Retta Scott

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Retta Scott
Retta Scott.png
Born(1916-02-23)23 February 1916
Omak, Washington
Died26 August 1990(1990-08-26) (aged 74)
Foster City, California
EducationChouinard Art Institute
Known forAnimation
Spouse(s)Benjamin Worcester

Retta Scott (23 February 1916 – 26 August 1990) was an American artist. She is notable as the first woman to receive screen credit as an animator at the Walt Disney Animation Studios.

Early life and education[edit]

Scott was born in Omak, Washington[1] on February 23, 1916.[2] She graduated from Seattle's Roosevelt High School in 1934.[3] Scott received two scholarships over the course of her education. The first was from the Seattle Art & Music Foundation, who awarded her with a scholarship in the 4th grade that she used to attend 10 years of creative art classes. She later received 3-year scholarship to attend the Chouinard Art Institute,[2] so she moved to Los Angeles, California. She spent much of her free time sketching wildlife at the nearby Griffith Park zoo. Her ambition was to mold a career in Fine arts.[4]

As her time at the Chouinard Art Institute ended, its director, Vern Caldwell, urged Scott to apply for work with Walt Disney, based on her passion for animals. She was initially uninterested due to the cartoon shorts the company was known for, but Caldwell recommended her to work on Bambi, a full film which was in production.[2] She eventually joined the company in 1938 to work in the Story Department.[5]

Career at Disney[edit]

Scott worked on storyboards to develop scenes of Bambi, his mother, and the film’s hunting dogs, on which she spent weeks to develop them into “vicious, snarling, really mean beasts.” Male artists in the company were stunned, who initially assumed that only a man could create drawings with such intensity and technical skill.[2] Her sketches caught the eye of Disney, so when the film went into production she was assigned to animate scenes of hunting dogs chasing Faline. She worked under the film's supervising director, David D. Hand,[6] and was tutored by Disney animator Eric Larson.[7] This was a significant coup for the young woman, since at the 1930s-era Disney studio, women were considered only for routine tasks: "Ink and paint art was a laborious part of the animation process, and was solely the domain of women..."[8] Her promotion to animator was in part thanks to the success of herself and other women such as Bianca Majolie, Sylvia Holland, and Mary Blair as storyboard artists. [2] Even after receiving a promotion to animator, she and her animations continued being under appreciated in the industry.[9] Though the most recognized Walt Disney female artist is Mary Blair, it is Retta Scott who opened up the doors for women in the animation industry.[10] She became the first woman to receive screen credit as an animator. [11]

After Bambi, Scott helped produce Fantasia and Dumbo,[11] as well as a film later cancelled called Wind in the Willows.[5] She also made an appearance in The Reluctant Dragon, and worked independently with colleague Woolie Reitherman on a cancelled children’s book called B-1st.[2] Despite being laid off in 1941, Scott was quickly rehired in 1942, assisting in educational videos and other smaller-scale shorts.[5] Her brief time laid off was partially due to a Disney animators' strike in the summer of 1941, despite Scott being one of only a few animators not involved in the strike. She retired on August 2, 1946 after marrying submarine commander Benjamin Worcester, becoming Retta Scott Worcester.[2]

Scott's early Disney sketches can be found at The Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco, California. [12]

Later work[edit]

Scott and her husband moved to Washington, D.C, where she illustrated books such as The Santa Claus Book and Happy Birthday.[2] She also continued working with Disney through freelance jobs such as illustrating the Big Golden Book edition of Disney's Cinderella.[13][14] Her work caught the attention of past and current Disney employees, including Jonas Rivera, producer of Up, who commented, “I’ve always loved the Retta Scott Cinderella because it doesn’t look like the movie, but somehow it feels like the movie.”[15] Scott divorced her husband in 1981, and remained an active illustrator until she was again hired as an animator in 1982 for the Luckey-Zamora Moving Picture Company. She continued to impress artists, especially male artists who initially underestimated her work, and was eager to teach her skills.[2]

Scott suffered a stroke in December of 1985 and passed away on August 26, 1990 at her home in Foster City, California.[2]


  1. ^ "Disney Legends - D23". D23.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Ghez, Didier. They drew as they pleased : the hidden art of Disney's musical years : 1940s. Part 1. Chronicle Books. ISBN 9781452137445.
  3. ^ Disney Legends
  4. ^ Disney Legends
  5. ^ a b c "Disney Artists' Holiday Wishes: Highlighting Retta Scott".
  6. ^ "DAVID HAND PRODUCTIONS". Retrieved 7 March 2016.
  7. ^ "Michael Sporn Animation – Splog". Retrieved 7 March 2016.
  8. ^ from a brief history of another Disney female pioneer, Evelyn Henry Coats (1910–2009). The website also contains a Disney Personnel Department form letter used to explain to female applicants that animation as such was reserved for men. Accessed 14 October 2009
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ a b "Retta Scott Worcester". Penguin Random House.
  12. ^
  13. ^ "Michael Sporn Animation – Splog". Retrieved 7 March 2016.
  14. ^ "RETTA SCOTT WORCESTER - Books, Biography, Contact Information". JacketFlap.
  15. ^ Solomon, Charles (2014). The art of the Disney Golden books (First edition. ed.). New York, US: Hachette Book Group. ISBN 9781423163800.

Further reading[edit]

  • Johnson, Mindy; Foray, June (2017). Ink & paint : the women of Walt Disney's animation. Los Angeles, CA: Disney Editions.

External links[edit]