Carl Stalling at the piano, with, from left, Johnny Cannon, Walt Disney, Burt Gillett, Ub Iwerks, Wilfred Jackson, Les Clark, and (seated) Jack King and Ben Sharpsteen.
A Day in the Life: Disney, January 1930
By Michael Barrier
Like the 1927 photos of the Disney staff that I posted earlier, these pictures from about three years later were apparently the product of Walt's urge to have his staff and his studio photographed occasionally. Clothing and other details tell us that these photos were all taken on the same day, on the sidewalk outside the Hyperion Avenue studio's entrance and in a "music room."
But exactly which day? Even the month, as a date for these photos, is unavoidably a guess. The Walt Disney Archives has dated them "late 1929," but the photos were taken very late in 1929 if they were taken that year. Floyd Gottfredson joined the Disney staff on December 19, 1929, and if my identification is correct and he's in two of these photos, they must have been taken after that date. They also must have been taken before January 17, 1930. That was the day that Walt and Lillian Disney took the train for New York, where Walt had his momentous meeting with Pat Powers and learned that Ub Iwerks, his principal animator and close collaborator for years, was leaving his staff.
So, sometime early in January 1930 seems likeliest to me. At any rate, this is Walt in a brief moment of equilibrium, his cartoons a growing success and his staff seemingly solid and secure. Days or weeks later, Iwerks would be gone, along with the composer Carl Stalling and a few others in these pictures, and Walt would have begun rebuilding his staff for the second time in two years.
Many of the identifications are by Wilfred Jackson, who was also a photo source, along with Ben Sharpsteen, Merle Gilson, and Marcellite Garner Wall (via Bob Clampett). Since I posted these photos, Hans Perk has identified the unidentified men (who turned out to be Bill Cottrell, Charles Byrne, and Chuck Couch) in the two large-group photos, so that only some of the women in the photo just below remain unidentified.
According to a list of early Disney employees compiled thirty years ago by Dave Smith, the Disney archivist, the following women could have been working at the studio when these photos were made, and some of them may be in the top photo: Florence Martens, Marie Henderson, Sue Brown, Helena Sorenson, Gladys Stout, Lucille Benedict, and Edythe Vosburg. All worked in ink and paint, except for Benedict, who was a secretary.
At Hans Perk's excellent suggestion, I've added links to large versions of the first two photos below; just click on each photo to go to the large version.
Standing, from left: Burt Gillett; the next five women are unidentified; Hazel Sewell, unidentified, Constance Berry (who was later married to the animator Cecil Surry), unidentified, unidentified, Chuck Couch, Norm Ferguson, Bill Cottrell. Kneeling, from left: Les Clark, Carl Stalling, Jack Cutting, Dick Lundy, Floyd Gottfredson, Carlos Manriquez, Walt Disney, Charles Byrne, Ben Sharpsteen, Win Smith, Ub Iwerks, Johnny Cannon, Wilfred Jackson.
Standing, from left: Les Clark, Jack King, Ben Sharpsteen, Jack Cutting, Burt Gillett, Ub Iwerks, Win Smith, Wilfred Jackson, Bill Cottrell, Floyd Gottfredson. Kneeling, from left, Dick Lundy, Charles Byrne, Carlos Manriquez, Norm Ferguson, Merle Gilson, Chuck Couch, Carl Stalling, Johnny Cannon, Walt Disney.
Standing, from left, Johnny Cannon, Wilfred Jackson, Les Clark, Jack Cutting. Kneeling, from left, Ub Iwerks, Walt Disney, Carl Stalling.
The Disney bowling team. Standing, from left: Les Clark, Ben Sharpsteen. Kneeling, from left: Merle Gilson, Ub Iwerks, Johnny Cannon.
Standing, from left: Jack King, Ub Iwerks, Walt Disney, Carl Stalling, Burt Gillett. Kneeling, from left, Ben Sharpsteen, Dick Lundy, Merle Gilson, Norm Ferguson.
Seated, Carl Stalling and Ub Iwerks, with, from left, Wilfred Jackson, Ben Sharpsteen, Burt Gillett, Les Clark, Walt Disney, Johnny Cannon, and Jack King. Wilfred Jackson said of this photo: "I believe Ub had just finished designing the sheet music cover."
From left, Walt Disney, Carl Stalling, Ben Sharpsteen, Ub Iwerks, Les Clark, Burt Gillett, Johnny Cannon, Wilfred Jackson, and (standing) Jack King.
From left, Dick Lundy, Norm Ferguson, Jack King, Burt Gillett, Merle Gilson, and Ben Sharpsteen.
There is at least one other photo extant from the session that produced the photos above; it shows Cannon, Cutting, Jackson, Iwerks, and Clark at their animation desks. I can't locate a copy of it in my files, but it was published in Funnyworld No. 20 in 1979, illustrating an article by Dave Smith on Disney's Hyperion studio. Here is a descreened version provided by Hans Perk:
[Posted and updated, March 20, 2008; photo 10 added, March 21, 2008; updated, March 22 and March 30, 2008]