My Family Disney Dynasty, Part 1by Edle Bakke, contributing writer
Since 1945 one member or another of my biological family has been employed at Walt Disney Productions. That's a 60-year run, and we're all very proud to be a part of it. Through the years the term family began to represent not only our genetic inheritance, but also our mutual association with a magical creative entity, the world of Walt Disney.
Edle Bakke (center) and other Disney Ink & Paint girls take a break on the lawn. Photo courtesy of Lucile Bosche' Mosier.
It all began when my sister-in-law Muriel resigned from her position as Ink and Paint Department secretary and recommended me to take her place. After being interviewed by Disney personnel manager Ken Sieling, I was granted a meeting with department manager Grace Bailey. Grace liked me, I liked her, and one month later, at the ripe old age of 18, I was hired.
The Disney spell was upon me from the very first day. Instead of dealing with business letters, legal forms and dreary columns of figures as could be expected in most secretarial jobs, I found myself involved with an astounding array of creative output from animators, writers and artists. In our department, all the paper drawings in an animated film were traced on to celluloid then painted on the opposite side by artists called inkers and painters. After a careful inspection by checkers, the cells were transferred to the Camera Department to be photographed. Being part of this process made me feel I was working in a world of make-believe.
In the late 1940s and early 1950s all artwork was done by hand. There were no Xerox machines, computers, or cell phones. The typewriters were manual, as were the adding machines and plug-in switchboard phone system. Compared to today's world of animation technology every aspect of work was more difficult, but none of us knew it back then.
I loved working for Disney from the very first day I drove through the front gate, punched a timecard at the guard shack and strolled past the well-kept grounds that surrounded the buildings along Mickey Mouse Lane and Dopey Drive. Fred, the old Swiss gardener, would wave hello to everyone as he clipped oleander bushes fringing the Art Deco buildings. Most studios were filled with grim, giant sound stages surrounded by acres of drab concrete, but on the Disney lot it felt like being on a college campus.
Near the commissary was an open area-turned athletic field, and during every lunch hour male employees would team up, take sides and play baseball, volleyball and ping pong while the rest of us cheered from the wisteria-covered patio. Animator/director Ward Kimball and his band he Firehouse 5+2 would provide Dixieland music from the adjacent Orchestration Stage, doors opened wide, for a lunchtime dance hour. The atmosphere was easy-going, relaxed, and friendly.
Edle Bakke works on a script during the filming of Hatari in Tanganika (now Tanzania). Photo courtesy of Lucile Bosche' Mosier.
After working for five years in the Ink and Paint Department I was transferred to the Animation Department as music room secretary for animation director Jack Kinney's unit, who was then turning out Goofy cartoons. A year later I was working for animation director Ward Kimball on his long-term project Man In Space. The work was very different and exciting, for now I was in direct contact with story-men, animators and background artists. Walt had chosen the Space series as a top priority project for his new television show that would not only educate the public about a new scientific field but also promote his latest obsession, Disneyland.
Week after week world renowned rocket scientists such as Werner von Braun, Willie Ley, and Hans Haber would get together with Ward and his crew for meetings that were often attended by Walt himself. I was assigned to take notes in shorthand of all the conferences on subjects like weightlessness, centrifugal force, rocket stages and orbital trajectories, all of which were Greek to me. Since Walt never liked seeing someone taking notes, I was discretely placed behind a tall screen where I jotted down everything being said, minus four-letter words that often crept into Walt's vocabulary. We didn't use tape recorders in those days, so I was very busy indeed.
The cast and crew of Toby Tyler pose for a photo at the film's wrap party. Edle Bakke is at left, holding the script. Photo courtesy of Lucile Bosche' Mosier.
By the mid-1950s, the volume of work created by Disney's expanding television show and live action movies, the creation of Disneyland, and production of animated features and shorts made it necessary to hire Hollywood film crews from outside the Studio. Soon a live-action production unit was formed within Disney. I was sponsored by then vice-president Bill Anderson to become a live-action script supervisor. I was the first person the Studio ever trained for this position. During the three years that followed, I apprenticed under leading industry professionals on television shows and feature films. Again, the work was entirely different from anything I had ever done and entailed keeping track of all scenes shot in a film as well as working as liaison between the director, actors and film editors.
