Walt Disney Studios Employee Application and Informational Booklet (1938)

This original employee application and accompanying 31-page informational booklet, titled An Introduction to the Walt Disney Studios, provides a glimpse of the inner workings, policies, and practices of the studio in the midst of the explosive success and rapid expansion that stemmed from the release of its crowning achievement, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (February 4, 1938).

The two-sided paper application contains several pointed questions, meant to determine one’s artistic talents and achievements in a variety of disciplines: animation, commercial art, fine art, writing, gag work, music, dance, as well as stage-, film-, and radio-acting. The reverse-side text stipulates that an art portfolio—and accompanying itemized list, identifying each work therein—be submitted along with the completed application to the famed Hyperion Avenue address.

The informational booklet, which features pencil-sketch style artwork throughout, names its purpose on the opening page as providing “a brief outline of the Studio’s principal departments and an explanation to artists of its employment policies.” The book goes on to provide commentary on the studio’s history and current projects, as well as the various employment divisions within which an artist may hope to work: Story, Layout, Background, and Animation. A detailed explanation of the studio hierarchy is given—complete with flowchart graphic—that labels Walt Disney himself as the “guiding mind” essential to each and every step in the process of “making a picture.” The book also discusses various professional development opportunities—lectures, art classes—provided to employees, and the expectations therein. Financial policies are detailed, as well as information about the hiring process, interim period of employment, and opportunity for advancement thereafter. The final pages are dedicated to instructions for a specific animation “audition” to be completed and submitted with the artist’s personal portfolio. Eight different scenarios are given, around which applicants are expected to create eight individual free-hand drawings. Four of the “problems” are real-world situations, into which the artist is asked to inject humor, motion, and originality: “a tall thin man is rowing a small rowboat; a fat man is swinging a pick in a shallow ditch; a man is climbing over a barbed-wire fence; a man and woman are skating on a rink. The other four target the Disney style of animation specifically, requesting that applicants submit a four-drawing sequence that portrays Mickey Mouse pushing a “loaded wheelbarrow up an incline;” a three-drawing sequence portraying a “tug-of-war between Mickey and the Goof;” a six-drawing sequence in which the “Goof would go through if he were pole vaulting;” and finally a series of drawings which develops a situation based on the Goof receiving a telephone call that prompts him to “put on his coat and hurriedly rush out of his office.” The text directs applicants to study the drawings throughout the handbook itself, in order to better understand the construction and relative proportions of these two classic Disney characters.

All in all, this extremely rare application packet, from arguably the most significant year in the studio’s (and the field of animation itself) long and storied history—no doubt read and completed by some of the most legendary animators in the world—brings to life the Golden Days of Disney Animation, when the burgeoning studio on Hyperion Avenue and its fearless leader took its greatest strides in changing the future of entertainment.

VALUE: $450

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