We are sad to report that Disney Legend Alice Davis has passed away at the age of 93.
Davis, who was famous for her work with Walt Disney, who employed her to develop costumes for Disney films, television, and theme parks, was married to fellow Disney Legend Marc Davis, a Disney animator and Imagineer. ￼
In the mid-1950s, she received a call from Marc Davis. He needed a costume for dancer Helene Stanley to wear as she performed live-action reference footage for the animation of Princess Aurora in Sleeping Beauty; Marc wanted to see how the skirt flowed and bunched as Stanley moved about in order to draft accurate animation. During this project, she and Marc Davis grew closer and eventually married in June 1956.
Walt Disney saw the two newlyweds at a Los Angeles restaurant one night and immediately took a liking to her and her work. Walt Disney hired her as a costume designer for the 1960 Disney feature Toby Tyler. She also aided in the design of costumes for various other Disney television shows.
In 1963, Walt Disney came to Alice Davis with an assignment to assist artist Mary Blair in designing the costumes for the Audio-Animatronic (AA) children of Disney’s 1964/1965 New York World’s Fair attraction “it’s a small world”. She researched the different cultures and regions being represented and translated the attire customs into over 150 different costumes. Her other work for the Fair included the period-specific costumes for the General Electric Carousel of Progress.
During the “small world” project, she established an AA figure costume manufacturing area, quality control system, and refurbishing techniques at WED Enterprises in Glendale, California. These systems and techniques are still used today by Imagineers and maintenance staff at the Disney theme parks worldwide.
In 1965, she says she “went from sweet little children, to dirty old men overnight”. Walt Disney assigned her to create the costumes for the AA characters that would inhabit the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction. She created 47 different costumes – each one period-specific to the 17th and 18th centuries, but still had a “Disney flair” to them. Pirates of the Caribbean opened in 1967, and remains a Disney theme park favorite to this day. She also designed the costumes for the Mission Control AA figures in the revamped Flight to the Moon attraction the same year as Pirates.
Following Marc Davis’ lead, she retired from WED in 1978, but still consults on various projects for The Walt Disney Company, such as Pixar’s Up (2009). In order to solve a central question of that film, “What are the most important things in life? – the Up filmmaking team turned to their oldest acquaintances and relatives, mining their memories for stories. The influences included the legendary Disney animator Joe Grant (who died in 2005). She also makes appearances at Disney-related events and fan meet-and-greets.
Her marriage to Marc Davis sadly ended with his passing in 2000.
In 2004, in a ceremony at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California, Davis was inducted as a Disney Legend. In 2012, she was honored with a window on Main Street, U.S.A. at Disneyland next to her husband’s window.