The script was often called the bible and since I was in charge of keeping all changes to the script current I was in the middle of everything. It was demanding work but never dull as I was literally in the center of the action on such shows as The Mickey Mouse Club, Zorro, Spin and Marty, The Hardy Boys, Toby Tyler and Old Yeller. I was to hold this position, working at many of the major Hollywood studios on shows such as Howard Hawks' African adventure Hatari, Hal Ashby's Being There, Gunsmoke, Quincey, The Blue Knight, MacGyver and Baretta for thirty-two years. In the early 1980's I had the privilege of returning home to Disney for two more features, the computer classic Tron and Ray Bradbury's haunting tale Something Wicked This Way Comes.
Finally in 1987, it was time to say goodbye to the world of movies and make-believe. Now let me introduce the next member on our Disney family dynasty time-line, my sister, Lucile.
The Disney Ink & Paint girls pose for a Halloween photo on the roof of the Ink & Paint building in 1950. Lucile Bosche' is second from left, Edle Bakke is at top. Photo courtesy of Lucile Bosche' Mosier.
In October 1945 Edle's boss, Grace Bailey, interviewed and hired me as an inker, a job that required skill, patience, concentration and a good eye. From the moment I began working at Disney I knew I was where I belonged. It took months of intensive training to become an inker, and when I was deemed ready to work on production I became a member of Betty Ann Guenther's inking corridor.
There were three corridors on each floor of the Ink and Paint Building dedicated to our department. Betty Ann's corridor was a long, wide and spacious room filled with ten rows of desks. Floor to ceiling windows lined one side of the room and provided just the right amount of illumination. Two girls were stationed in each row and meticulously traced the lines from the animators' drawing on to individual cells. There was a definite technique to the work, a certain flow and rhythm to maintain, and when we hit our stride we called it the Inker's Shuffle. Everyone was young, friendly and happy to be working in the art field. We were expected to fulfill a daily quota, and the drawings were rated as easy, medium and difficult. We'd stop working after two hours in the morning for a fifteen-minute coffee break.
The Disney Ink & Paint girls pose for another 1950 Halloween photo on the Ink & Paint roof, this time dressed as beggars. Lucile Bosche' is third from left, holding the sprayer. Photo courtesy of Lucile Bosche' Mosier.
A beautiful, large tea room filled with round tables and a cafeteria-style counter had been provided especially for us, and that's where we had time to get to know each other. Many of the girls had been in the service in WWII, some were war widows with small children, and a number of the older women were top-flight professionals in their field. We celebrated many special events in that tea-room, from costumed Halloween parties to birthdays, and bridal and baby showers. Unfortunately, Ink and Paint was off-limits to male artists, and sometimes it felt like being in an all-girls school.
Lucile Bosche' (left) and other Ink and Painters work on Pete's Dragon. Photo courtesy of Lucile Bosche' Mosier.
Five years later, my life changed forever. I met Bill Bosche'. He was an established commercial artist, and it was not long before he, too, became a Disney employee as a background artist. We married in 1951, resulting in my transformation to stay-at-home wife and mother and my retirement from the working world at the Studio. It was a career change most women in the 1950s made, but I was lucky enough to be called back to the Studio by the Ink and Paint Department Manager Becky Fallberg to work on Pete's Dragon 30 years after I had started. By then Bill's career was in full swing, and he would go on to become a 30-year Disney veteran. Here is his story as told by our elder daughter, Lucile Jr.
At the young age of 13 Billy Bosche' confidently announced, Mama, when I grow up I'm going to be an artist for Walt Disney! In 1936 he earned a scholarship to the Broadmoore Art Academy in Colorado Springs. Disney was recruiting animators and although Bill was too young at the time he decided then and there that someday he would work for Walt. Although it was a dream for many youngsters in the 1930s, for Bill it became a dream-come-true. Throughout his childhood and teen years Bill was never without his pencil and sketchpad.
