A Top Secret Trip to the Disney Animation Research Library
Imagine a place so magical and so mysterious that the location is top secret. Picture a building full of memories, full of fantasy and full of the tools that make dreams come true. This is a place where Pinocchio can rest, all seven dwarves are safe, and Cinderella’s transformation into a princess is forever preserved. The Disney Animation Research Library (ARL) is all of those things and more.
Have you ever heard of the Disney ARL? In August I was lucky enough to learn all about it, and even had a behind the scenes tour of this place that preserves all things Disney. The ARL uses museum standard preservation techniques on every drawing that has gone into any… any… Disney film. There are between 60 and 65 million pieces of artwork in the ARL. Though it is nicknamed “the morgue” it is more accurately Disney’s secret weapon. Disney was the only studio to save artwork from the beginning. To say that this place is incredible is an understatement. What will you find in the ARL? The list really does go on and on – there are a few special features though, that every Disney fan should know about.
Taking Pictures of Pictures
At the ARL, they are working to make digital copies of every single drawing they have. Most animated movies have about 20 frames per second. That adds up to be A LOT of drawings. While cartoons and sketches of the earliest Mickey Mouse are available at the ARL, it’s much better for everyone if the same pictures and files are saved digitally as well as preserved and catalogued. Take for example The Little Mermaid. After taking pictures of the drawings from the movie that are 240 megapixel and 65 megapixel camera. The files are tagged, filed, and ready to be pulled up by official Disney artists anywhere. The images can be animated with the touch of a button. The artwork might come in handy when creating a Disneyland/Disneyworld attraction, product, or even for stage show decoration. Just as importantly, it protects the integrity of the original masterpiece on paper.
Artwork Under Water Pipes?
The ARL has truly come to the rescue of several boxes of Disney concept drawings, movie frames, and clay models. Since no one realized how valuable some of these drawing would be, old pieces were tossed into boxes in basements and storage closets through various Disney offices. Some of those boxes were literally under water pipes! Thankfully, the ARL has since collected almost all of the artwork floating around and catalogued each piece. Now, the drawings for movies like Cinderella, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Peter Pan, and more are preserved and filed away.
Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother was a Witch?
Since Cinderella is about to come to Blu-Ray and DVD, the secrets behind this movie are definitely important. Taking a peek at the concept drawings, costume ideas, and actual cells from the movie is all possible thanks to the preservation of the ARL. The original drawings of the Fairy Godmother were much different than the sweet cherub faced grandmother we all know today.
To say that the Disney Animation Research Library is amazing is an understatement. To know that you are looking at the actual pieces of paper that created classic Disney films, the films loved generation after generation, is an incredible feeling. To see the history, the hard work, and the raw talent behind the films drives home the point that nobody… NOBODY… does it like Disney.
About Ashley (Managing Editor at MomStart): Ashley is a mom, wife, sister, daughter, friend, and former teacher working to navigate through the mysterious world of Mommyia. Read more about her adventures atMomicles and follow her @Momicles2010 .
I attended a press trip with Disney In Home Bloggers. All opinions are my own.