Tuesday 10: Disney Animation Research Library
It’s been a while since I did a Tuesday 10 post and since I had to post my coverage of my trip to the Disney Animation Research Library I decided to do it this way. So here’s ten things I learned or saw while at the Disney Animation Research Library recently.
One – There’s no GPS allowed when going to the location. We had to turn off all our location tracking on our phones and other devices. We don’t know the address and its kept secret for a great reason and that’s because it houses over 65 million pieces of animation artwork. The Animation Research Library (ARL) houses all the original animation artwork still owned by the Disney Company. The ARL has artwork that dates back as far as the 1920s and it’s all because of the vision of Walt Disney to preserve the artwork so that others could use it in the future. The ARL is only open to Disney employees.
Two – While at the ARL we were taken on a tour of the facility and learned a lot from the very knowledgeable researchers and managers. They are literally walking Disney encyclopedias, well at least I though they were. They also handled all the artwork with white gloves, especially the original artwork which all have a special label so you know you must handle it with care.
Three – The ARL houses some of the actual Disney Vaults that you hear about all the time. Yes they do exist and we got to go inside and learn about how the artwork is kept and the see some of the art inside. All the vaults are climate controlled and they also have safety measures to protect the artwork if a fire were to break out. This building was custom built to house the current collection after the previous location suffered some damage and some of the artwork was lost.
Four – Researchers and other employees that handle the art work in the ARL does it with very special attention to detail. When art comes into the library they are cataloged and then vaulted. While we were visiting we saw some members of the collections team in the process of preserving some art. There were three different people handling the art. Each has a specific task and they double check with each other to make sure each piece is in order, that it matches the whole story line and that it’s preserved properly.
Five – When we were looking at the art we had to keep a certain distance from the artwork to make sure that nothing on our clothing, hair or hands transferred onto the artwork.
Six – No photography was allowed while we were in the ARL. Disney had a professional photographer to take the shots I am sharing with you but we weren’t allowed to take any shots of our own. This also is a safety measure with preserving the artwork.
Seven – Artwork is handled with spatulas and white gloves, especially older pieces in the collection that has signs of aging or some level of deterioration. They really do a good job at making sure they keep the artwork safe and at the same time available to their employees to use for inspiration.
Eight – The members of the image capture team is responsible for digitizing the collections housed in the library that are not currently in digital format. When one film has hundreds of thousands pieces it takes a while to capture them all and add them to a digital catalog where employees can easily search for those images instead of having to pull them from the vaults constantly. The cameras here are very high tech and they capture every detail in the artwork.
Nine – We meet members of the design team as well. They are responsible for designing the displays that showcase Disney art for different occasions. They showed us sketches and story ideas from when they did the Princess and the Frog display for the movie premiere. We also saw their Pirate Fairy display when we visited the Disney Toons Studio.
Ten – All the pieces of art in the ARL are inventory documented so that they’ll have a box/bar code, and they’ll have a vault location, a shelf location, a column location, so that they are easily located. The library is funded by the devotion of the company and some overhead from when they allow others to use some of the contents. While they are trying to go digital to make the art accessible to filmmakers they still allow those filmmakers to visit and physically interact with the pieces of the collection for inspiration. We learned that the directors and producers of The Pirate Fairy visited to look at ark work from Peter Pan when making the film. When you see the film you’ll see those connections and also from the pieces of concept art below.