity of that character. I really I really appreciate that story Who's yours?

Lou Mongello (01:00:40.311)
Yeah.

Lou Mongello (01:00:43.95)
Mary Poppins is on my list. Tiana is very high on my list. The entrepreneurship in Tiana, that drive and the ambition and like the redefining of the whole princess narrative, like through hard work is amazing. Yeah, this might have to be a second Disney characters that we find inspiring as well. I know when we cover a lot of them on the heroines too. So this was great. Thank you.

Kendall (01:00:47.968)
Tiana is a, yeah.

Kendall (01:01:10.576)
Absolutely.


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