After high school he studied at Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles then got his first job as an assistant animator at Jerry Fairbanks Productions in Hollywood. From 1942 to 1946, he was assigned as an animation artist to the Army Air Corps lst Motion Picture Unit at Fort Roach (the Hal Roach Studios) in Culver City. There, alongside many Disney artists and animators, he learned about producing instructional, training and propaganda films.
After the war he worked as a freelance commercial artist in Los Angeles, and in 1951 he joined the animation section at the U.S. Air Force Lookout Mountain Laboratory, Hollywood's secret film studio. There he worked as a layout, background and story-sketch artist on training and informational films for the Air Force and Atomic Energy Commission, traveled to Yucca Flat in Nevada and Eniwetok in the Pacific to witness atomic and hydrogen bomb testing.
Bill Bosche', Walt Disney and Ward Kimball examine a model for the "Man In Space" episode of the Disneyland TV series. Storyboards for the show line the back wall. Photo courtesy of Lucile Bosche' Mosier.
In February 1953, Bill realized his ambition of becoming a Disney artist. He started as an assistant in layout on Lady and the Tramp. A year later when Walt debuted the Disneyland TV show Bill transferred to the Story Department and co-wrote the acclaimed Man In Space series with Ward Kimball. Next he bounced back and forth between doing films and special projects for the Studio, including work for Disneyland, WED, the New York World's Fair and even designing the dancing trees for Babes In Toyland. He wrote and designed the Moon Ride, Flight to Mars and the Hall of Presidents. Traveling frequently to Cape Kennedy and Houston Space Center as a Studio liaison for NASA, Bill witnessed many space launches to keep the Tomorrowland attractions up to date. When Walt initiated his grandest project, EPCOT, Bill was with him for the groundbreaking and continued to participate in many of the numerous Florida projects long after Walt's passing. As part of an esteemed group of contributors to the development of the theme parks his name has appeared on a storefront window on Main Street at WDW since 1971.
Left to right: Edle Bakke, Bill Bosche' and Werner Von Braun on the set of Man In Space. Photo courtesy of Lucile Bosche' Mosier.
Although he was a writer and show designer for many theatrical and entertainment attractions Bill found his greatest reward as a writer, producer and artist for Disney's TV and educational division motivational films such as Steel and America, The Restless Sea, Freeway Phobia, Donald's Fire Survival Plan, Project Florida, The Magic of Walt Disney World, Family Planning, and VD Attack Plan. In these projects he had the opportunity to educate as well as entertain audiences.
His final assignment for Disney was as writer, director and producer of the original Oh, Canada Circlevision project for the Canadian Pavilion at EPCOT. After retiring from the Studio in 1983, Bill continued to stay busy sailing his boat, appearing at the annual Mouse Club Disneyana conventions, teaching art and working as a freelance writer, director and artist for documentary, educational films and audio-visual presentations until his passing in 1990. I'm one of the fortunate people, said Bill in a 1981 Disney Newsreel interview. I get paid for doing what I like to do.
Walt Disney (second from right) and Bill Bosche' (right) visit Mission Control at Houston Space Center in 1965. Photo courtesy of Lucile Bosche' Mosier.
Our Disney family dynasty continued to grow long after Bill Bosche' was hired. By 1959 my eldest nephew, Jim Collins, joined the clan as a traffic boy, beginning a career as a sound recordist that culminated in his recent retirement from the Universal Studios Sound Department. Soon thereafter his brother, Ed joined the team. Here are their recollections.
