Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Disney History: A Snow White Rejection

Guest Writer Wednesday

By: Robert 
It was early 1938 and Disney's Snow White was breaking ticket sale records around the world. Interest in animated films was piqued. Even stalled projects such as Gulliver's Travels at the Fleischer Studios were now being green lighted. So it was in this atmosphere of great excitement and hope that a young woman named Mary Ford wrote the Disney Studio to apply for a job as an animator.

She would receive a letter back, dated June 7, 1938, but the rest of the world wouldn't find out about it until after Mary had passed away, nearly 70 years later. Kevin Burg, Miss Ford's grandson posted it online and mentioned that the letter wasn't discovered until after her death.

Written on Disney Company stationery with a Snow White letterhead, Mary received a rejection letter, and by today's standards, a very difficult one to take. Mary Cleane of Disney's Human Resource Department signed the letter which outright rejects Mary Ford's request to be an animator. Why? Because she was female. Ouch!

"Women do not do any of the creative work in connection with preparing the cartoons for the screen..."

"The only work open to woman consists of tracing characters on clear celluloid sheets with Indian ink and filling in the tracings on the reverse side with paint according to directions."

Via Kevin Burg
Interestingly, it appears that this rejection was not unique but rather a form letter. The same one was sent out to a Miss Frances Brewer in 1939. And it too was signed by Mary Cleane.

From The Animation Guild blog
While the world we live in today is far from perfect, it's hard to imagine such an openly discriminatory rejection letter being issued now by Disney or any major corporation. This is not to say that people are free from being discriminated against. Hardly. Yet, we have made some progress from those early days of animation in 1938.

Robert writes the excellent Filmic Light-Snow White Archive.


  1. Very interesting indeed! Thanks for sharing this!

  2. Ouch! I wonder what Mary thought about writing these letters.

    1. Barbie, sadly at the time, she probably thought nothing of it. Mixing 'boys' and 'girls' in job places was considered a recipe for disaster. You know flirting and bad things might happen. (eyeroll)

  3. Thanks for posting Nick and Barbie. Love your blog!


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