by Woolie Reitherman and Retta Scott | Release Date: June 19, 2016 | Availability: Print
Between them, Disney animator Woolie Reitherman and Disney artist Retta Scott worked on such classic films as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Fantasia, Dumbo, Cinderella, The Jungle Book, and many others.
When they weren't working for Walt, they were busy with projects of their own — like this long-lost, charming tale of a little plane called B-1st whose brave debut is threatened by America's enemies.
Reitherman and Scott put the finishing touches on their humble masterpiece in September 1941, shortly before the United States entered World War II. It's been in the proverbial attic since then, unseen and forgotten, until Disney historian Didier Ghez discovered the gently yellowing manuscript last year.
The original drawings by these two Disney legends are faithfully reproduced here, along with the message they wished to share with a country on the verge of war, one that is still relevant today: be prepared, B-1st.
Introduction: The Lost Storybook
About Retta Scott
About Woolie Reitherman
Growing up as a young boy in the San Fernando Valley, I was raised only a few miles from the homes of Lockheed Aviation and the Walt Disney Studios. So, I guess it really doesn’t seem too ironic that I grew up loving Disney animation and marveling at some amazing aircraft as they flew overhead.
My passion for these two worlds collided many years later when John Lasseter, the chief creative officer of The Walt Disney Company, asked me to direct the animated motion picture Planes.
Then, not too long ago at a Hyperion Historical Alliance conference, my friend Didier mentioned he had come across some artwork that I would be very excited to see. Excited was an understatement! I couldn’t believe my eyes! Vibrant sketches of airplanes with personalities popping off the page. Sure, I was familiar with Walt Disney’s Victory Through Airpower and Pedro, the mail plane, but I had never seen artwork like this before. What piqued my interest was finding out that they had been drawn by Woolie Reitherman and Retta Scott.
While a student at Cal Arts, I had studied much of Woolie’s animation and direction. I was also aware of Retta’s amazing accomplishments at the Disney Studio in the 1940s—catching Walt’s eye with her talent while making her mark as Disney’s first female animator.
The level of craftsmanship for this mock-up book is fantastic. These two have done their homework on aircraft design and construction. One can really appreciate the solidity and looseness of the sketch, yet enjoy the details of rivets and tire tread. Extreme personality comes through by way of expression in the eyes, canopy compression, the slant of the landing gear, and position of the prop—all playing an important part in defining the character.
We’re all lucky that this little gem survived and is here for us to enjoy today. Whether you’re a fan of airplanes, a World War II buff, or a Disney story sketch connoisseur, this book has it all.
I hope you enjoy it as much as I do…
Over and out.
Retta Scott is well-known among animation enthusiasts as the first woman to become an animator at the Disney Studio. Above and beyond this claim to fame, however, Retta was also a story artist of great talent.
When I started researching her life and career for the They Drew As They Pleased—The Hidden Art of Disney’s Musical Years, thanks to her family I got access to a few pages of autobiographical notes. While reading them I learned that after leaving the animation business for more than thirty years Retta had decided to return to animation in 1980, working on the movie The Plague Dogs for Nepenthe Productions. This was particularly exciting since this meant that a few people who had worked with her on that project and others were probably still alive and well. I decided to track them down.
Two of the artists who had interacted with Retta during the 1980s were Jamie Mitchell and Bob Pauley. When I interviewed them, they mentioned something that made me jump in my chair. One day Retta had brought an interesting artifact to the studio, which both men still remembered vividly years later. It was the mockup of an illustrated book featuring anthropomorphized planes, which she had created on her own time along with Woolie Reitherman, one of Disney’s Nine Old Men.
Needless to say, I had to find out if that mock-up still survived. I contacted Ben Worcester, one of Retta’s two sons, and he mentioned that he still had the book and that he was happy for me to get it scanned. Two volunteers who share my passion for Disney history, Lucas Seastrom and Rosana Shustar, spent a day at Ben’s house capturing high-resolution scans of each and every page. I loved what I saw. The Worcester and Reitherman families then kindly agreed to let Theme Park Press release the book, exactly seventy-five years after its creation.
To be understood properly, the book needs to be placed in its historical context. It was written and designed in September 1941. The United States was just three months away from entering World War II and anticipated that conflict, which is why, in the book, a full three months before Pearl Harbor, the Japanese were already perceived as the villains of the story.
Woolie Reitherman creating a book about planes was almost unavoidable. Woolie loved flying, and during World War II, he left the studio to enlist with the U.S. Army Air Force and became a pilot, serving in Africa, India, China, and the South Pacific, and earning the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Retta working on the same project is more of a mystery, until you learn from her colleague Don Lusk that, in 1941, she was dating Woolie. The pieces of the jigsaw puzzle had all fallen in place.
With this in mind, you have the necessary context to enjoy fully and with the right perspective the delightful B-1st.
Woolie Reitherman, one of Walt Disney's "Nine Old Men", began work at the Disney Studio in 1933. In the decades until his retirement in 1981, he worked on numerous animated feature films, including Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Fantasia, Dumbo, Cinderella, Peter Pan, Sleeping Beauty, The Jungle Book, and The Rescuers.
Retta Scott was the Disney Studio's first female animator, receiving screen credit in 1942 for Bambi. She also contributed to Dumbo and The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad. After leaving Disney, she continued to work for them as a free-lance artist.