The Disney studio of the Thirties through the Fifties is a magical bygone era, far from perfect but utterly unique in the level of craftsmanship and drive for quality exhibited by the artists who worked there. That atmosphere was created entirely by one individual: the company’s namesake, Walt Disney.
Those of us living today may never be able to experience that unique moment in animation history, so we try to gain insights into the era through the films, artwork, photos, and documents of the period. Never-before-seen photos from that era are among the rarest finds—especially ones in color—which is why I was excited to read this post by Disney animator Andreas Deja, who observed that rare photos were appearing on the Getty stock photo web site.
A bit of searching revealed a batch of photographs taken by Saturday Evening Post photographer Gene Lester. The photos are undated, but they appear to be taken on assignment for the multi-part profile of Walt Disney in the Post that began in November 1956, so it is safe to assume that these photos were all taken sometime in the fall of 1956.
Even though the photos appear to be from a period of two days at most, they offer a wonderful peek into the studio and Walt’s home life—played up for the camera but still plenty revealing in their own way. I’ve identified the people in the photos to the best of my knowledge.