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Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Another Giant Leaves Us

This morning I received the news that Selby Daley Kelly passed away over the 4th of July weekend.

Selby was a pioneer woman animator and a tireless campaigner against the discrimination that relegated her and other talented female artists to the anonymity of the Ink and Paint pool at the Disney studio.
Selby was the head of the paint mixing department at the studio at the time of SNOW WHITE. She is pictured in the original 1938 program from Radio City Music Hall.

Selby is also pictured in many of the 'strike' photographs at Disney in 1941; at the time, she was dating Art Babbitt and so was very active in the union.
She was once President of the Screen Cartoonists' Guild and ran her own animation studios in the USA and Mexico with Roger Daley, her first husband.

Selby was a published children's book illustrator when she applied to Disney in 1936 as an animator. "They laughed at me and told me to go across the street to the Ink and Paint department."

A conversation:
Selby: "They paid me $15.00 a week."
me: "It was the Depression."
"Well, I gave up a job at the drugstore that paid twenty."
She described Walt Disney as a 'benevolent despot' toward the women and told me that if a woman walked into the Animation Building for any reason, she would be fired. Animators could visit Ink and Paint.

"We were told that women can't animate."
"We just can't."

Inkers could not afford the commissary on their low salaries, so they had a 'sandwich wagon' instead.

"I met my first husband in Chuck Jones' unit, and I also met my second husband in Chuck Jones' unit."

Walt Kelly apparently used to watch Margaret Selby walk to the Ink and Paint building, but though they worked in the same studio, they never met until thirty years later.

Selby told me something once that I have never forgotten.

"My first husband was as talented as my second husband. But he was a perfectionist and was never happy with the result. Kelly was satisfied to get it 80% right, and leave it at that."

(Arguably, 80% of Walt Kelly is 150% of most of our efforts...the man was a drawing dynamo.)

Selby was a very good friend of mine for many years after we met at Zanders'.

I interviewed her in 1983 for Cartoonist PROfiles magazine. The interview will be posted on this blog.

Farewell, Selby. I hope in the Big Studio in the Sky, the women can and do work with 'the boys'.