Joyce Carlson with posing with a remarkably similar “it’s a small world” doll.

From Ink and Paint to Imagineering: The Remarkable Career of Joyce Carlson

By Nicole Carroll, Walt Disney Archives

Disney Legend Joyce Carlson began her impressive career with The Walt Disney Company in 1944, in the studio traffic department, where she was responsible for delivering mail and other items like pencils, brushes, or coffee to animators and artists. “Traffic was where you could get the lay of the land. It wasn’t a place you’d be very long. Just a place to see where you wanted to go,” Joyce recalled. Just six months later she transferred to the Ink and Paint Department where she would spend 16 years as an inker working on such films as Victory Through Air Power (1943), The Three Caballeros (1945), Cinderella (1950), Peter Pan (1953), Sleeping Beauty (1959), and countless others. Throughout her time in Ink and Paint, Joyce honed her skills at various art schools including: Chicago Art Institute, USC, and the Chouinard Art Institute (now CalArts).

As the studio’s use of the Xerox process developed and began to replace Inkers, many were trained on the Xerox machine, went back to painting, left the company, or like Joyce, went to WED Enterprises (now Walt Disney Imagineering). One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961) would be Joyce’s last film before leaving the Ink and Paint Department and being hired by WED in 1962 where she worked in the famed model shop.

Not long after transferring, Joyce was busy working on attractions for the 1964–1965 World’s Fair in New York. She worked on the models for the Progressland pavilion, including General Electric’s Carousel of Progress and recalled using a coworker’s earring collection as models for lamps and other room décor. Perhaps her most well-known contribution to The Walt Disney Company, however, was her involvement in making “it’s a small world” a reality, where she worked side-by-side with Disney Legends Mary Blair and Marc Davis. Joyce worked on both the original model for the attraction and many of the dolls inside. In a call back to her previous role in the Ink and Paint Department, Joyce naturally took a liking to painting many of the small props for the attraction. Because of her involvement, Joyce was among the artists Walt sent to New York to install “it’s a small world” for its big debut. Following the fair, she helped move the popular attraction to Disneyland Park. As she was essentially the “small worldexpert, Joyce helped create new versions of the attraction for both the Magic Kingdom Park at Walt Disney World in 1971 and Tokyo Disneyland in 1983.

With a remarkable career spanning 56 years (a rare feat itself!) it should come as no surprise that Joyce was the first woman in The Walt Disney Company to reach both 50 and 55-year service milestones. Even though she retired and became a Disney Legend in 2000, Joyce continued consulting and sharing her expansive knowledge with the young artists tasked with the upkeep of attractions until 2006. Today, there are five “it’s a small world” attractions to be enjoyed by Guests around the world – thanks in part to the incomparably joyous Joyce Carlson.