This Women’s History Month, The Walt Disney Company celebrates trailblazing women cast members by doing what we do best; storytelling.
In fact, a new book that showcases the company’s history and rich legacy, “The Story of Disney 100 Years of Wonder,” has been described by the Director of Disney Archives, Rebecca (Becky) Cline, as “Disney 100: The Exhibition on steroids.” Becky joined Disney in 1989 and four years later she started her journey with The Walt Disney Archives team, which she now leads as their director. She preserves Disney’s history and makes the materials available to researchers from all areas of the company, as well as historians, writers, documentarians and fans around the world. She was an integral part of Disney100: The Exhibition, currently happening at The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, as well as the creation of the book.
“We wanted to tell 100 years of history without it being a chronological timeline. We decided to start with Walt because he is the foundation of the company and then look at everything Walt did, things that we still do today. We created an exhibit that features his philosophies, like the importance of storytelling, innovation, cutting-edge technology, music, as well as preservation of nature and how we portray that in the theme parks and guest experiences,” said Becky.
Becky shared how it is truly magical to see her research being shared with the public in true Disney storytelling fashion.
Imagineers also spend their careers creating visual stories for guests and fans, and now 12 of them have come together to archive their stories on paper. “Women of Walt Disney Imagineering” gives us insight into these incredible women. The book travels through time, which offers glimpses of what it takes to create a theme park, and the struggles unique to women in a workplace that was overwhelmingly male. Each chapter is distinct, with a different Imagineer’s perspective and experience.
Peggie Fariss, a retired executive creative development Imagineer, spent the last five of her Disney years leading the Imagineering Design and Show Quality team at Disneyland Paris.
Sharing the changes she saw over her 50-year career, Peggie noted, “in the early years, there were no women in leadership roles.”
“But over time, more and more talented women have come to contribute to all aspects of Disney’s endeavors … and that’s been really wonderful to see.”
Another retired Imagineer, Elisabete (Eli) Erlandson, was the principal concept architect Imagineer who, at the start of her career at Imagineering, helped ideate the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow (EPCOT), the World Showcase pavilions, Tokyo Disneyland and Disneyland Paris. Through the years, Erlandson worked on every Disney park in the United States and around the world.
Eli shared that it was not unusual to find herself working only with men. It was the norm back then and it never bothered her. She considered herself someone who had much to offer and learn as gender did not matter. “Having an open mind, willingness to constantly learn, being flexible and positive are key attributes to have at the start of one’s career. At the end, you realize you have worked with amazing people, together creating what some define as the impossible.”