This February 1952 issue of Natural History formerly graced the shelves of the Walt Disney Studio Library and was lent over the span of two decades to a dozen different studio employees, the first being Walt Disney himself.
The accompanying library checkout card records the studio head borrowing the magazine on February 22. The contents of the issue immediately bring to mind Disney’s True-Life Adventures film series, which was in production at the time (1948-60). Walt, as well as others on the list, no doubt used the magazine as reference material and inspiration for the series. Penciled annotations can be seen throughout the issue, some possibly in Walt’s own hand.
Two-and-a-half weeks after Disney’s initial checkout, the magazine was loaned to Ben Sharpsteen (1895-1980). Though, the fact that his signature has been partially erased and replaced within the same dated line, may indicate that Sharpsteen only had the magazine in his possession for a very short time. His Disney career began in 1929, when Walt, citing Sharpsteen’s enviable New York studio experience, hired him at a salary more than double what Walt himself was making at the time. Sharpsteen animated nearly a hundred Mickey Mouse shorts, as well as several Silly Symphonies. He directed twenty-one shorts in all, and went on to hold production roles in many animated features, such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, Fantasia, Cinderella, and Alice in Wonderland. Coincidentally, he produced twelve of the thirteen True-Life Adventures films, his work earning an amazing eight Academy Awards. Interestingly enough, one of these Oscar-winners, The Living Desert (1953), was in production at the time that both Disney and Sharpsteen browsed this particular issue of Natural History. The cover of the magazine features an image that could have easily appeared in the film itself.
Next on the list is Koneta “Kita” Roxby (1890-1981), head librarian and Chief of Research for the Walt Disney Studio Library at the time.
She is followed by Maxine Boyd (1911-2007), whose career at the studio began as an ink-and-paint girl in 1936.
In August of ‘52, Jack Huber (1914-1998) borrowed the magazine. Huber helped animate and write a number of shorts during his time at the studio and worked as a layout artist on Sleeping Beauty.
George Nicholas (1910-1996) likewise helped animate Sleeping Beauty, as well as features Fantasia, Fun and Fancy Free, Cinderella, and Lady and the Tramp. He also worked on many shorts throughout the 30s, 40s, and 50s.
Clint Macaulay was a writer for the studio, working on several different projects throughout the 1950s, including Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse Club Magazine, which frequently included nature-based articles. The first issue launched just a handful of months after Macaulay had checked out Natural History.
Writer and publicist Charles Shows (1912-2001) can be found next one the card. He assisted in the production of twenty-two different film and television projects during his decade-long tenure at the studio, including the True-Life Adventures and People and Places series. Shows was also one of six founding members of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
Colin Campbell (1926-2011) borrowed the magazine in the summer of ’58. Campbell started work for the studio as a messenger-boy at the age of sixteen. He later went on to work as an animator on such popular shorts as The Truth About Mother Goose, Donald Duck in Mathmagic Land, and Goliath II, as well as features like Lady and the Tramp and One Hundred and One Dalmatians. He also did layout and backgrounds for the Disneyland television program, most notably the wildly popular “Man in Space” episodes. In addition, he worked as a set designer for the Mickey Mouse Club series and served as a matte background painter for live-action films, such as The Light in the Forest and Darby O’Gill and the Little People.
He also did significant work for WED Enterprises, contributing paintings of Disneyland concept art for the purpose of acquiring project investors in the year before the park’s opening. He was then tapped for the design of the Disney-created contributions to the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair, including work on Ford’s Magic Skyway, It’s a Small World, and the Carousel of Progress. He helped develop the iconic Enchanted Tiki Room and Pirates of the Caribbean attractions for Disneyland, Campbell responsible for the design of the memorable Blue Bayou scene, as well as the flat-bottomed-boat ride vehicles. He also had a hand in designing Walt Disney’s elite (and secretive) Club 33, famously painting a Mississippi River scene on the lid of Lillian Disney’s harpsichord, which sat in the club’s lounge. Campbell’s talents extended to the design of the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, his concept art utilized in the creation of several hotels and attractions. He also played a role in the design of Tom Sawyer’s Island, as well as the Florida version of Pirates. He went on to assist in the design of Disney-MGM Studios and Disneyland Paris, and served as art director throughout the creation of Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park. He was inducted as a Disney Legend in 2013, two years after his passing.
Dick Huemer (1898-1979) checked out this particular issue on three different occasions, as his name can be found an additional two times on the backside of the library card (1970/72). His unforgettable career at the studio spanned four decades and included writing, directing, and/or animation duties on such beloved shorts as The Wise Little Hen, The Tortoise and the Hare, The Band Concert, Little Hiawatha, Lonesome Ghosts, and Goofy and Wilbur, and features like Fantasia, Dumbo, Saludos Amigos, Make Mine Music, and Alice in Wonderland. He also wrote for the Disneyland television show and worked on the book and newspaper versions of the True-Life Adventures series. He is well-remembered for his contributions to the Golden Age of Disney Animation and was awarded Disney Legend status in 2007.
Ted Berman (1920-2001) borrowed the magazine in December 1965. Berman’s forty-five-year career included character animation duties on such classic features as Bambi, Fantasia, Lady and the Tramp, Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, One Hundred and One Dalmations, and even the live-action Mary Poppins. He helped create two of the studio’s most popular television series, The Wonderful World of Color and The Mickey Mouse Club. He also helped write the screenplays for films like The Rescuers, The Fox and the Hound, and the groundbreaking feature The Black Cauldron, (the first Disney film to earn a PG-rating).
All in all, this issue made its way in and out of the hands of a number of very influential talents at Disney, all the way up to the Master himself. Its shelf life spanning some of the most popular and exciting moments of the Burbank years, the magazine remains a unique reminder of the time, effort, variety of talents, and teamwork that went into each and every one of the studio’s projects.