My aunt Edle arranged an interview for me with Ken Sieling, and on February 20, 1959 I started working for Pat Patterson in the mailroom, also known as Traffic. I had just turned 18 and graduated from Hollywood High, and I was excited about starting my first real job. The traffic boys rode around the lot on a fleet of old bicycles outfitted with large wire baskets, and on the various routes we would carry all the mail and interoffice correspondence in big leather pouches. I got to meet all the artists, technicians and executives while delivering the mail and I quickly made many friends. I even got to see Walt himself when I would deliver his lunch from the fourth floor Penthouse to his office. I was also lucky to have some of my buddies from high school with me in Traffic since their dads worked on the Lot, so there were plenty of laughs and fun. In our youthful enthusiasm, free from the responsibilities of the mature adult world, this entry-level position seemed like just about the best thing going.
Bill Bosche' (center, in yellow windbreaker) poses with his crew during the filming of Oh Canada on location in 1980. Photo courtesy of Lucile Bosche' Mosier.
Working in Traffic also gave me the chance to observe the various crafts and other job possibilities throughout the Studio. Even though Traffic was great fun, we all knew that eventually we would need to move up the ladder. I thought the camera department looked especially interesting, but jobs there were hard to land because they were in great demand and generally reserved for the sons of executives and camera guild members.
Eventually I got to move from Traffic into the Buena Vista Record Company, which was located upstairs in the Shorts Building. The bottom floor was reserved for Make-up, Hair and Wardrobe and occasionally the bigger stars would come into head makeup artist Bob Schiffer's office to be worked on. I met Karl Malden in passing and we became friendly, exchanging greetings and light conversation throughout the production of Pollyanna. Years later he approached me to say hello during looping sessions at Warner Hollywood for The Streets of San Francisco. With so many actors seemingly detached from studio personnel, it was a pleasant surprise to be remembered from the Disney days.
Disney had a bowling league, which was very popular with employees from all departments. We played at the Pickwick Lanes just down the street from the Studio. There was a special camaraderie and it was a chance to get to make even more friends. It was also a great way to let off steam after a hard day's work.
After my brief stint with the Buena Vista Record Company, I took a job in the Sound Department under Bob Cook and Jack Laing. As a clerk I tracked film during the day and answered the phone in the sound office at night. I logged a lot of hours and paid close attention to what was going on around me. Everyone knew and respected my aunt Edle,and I had to be on my best behavior at all times so as not to let her down. Working on the Lot was a real pleasure but opportunities to advance into the craft locals were rare, particularly since production was slow during my first years there.
Bill Bosche' visits a launch pad at Cape Kennedy in 1981. Photo courtesy of Lucile Bosche' Mosier.
By the mid-1960s as the growing TV industry accelerated, all the production companies got very busy and union jobs were suddenly in demand. Through my work in the sound office calling for union personnel I befriended the Local 695 secretary and managed to get a permit to fill in on day calls at other studios as a sound apprentice. With the cooperation of my old boss Pat, I was able to cover my office work with traffic boys when I did my permit jobs. After about a year of doing day calls, an opportunity at the Universal sound department came along and I found myself in demand at two studios. Meanwhile, my application to join 695 was approved and I had to make a choice between staying at Disney in a status-quo position or leaving the family behind to pursue a real career. Reluctantly, I said goodbye to Disney Studios and moved to Universal then Glen Glen Sound where I stayed for several years.
During a lay-off period from Glen Glen I returned to Disney as a sound loader for about six months. It was great to see old friends once again but I sensed a change in the atmosphere. Walt had always promoted a familial feeling among his employees and the Studio felt more like a country club than a place of business. Upon returning after Walt's death, I sensed that the family atmosphere had begun to fade and a stronger corporate mentality had taken over. I realized that I missed the Disney that I had left behind such a short time before and soon I found myself saying goodbye again. As I was leaving Disney for good my younger brother, Ed Lanny Collins was just arriving. In due time it would be my turn to help him up the ladder, but for now I was returning to Universal where I would remain for nearly 30 years.
