Oh, the magic of Disneyland! I think we can all agree that Disneyland possesses an alluring quality when it comes to that behind-the-scenes magic we all want to behold! Disneyland is a place where, when you see something you've never noticed before while visiting, you yearn to know the history of its origin.
For instance, when visiting Mademoiselle Antoinette's Parfumerie in New Orleans Square, you are first taken in by its beauty, n'est-ce pas? The glass, the bottles, the sparkle and shine and those painted mirrors! Wonder who was behind the making of those? Well, they were commissioned by Lillian Disney, as was the idea for the entire shop, but it was non other than Glendra Von Kessel, or as she became known by many, "The Baroness" that painted them at the request of Mrs. Disney herself!
Notice that beautiful floral painting on the mirror in the back? And you can still find her signature somewhere among all the beautiful, ornate mirrors.
Glendra Bernice O' Mara, was born on May 9th 1912, in New Jersey. She married Johannes Bernhard Von Kessel, a consulting engineer from Germany, in 1935, she was 19 years his junior. They lived in Chicago, and they had a son, William.
In June of 1945 Johannes died, at the age of 50.
It is not known what year Glendra first came to California but it was in the mid 1950s when she began working in the Ink and Paint Department at The Disney Studios, and she later went on to work in Imagineering.
In the book "Ink and Paint, the Women of Walt Disney Animation" by Mindy Johnson, there is a story about how the women in Ink and Paint would sometimes enjoy dancing in the halls of their studio for fun, and on occasion Glendra would bring in her Fencing outfit; and as stated by Grace Gordino in the book, "Glendra and I used to fence in the corridors". She sounds like a fun gal!
For more detailed information on the many women who contributed to the fantastic world of Disney animation pick up Mindy's book!
Glendra helped create many magical attractions you can still enjoy at Disneyland today.
Here she is, dressed in orange, helping to create the birds we love so much in the Enchanted Tiki Room! And by the way, pictured here with The Baroness is non other than Leota Toombs (dark haired woman in blue) the namesake and the one who provides the image for Madame Leota in The Haunted Mansion; the voice for Madame Leota was done by Eleanor Audley. And look there, it's Harriet Burns (in pink), who became Disney's first female Imagineer!
Mrs. Von Kessel certainly had the flair of a Baroness. Her style was impeccable:
I love the orange and pink, and the fringe, and the earrings! She is simply fabulous!
This happens to be the photo that prompted me to want to know more about her!
Here is she is working on the aforementioned glass mirrors using a process called reverse painting. You can see here as well some paintings used in The Haunted Mansion:
Let's all sing like the birdies sing! What a fun and creative job it must have been to design these birds!:
Glendra, in back, working on our favorite birds, again, with Harriet Burns and another (unknown) Disney Imagineer.
I hope you enjoyed learning a little more about the Disneyland magic and getting to know about Glendra "The Baroness" Von Kessel!
Peeking behind the curtain at Disneyland's production studio is always a special treat, and getting to know the people who worked so hard at making The Happiest Place on Earth so happy is extra special.
Glendra Von Kessel sadly passed away on February 28, 1992 but her contribution to the Disney Magic will never go unnoticed!
Thank you to "The Baroness" for her contribution to the magic!
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