Synopsis: Alice Estes Davis, 93, died at her Los Feliz home after a lifetime of creating some of the most memorable costume designs in Disney history.
A Disney Legend Has Died: Alice Davis
Alice Estes Davis, 93, died at her Los Feliz home after a lifetime of creating some of the most memorable costume designs in Disney history. In 2004, the designer, who began her career designing women’s lingerie and undergarments, was awarded a Disney Legend for her remarkable and important contribution to The Walt Disney Company. Her most well-known works include the costumes for It’s a Small World and Pirates of the Caribbean.
She also assisted in the animation of Briar Rose, the female protagonist of Sleeping Beauty. Alice Davis is known as “one of Disney’s original designing women,” she was married to animator and Imagineer Marc Davis until his death in 2000. In 1989, he was named a Disney Legend as one of the company’s iconic “Nine Old Men.” The couple’s names are now displayed on side-by-side windows on Disneyland’s Main Street.
Alice Davis, who was born in Escalon, California in 1929, received a scholarship to the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles and attended night school to study animation. Marc, who had previously worked on various Disney projects, was an instructor at the institution, which was well-known for educating artists.
Marc asked Alice to make a costume for Helene Stanley to wear during a live-action shoot to influence his animation of Princess Aurora in 1959’s Sleeping Beauty while working for the Beverly Vogue & Lingerie House.
“Marc wanted to test how the skirt worked in real dance steps, and it was my first assignment at Disney,” Alice Davis told The Hollywood Reporter earlier. Despite her little experience with fashion, the project prompted her to design costumes for the 1960 live-action Disney picture Toby Tyler, starring Kevin Corcoran. Then, in 1963, Walt Disney personally hired her to work on the It’s a Small World attraction for the 1964 World’s Fair in New York.
Alice Davis worked with art designer Mary Blair to research, create, and supervise the construction of approximately 150 outfits for the boat excursion. She also devised costuming procedures, a manufacturing foundation, and quality control refurbishing techniques that set the standard for three-dimensional figures in future Disney rides and shows.
Alice Davis transformed her husband’s original drawings of the shiver-me-timbers cast and crew into designs for the outfits shown in Pirates of the Caribbean in 1965. When the attraction premiered at Disneyland two years later, people were awestruck by the animated characters and their meticulously produced costumes. She later worked on the Carousel of Progress and the Flight to the Moon attractions for General Electric.
Her career served as an inspiration to many Disney artists that followed in her footsteps. “When I was a little girl, my parents took me to Walt Disney World, and I made them ride the tiny world attraction about 24 times because I adored it,” Fantasia/2000 art director Susan Goldberg recalled in a Disney business press statement. “I had no idea who Mary Blair or Alice Davis were at the time, but I grew up wanting to be a costume designer. So Alice Davis is the reason I work in animation.”
Following her death, executives at The Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco praised Alice Davis as a kind and philanthropic individual who took part in debates, panels, and special activities while also giving artwork and objects. “She was always Marc’s leading lady,” they stated, “and she will always retain a special place in our hearts.” “She will be greatly missed.”
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