Do you remember as a kid routing through your grandparents attic finding old letters, pictures and things that were so dusty and old you knew they had to be important? What a feeling it was to read about old ancestors or to see our parents as young kids in school – how about their report cards? Yup, I remember seeing those too and feeling like I hit the jackpot. There were a tremendous amount of different feelings, being sneaky, surprised, and pure astonishment, there were many “wow….” moments. I recently had the opportunity to relive those same feelings recently while visiting the Disney Animation Research Library in LA.
Disney movies have come a long way since the first full length film Snow White. Where do each one of those thousands of sketches end up for all the Disney movies? Why in the Animation Research Library that’s where. There are thousands and thousands and thousands and probably millions and millions of files all categorized in bays and filing cabinets with original Disney Artwork, sketches and props that have been used to create some of the most memorable movies of all time.
The Research Library is at an undisclosed location which adds to the secretiveness like you’re in a place that you shouldn’t be and our guide had to wear gloves at all times to preserve the artwork. Everything is temperature controlled and mostly filed in bays or behind glass doors to keep everything safe. It’s quite a production they have there, like everything else, if you want something done right leave it to Disney to ensure every fine detail is taken care of.
My favourite was probably seeing the Tim Burton Nightmare Before Christmas Props. Although I don’t love the movie, there something about the characters that are so impressive and captivating. Unfortunately, there is no photo to show you as we weren’t allowed to snap photos. So, sorry for the tease, but it’s stuck in my mind as one of the neatest things I have seen. I also really enjoyed the Tangled props, this movie I did love. Thankfully, these were out of their protective glass and the photographer was able to snap a great shot.
We were privy to seeing some of the original Cinderella backgrounds and learned how artists used the same backgrounds over again to save time when appropriate. It was amazing to see those hand drawn sketches which are in many of the main scenes of the movie.
Here is an example of some of the glass bays that preserve the props. We learned that the props were often used by artists for lighting. They would often set up a scene and then draw the scene including shadows and highlights based on the props used. Once example was for Fantasia, during the orchestra scene, mini violins and instruments were used to just get the perfect lightening when being drawn for the big screen.
Visiting the Library was like going into the vault and being privy to things not everyone is able to see. I would have never thought Disney had so much artwork, props, sketches all kept in one place. Not only are all these kept for memorabilia, but they are often taken out of the vault when Disney is creating something new for an old film. Because they want to maintain the integrity of the film, they go right back to the source to make sure every fine detail is perfect. That’s what Disney does best!