Disney artist and model maker Joyce Carlson, who helped create the It’s a Small World attraction, died Jan. 2 in Florida following a long battle with cancer. She was 84.
The colorful, musical ride It’s a Small World was originally created for the New York World’s Fair in 1964, and later refitted for its permanent home in Disneyland.
“What Joyce shared with everyone in the Model Shop was passion: passion for doing things right, passion for the Disney product, passion for pleasing Walt Disney,” said Marty Sklar, executive vice president and Imagineering Ambassador, Walt Disney Parks & Resorts.
Born in Racine, Wisc., Carlson moved with her family to Southern California in 1938. After graduating from Santa Monica High School, she followed a friend to Walt Disney Studios in Burbank in 1944, where she took a job in the traffic department delivering pens, pencils, paints and brushes to animators.
She soon became an inker, working on such films as “The Three Caballeros,” “Victory Through Air Power,” “Cinderella,” ‘Peter Pan” and “Sleeping Beauty.”
In 1960, when inkers were being replaced by the new Xerox electrostatic process, which transferred animators’ pencil drawings to cels, she moved to Walt Disney Imagineering. Working alongside two of her mentors, Mary Blair and Marc Davis, she created miniature prototypes of attractions for the 1964 World’s Fair pavilions, and was among a small group of artists Disney sent to New York to install It’s a Small World. She also worked as the artist behind many of the singing dolls on the ride.
She later helped bring the attraction to Walt Disney World and Tokyo Disneyland as well as the Paris and Hong Kong rides. She settled in Florida, helping maintain Walt Disney World attractions and characters including the Carousel of Progress.
Carlson was the first woman in the Walt Disney Company to reach both the 50- and 55-year service milestones, and was made a Disney Legend in 2000.
She is survived by a sister.
Donations may be made to the Hospice of the Comforter, 480 W. Central Parkway, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714.