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Excerpt:
The following is from the July 30, 2008, edition of The Los Angeles Times. Harriet Burns was a 1949 graduate of SMU.


Harriet Burns, 79; first female designer for Walt Disney Imagineering

By Mary Rourke
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

Harriet Burns, the first woman hired to work as a designer for Walt Disney Imagineering, who helped create and build prototypes for such Disneyland attractions as Sleeping Beauty Castle and the Pirates of the Caribbean, has died. She was 79. . .

Burns joined Disney Studios as a set and prop painter for the "Mickey Mouse Club" television show in 1955. One of her major contributions to the show was the Mouse Clubhouse that she helped design and build.

"She could do everything a man could do," said Marty Sklars, executive vice president of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. "She was a fabulous artist. She had a wonderful sense of color and design. And she was the best-dressed. That never changed." . . .

Harriet Tapp was born Aug. 20, 1928, in San Antonio and reared in Seguin, Texas. An art student, she earned her bachelor's degree at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

She married William Burns, and in 1953 they moved to Los Angeles with their baby daughter. Burns went to work at Dice Display Industries Cooperative Exchange, making props for television shows and sets for Las Vegas floor shows.

She also worked on the Santa's Village theme park that opened in Lake Arrowhead in the mid-1950s. When the company closed, a colleague told Burns that Disney was hiring.

"She got the job and things mushroomed," Burns' daughter said of her mother's career. "She liked being around the creative spark, and Walt took her under his wing."

Burns retired in 1986 but was not forgotten at Disney. Her work was put in a window display on Main Street U.S.A. in 1992, accompanied by a plaque that reads, "The Artisans Loft, Handmade Miniatures by Harriet Burns."

She was designated a Disney Legend in 2000, recognized among her peers "whose imagination, talents and dreams have created the Disney magic."
 

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