5 Facts About Disney Legend Retta Scott

by | Feb 23, 2022 | Disney History, Disney Legends, Disney Movies, News Outside the Parks

Learn about Disney Legend Retta Scott, born 2/23/1916.

You may or may not be familiar with Retta Scott’s name, but you certainly know her work. Scott was born in 1916 in Omak, Washington, where her talent for art was recognized from a young age. 

Scott died in 1990 and was posthumously given a Disney Legend Award in 2000 for her contributions to early Walt Disney Animation Studios movies. 

Still not sure how you know her? Here are five facts about Disney Legend Retta Scott that might clear it up.

Lead image courtesy of D23.

1. First Female Animator

Retta Scott was the first woman to ever receive screen credit as an animator for Walt Disney Animation Studios. At the time, men dominated the industry, and the general consensus was that women weren’t skilled enough to create lifelike illustrations. Scott’s drawings showed them how wrong they were.

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Retta Scott’s handiwork on display in Bambi. Photo courtesy of Disney

Scott was hired in the Story Department in 1938 and began work on the 1942 classic Disney movie, Bambi. Scott helped animate the scene in Bambi where Faline is chased by hunting dogs

She worked hard to make the dogs seem as vicious and mean as possible, and she certainly achieved that goal. Almost 80 years later, the scene still puts you on the edge of your seat as you wonder whether Faline and Bambi will survive the chase and subsequent attack.

2. From Seattle to LA

After attending Roosevelt High School in Seattle, Scott scored a scholarship at the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles

It was here that she found her love for drawing animals. When she wasn’t in class, she could be found at Griffith Park Zoo, sketching pictures of her favorite animals.

After graduation, Chouinard’s director Vern Caldwell encouraged her to apply to Disney Studios as an animator, and her work caught the eye of none other than Walt Disney. Her realistic sketches of animals made her the perfect fit for the team working on Bambi.

Griffith Park Zoo (the “Old LA Zoo”) looks nothing like what Retta Scott would have seen, but it’s still a cool place to explore today. Check out this video footage of the abandoned zoo in 2016:

3. When I See An Elephant Fly

After Bambi, Scott worked on another hit Disney film, Dumbo. Her skill at illustrating animals made her a perfect fit for the film, which was released in 1941.

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Though Retta Scott worked on Dumbo, she is not credited. Photo courtesy of Disney

Though Scott received full credit as an animator for Bambi, she did not receive the same credit for her work on Dumbo. She also worked on Fantasia, where she was also uncredited as an animator.

4. Not Interested

While you’d assume that Scott jumped at the chance to work for Walt Disney Animation Studios, she was actually reluctant to apply when Vern Caldwell first suggested it.

That’s because, at the time, Disney was known for producing cartoon shorts, which did not interest Scott. But after Caldwell recommended that she work on Bambi, Scott decided to go for it. And thank goodness she did!

5. Retirement and Freelance Years

In 1946, Retta Scott married submarine commander Benjamin Worcester and retired from Walt Disney Animation Studios. But she continued to work for the Studios in a freelance capacity.

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“Walt Disney’s Cinderella: A Big Golden Book” featuring artwork by Retta Scott. Photo courtesy of Golden Press

During this time, Scott illustrated “Walt Disney’s Cinderella: A Big Golden Book,” which found itself into the homes of young readers around the world. To this day, Scott’s illustrations of Cinderella are some of the most beloved.

Remembering Disney Legend Retta Scott

Retta Scott may not be the most well-known among the Disney Legend alumni, but she has certainly had a lasting impact on the world of animation and women’s rightful place in it.

Next month, we’ll be diving deep into all things arts and animation at Walt Disney World and Disney Parks around the world, including an homage to another brilliant female artist, Mary Blair. Make sure you’ve subscribed by the end of this month to have our special March issue reach your mailbox.

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Posts by Catherine Hiles

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Catherine Hiles is a mom of young kids and therefore an avid Disney+ watcher. While it's her kids who request Disney soundtracks to play in the car, she often finds herself driving solo while belting out "Into the Unknoooooooooooown!" She also enjoys eating and running, although not at the same time.
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Authored by
Catherine Hiles

Catherine Hiles is a mom of young kids and therefore an avid Disney+ watcher. While it's her kids who request Disney soundtracks to play in the car, she often finds herself driving solo while belting out "Into the Unknoooooooooooown!" She also enjoys eating and running, although not at the same time.
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