Dodie Roberts held one of Disney’s most colorful jobs. As former supervisor of the Studio paint lab, she made sure colors were consistent throughout an animated motion picture. Not an easy task for the average person, but Dodie had a good eye for matching color—a very good eye.
As she recalled, “We had to mix the paints so they were exactly the same color as what was being used in an animated scene. One time, just before I retired, a computer was brought into the lab to check the colors that I had approved. To my great relief, the computer confirmed that every color matched perfectly.”
Born in Plainview, Nebraska, on August 12, 1919, Dodie moved to Southern California in 1939 after attending a Wilmington, Delaware business college. A former schoolmate, who was working at Disney at the time, invited Dodie to visit the Studio and, on October 24 of that year, she joined the Company as a runner delivering freshly mixed paint to inkers and painters.
Before long, however, she was promoted to the task of creating colors and mixing paints. “I love puzzles, and mixing paint was like putting together a puzzle,” she said. “It was fascinating to create colors and to get them exact.”
The ultimate payoff, however, was when she saw her work come to life in such films as Fantasia, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty. She later said, “It was wonderful to see those colors, bigger than life, and to know that I helped make them.”
Among the more unusual aspects of her work, as she recalled, was creating a proprietary color used for shadows in Disney animated motion pictures. Three lab employees, including Dodie, were responsible for adding a single color to the mix, without knowing what the others were putting in.
“It was a secret,” she said. “They didn’t want other Studios to know the formula, so only the supervisor of our department knew all of its ingredients.”
By 1972, however, Dodie became privy to that exclusive recipe when she was named supervisor of the paint lab. She oversaw eight staff members and more than 500 hues, including gradations of single colors that matched a film’s changing mood and lighting. For instance, as she recalled, “In Fantasia, the Sorcerer’s coat wouldn’t be the same color if he walked into a dark room.”
In 1984, Dodie retired 45 years to the day after she joined Disney. A lustrous purple shade was developed in her honor named “Dodie 6.” Later that year, Dodie, along with fellow Studio employee Al Jones, founded the Disney Golden ‘Ears Retirement Club for former Studio employees.
Dodie Roberts passed away died on February 11, 2008.