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Behind the scenes of the Disney Animation Research Library

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Reception area of Disney Animation Research Library with a Mickey Mouse illustration on the wall.

While I was in Los Angeles this past February for our Pirate Fairy event, I had the opportunity to visit the Disney Animation Research Library. Being an artist, this was one of the tours that my husband was most jealous of and I don't blame him because it was a great tour. In the Disney Animation Research Library, they have artwork, story boards, moquettes, backgrounds and more from disney movies dating back as early as Oswald and Steamboat Willy.

We learned on this tour that "artists from the animation studios over the years would go back to the legacy of the animation studio's work so that they could reference that and be inspired by that. Our job here is to celebrate the legacy of Walt Disney Animation by preserving the art as best as possible in the time we're here. Future artists will always be able to access that art, reference it, be inspired by it, and build upon that legacy."

Group of individuals viewing Disney Animation Research Library artwork displayed on tables during an exhibition or open house event.

We had the opportunity to see artwork that artists are still able to reference to for their current shows. Since we were focused on the Pirate Fairy, we had a chance to see a lot of Peter Pan artwork that the Disney Toons Studio artist referenced to in making  The Pirate Fairy. As shown above, we were able to see artwork in many different mediums from Peter Pan.

Two people examining and handling delicate documents on a table in the Disney Animation Research Library.

Across the table from us, some of the employees were hard at work handling some of the artwork. It was amazing to watch them because they were so careful in how they handled everything and wanting to preserve even the smallest pieces perfectly. Even if a corner of piece of art breaks off, they put it into a little baggy and save it in hopes of being able to re-attach it. The employees wear gloves to protect the artwork from the oils of their skin and use spatulas to carefully handle the artwork.

A well-organized film storage room at the Disney Animation Research Library, with labeled shelves and movie titles indicating the contents of each section.

In the Disney Animation Research Library they have 11 vaults that look like those in the photo above. This is where they store all of the artwork from the different movies. They are organized my movie and are in chronological order so they can easily find what they are looking for. We had the chance to look in a few of these vaults and see clean up animation, rough animation, story sketches and more from different movies.
Tour guide showing visitors an art piece in storage at the Disney Animation Research Library.

It felt so special being in these vaults and seeing these classic works of art that are many years old. It truly was an amazing experience. I was amazed out how organized the vaults were. They mentioned that in the beginning the artwork was in paper boxes with rubber bands around them  but they knew that they wanted everything in a nice holder and neatly organized.
A group of people observing and discussing Disney Animation archival materials displayed on a table, guided by an individual wearing gloves.

Here are some neat pieces of work from the Peter Pan collection:Artistic illustration of a brooding character with prominent features wearing a wide-brimmed hat and a ruffled collar, reminiscent of the Disney Animation Research Library's style.A drawing of a large skull on a shoreline at dusk with a purple and pink sky and silhouetted structures in the background, inspired by the Disney Animation Research Library.An illustration from the Disney Animation Research Library depicting a sailing ship near an island with a rainbow overhead, framed with a color calibration strip at the bottom.

On our tour we also had the opportunity to learn about how they capture images to be digitized with their amazing high mega pixel cameras as well as watched an adorable Tinkerbell image sequence that was hand drawn and scanned into the computer. It is amazing at how much goes into the process of preserving these images so that employees for years to come with have these great resources.

Here are some neat facts about the Disney Animation Research Library

The collection dates back from the 1920s to present day.

They estimate to have about 65 million pieces of animation artwork in this collection.

Largest animation art collection in the world.

Library is only open to Disney employees.

Vaults are kept at 59 degrees to preserve the artwork.

They still to this day buy back artwork.

In quality control, they have captured 850,800 images.

Thank you to the Disney Animation Research Library team (featured below) for our tour!

Group of professionals posing for a photo at the Disney Animation Research Library event.

All Photos provided to me by Disney. I received an all expense paid trip to Los Angeles for the Disney Press event. All opinions are my own.

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