It was June 1964 and I had just turned 18 when my uncle Bill took me in to an interview with Ken Sieling for a job in Traffic. But there were no openings during summer vacation since kids of Studio employees came first, so I went back to my job at Bud Ekins Motorcycles in Studio City where I had been working since graduating from high school a year earlier. The Ekins brothers were well known in both the motorcycle and film/stunt worlds, and celebrities like Steve McQueen were regulars at the shop. n September I got a call from the Disney personnel department to start working immediately for John Mac McCarthy in Traffic.
I fit right in with the group of guys, many of whose dads were Studio executives. Right away I learned all the mail delivery routes and made an effort to impress Mac. He trusted me so I got to do special deliveries and soon knew practically everyone on the Lot as well as the Studio's inner workings. I had to watch my p's and q's with my uncle Bill or else.
Lanny Collins takes a break from the Studio to serve his country in 1966. Photo courtesy of Lucile Bosche' Mosier.
There was always something interesting going on around the Studio. The Academy Award-winning composers Richard and Robert Sherman had offices in the Shorts Building and I would sometimes slip onto the C Stage to hear them jamming some pretty impressive rock and roll. I would often take the lunch cart from the Commissary to the Penthouse, the prestigious fourth floor private club for hand-selected male employees. The Penthouse, strictly off-limits to women other than the waitresses, was a true gentlemen's club, complete with dining room, billiards, steam baths and masseurs. The central elevator of the Animation Building took passengers up to the fourth floor but no uninvited visitors dared exit. My uncle Bill was a regular and once took me up for lunch, but after that it was no go.
Walt was often seen walking around the Studio wearing a blue cardigan sweater. If addressed by an employee as Mr. Disney he would reply, What's the matter, don't you know my name? He would acknowledge the lowly traffic boys and groundskeepers by offering them box seat Dodger tickets, which would be handed out by his secretary, Lucille. It was always a big thrill to sit in front of all the big shots at Chavez Ravine compliments of Walt.
Although Mac ran a tight ship, the traffic boys pulled plenty of hijinx when the workload slowed down and Mac wasn't looking. One time we crammed a fellow traffic boy in the dumbwaiter that went from the basement to the Penthouse, and when it stopped in the Library on the second floor we rang the bell and scared the wits out of the librarian.
Lanny Collins takes a break in a sound mixing room. Photo courtesy of Lucile Bosche' Mosier.
Eventually I was assigned to 800 Sonora, the Buena Vista Music warehouse, and was constantly going back and forth to the Lot. By now I was attending night school at the University of Southern California studying film. Then suddenly my world changed as I was drafted into the Marine Corps. After two years in the service I came back to visit Disney and sneaked into a big publicity premier party for That Darn Cat and The One And Only Original Family Band, where I met Dean Jones, Hayley Mills, Walter Brennan, and Ed Wynn. It was a thrill to be introduced to the famous father of my motorcycle buddy Keenan who rode along with Steve McQueen, Wally Cox and me on Sundays.
The week after I got out of the Marine Corps, I went back to my job in Traffic. Mac put me on the call sheet and production report runs. I would pick up the production reports in the morning and deliver them to all production-related departments. The call sheets had to be delivered by 3:00 p.m. each day to ensure adequate preparation from all departments for the following day's shooting. It was sometimes a little hairy getting the hand-typed call sheet masters down to the print shop and delivered all over the Lot on time, but it was a fun and important task. In 1968 Mac gave me a special duty. The U.S. postal service had designed a new stamp with Walt's picture, and I was given the chore of single-handedly affixing the stamps on all the Christmas cards for the entire Studio because they had not yet been officially issued and every one had to be accounted for.
My brother Jim got me some work loading sound equipment at Glen Glen as a daily permit hire and Mac would let me come and go. In time I got a call to go to TV Recorders in Hollywood. Mac kept me on the payroll for a year, but I found that I liked the motion picture sound field and having a brother in the union was an obvious route of opportunity, so in 1969 I voluntarily left Disney and joined 695. I worked at Todd-AO for 8 years and in 1984 I moved over to Hanna Barbara where I have worked as a sound mixer and sound director to the present day.
Next in line was our little brother, Tim. You'll get to hear his story in part II.