After Disney produced its first Technicolor animated short, the 1932 Oscar®-winning Flowers and Trees, the former head of the Ink and Paint department, Grace Bailey Turner, was charged with expanding the Studio’s inventory of colors. Once used to mixing and matching basic blacks, whites and grays, suddenly Grace was mixing a wide array of hues that would help bring Disney animation to vivid life.
As former Studio painter Betty Kimball once recalled, “Everything was so unscientific back then. We were just creating, and it was fun. I remember Grace was head of Paint, and she had developed a new blue color. She tried to describe it to me: ‘It’s the same color as your dress, Betty. What color is your dress?’ I had dyed my dress and I told her that the name on the package of dye was ‘sky blue.’ So she right there and then named the new blue after the color of my dress.”
Born Elizabeth Grace Randall on January 1, 1904, in Willoughby, Ohio, Grace attended the Cleveland School of Art beginning in 1922. She later moved to New York, where she worked on Max Fleischer’s early animated Out of the Inkwell series, featuring Koko the Clown.
After relocating to Southern California around 1930, Grace took a job making custom lampshades in a Beverly Hills shop. In 1932, however, she decided to apply for a job at the nearby Walt Disney Studios and won a position in the Ink and Paint department, which was supervised by Walt Disney’s sister-in-law Hazel Sewell. Before the advent of computers, inking and painting was part of a laborious process consisting of a staff of “inkers” who traced animators’ drawings onto large sheets of celluloid, known as cels, and “painters,” who colored in the drawings by hand. As Grace later recalled in an interview with author Christopher Finch, in those early years even Walt and Roy Disney pitched in to help ink and paint animation cels.
Grace worked her way up through the ranks of the department from painting supervisor to inking supervisor, where she trained new artists to ink the animators’ drawings. Learning to ink could take as long as a year compared to paint, which took about six months.
As Kimball recalled, “Those inkers had to be really good. They weren’t just tracing animators’ drawings. They had to get the feeling of the animators’ pencil lines, too.”
In 1954, Grace was selected as head of the entire Ink and Paint department, a position she held until her retirement in 1972. As Bob Broughton, former Disney supervisor of special photographic effects once recalled, “Grace was quite a professional lady. She was class.”
Grace Bailey passed away on August 23, 1983 in Ocklawaha, Florida.