Animation &Animation Artifacts &Books &Disney &Story & Storyboards 13 May 2008 08:12 am

Retta’s Dogs

Retta Scott has been fascinating to me from the earliest days in my interest in animation. I believe it was on a “Disneyland” when I first heard her name. Back then the research readily available to me was not great. Bob Thomas’ book The Art of Animation listed her as an animator on Bambi. It doesn’t even give her credit for Fantasia, despite her principal work on the Pastoral sequence. Nor does it mention her work on Dumbo, The Wind In the Willows or The Ruluctant Dragon.

She was layed off at Disney’s when they hit a slump in 1941 but came back to do a number of Little Golden Books for Disney. The most famous of her books was her version of Cinderella, one which was so successful that it remains in print today as a Little Golden Book. She was an animator on Plague Dogs.

When asked why females weren’t animators at the studio, the Nine Old Men who traveled the circuit, back in the 1970′s, often mentioned her. They usually also said that she was one of the most forceful artists at the studio, but her timing always needed some help (meaning from a man.)

Ms. Scott was known predominantly for her animation in Bambi. Specifically, she’s credited with the sequence where the hunter’s dogs chase Faline to the cliff wall and Bambi is forced to fight them off. The scene is beautifully staged and, indeed, is forceful in its violent, yet smooth, movement.

Ms. Scott died in 1990.

Continuing with prior posts featuring some of the sketch work from this film, I feature some of the original work from this sequence. Many of these drawings are storyboard pieces and are not actually the work of Ms. Scott. However, they certainly inspired what she would animate.

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___________________(Click any image to enlarge.)


_________These, above, are two frame grabs from the sequence.


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The dogs corner and chase Faline up a rock wall where she tries to stave off the violence of the attacking dogs. She remains there until Bambi comes to save her, fighting off the dogs.

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_____Though most of the drawings above aren’t the work of Retta Scott, this one is.

9 Responses to “Retta’s Dogs”

  1. on 13 May 2008 at 10:22 am 1.Didier Ghez said …

    You will like the article I will post tomorrow, titled Women at Work at Disney from the magazine Glamour (May 1941). It is very short but contains a few never-seen-before photos.

  2. on 13 May 2008 at 11:39 am 2.Tim Hodge said …

    Jack Kinney mentions Rhetta Scott in his book, “Walt Disney and Assorted Other Characters”. He regales stories that tell how she was not only a great animator, but could also drink any man at the studio under the table.

  3. on 13 May 2008 at 1:11 pm 3.Dan Caylor said …

    OMG who did the last three drawings? They are amazing.

  4. on 13 May 2008 at 2:15 pm 4.biblioadonis aka George said …

    You hear a lot more about Ms Scott now than when she was actually working. Interesting comment about her timing.

  5. on 13 May 2008 at 3:19 pm 5.Robert Cowan said …

    Excellent examples and good commentary about the role women played in the growth of animation.
    -Bob

  6. on 13 May 2008 at 4:26 pm 6.Jenny Lerew said …

    Michael, I too was fascinated by her credit(s)from early days(for me that would be the late 70s, finding a mmention & photo of her in the Finch book). For perhaps too obvious reasons: her singularity and the gender we share.

    I wrote my first letter to Dave Smith at the Archives asking about her; I still have his reply somewhere. He told me(if I remember correctly)that her only credited work was on Bambi…hmm. I really have to scrounge out that old letter.

    When I worked at Turner for Bird he told me he’d worked with Retta on Plague Dogs(I can’t remember how she came up). After that I was forever confusing her with the “other” Rhetta who worked at Disney FA in the 80s.

    I wish someone had interviewed her at length. She certainly rated it based on her unusual status at the studio in its heyday–and doesn’t Walt mention her in his finger-in-the-dyke pre-strike speech-defending his decision to try out women in animation positions? To Walt’s eternal credit in those times he takes umbrage at the men’s balking at possible replacement by ink & paint girls. I don’t know what was in Walt’s head, and he was a man of his time certainly-but it’d be typical of him to not give a toss whether a good artist(or an exceptional possibility)was a woman or a man…and also very typical of him to be thinking ahead as to how to keep production going when the war might take many good animators into the service for the duration.

    I love Frank & Ollie dearly and the Bambi book is great, but I thought their mentions of Scott in those pages came off as backhanded/a little patronising. By contrast wonderful Marc Davis, her mentor in those times, had an obviously much more admiring view(this is based on a long-ago reading of the Bambi book).
    Scott’s work (that I’m aware of) isn’t the sort of supremely sublime character animation that Davis, Johnston and Thomas excelled at. But in any case she animated at a time and in a place that ensures her a place in history.

  7. on 13 May 2008 at 4:29 pm 7.Jenny Lerew said …

    Oh–and what fantastic storyboards! That last “dog getting an uppercut” drawing is something else again.

  8. on 14 May 2008 at 12:26 am 8.Daniel Yu said …

    Hey Michael, thanks for all your great posts! I don’t know where you get all these materials but they’re amazing.

  9. on 17 May 2008 at 7:50 am 9.Brian Sibley said …

    One of many stunning sequences in Bambi, these storyboard sketches really demonstrate the pace, energy and TERROR of the animation that followed…

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