Be Careful With Your Dreams

  • On November 26, 2009 ·
  • By ·

Rejection Letter from Disney

Click the image to see the original Flickr upload and view this at larger sizes.This is a form letter that was sent out to female artists’ inquiries into becoming animators at the Walt Disney studio over 70 years ago. Snopes took an interesting look at it, citing Miss Frances Brewer received a similar letter and that the Disney Studios Artist’s Tryout Book says,

All inking and painting of celluloids, and all tracing done in the Studio is perfomed exclusively by a large staff of girls known as Inkers and Painters… This is the only department in the Disney Studio open to women artists.

There’s also this blog post discussing female animators who broke this sexist standard and had long, happy careers. This sort of thing upsets me on a number of levels. I know what it’s like to be turned away sight unseen because of existing conditions outside of your control, be they existent or just in the mind of the person doing the turning away. This also denigrates the work of the Ink & Paint Department, reducing them to the mindless task of tracers. (Ask any professional comic book inker how they feel about being called a tracer and you’ll get an earful.) I have no idea if the person who signs off on the letters is a woman because the studio thought such things would sound less harsh coming from another female but it’s still very offensive, both in what it says and how it says it. Women artists can be employed but in non-creative capacities? Egad that’s horrible.

So why am I mentioning this? It’s important we artists don’t let one person crush our dreams. There are times when somebody will get in your way. There are times when you’ll get rejected. There are times when you need to realistically evaluate what your dreams are and how you can achieve them. Sometimes the thing you think you want first isn’t obtainable. Sometimes you mature and get more specific in your goals. Think back to what you wanted to be when you were a kid. Is it the same thing you want to be now? If it is, have you made any progress since then? Maybe what you want is really what you’ve been doing all this time. Or maybe it’s time to put those other things out of the way and get to it.

Scott Kurtz has an anecdote he shares about meeting Jeff Smith once and how, upon asking what it takes to get into the comics industry, he was promptly told off because most people didn’t want to hear the real answer. Like any job, comics require hard work, practice, training, business planning, a lot of things that aren’t very fun on their own. But that’s the reality of dreams. They’re not handed to you. Nobody promises you success. You have to work for them. You have to fall on your face sometimes, dust yourself off, and try again. And if people tell you you’re swinging too early when they pitch to you, you need to be capable of changing things up to make it happen. I recall once, when I was in art school, a professor was looking over this other student’s manga-esque comics and was listening to how she wanted to build up her own studio and empire, “Like Disney, only bigger.” Does anybody else hear the bravado in that statement? It’s very easy to say you want the world – it’s something else to go about getting it.

Dreams are an interesting thing. Sometimes chasing them is the only thing you have keeping you going. Sometimes they’re just a passing fancy. Ultimately it’s up to you to figure out what they are and realize them. No professional, no educator, nobody else is in charge of your destiny but you. As for me, hey, I’ve got some comics to draw. What am I sitting here blogging for?