Disney provided airfare, accommodations, and the opportunity tour the Disney Research Animation Library. All opinions are my own.
There is a secret place in California in a nondescript and unmarked building where some of the most amazing works of art are stored. This place is only accessible by invitation/appointment and if you do garner one of these golden tickets to enter, you’ll be sworn to secrecy. But it’s worth it. So very worth it because once inside, past the exposed air vents and scattered cubicles, is a vast amount of priceless artifacts that few have seen.
This wondrous place is called the Disney Animation Research Library and inside are drawings, sketches, doodles, notes, paintings, and more from every one of Disney’s films since the beginning of Disney Studios. Much of it has been gathered from dusty basements, drawers, closets, and storage areas around the Disney empire.
For years these pieces of Disney animation were not seen as the treasures they are. When the company archived their items in the past they were sent to the “morgue.” A dark, dank basement with no climate control. Thankfully about a decade ago several people realized the importance of the objects they stored and worked to get the huge collection moved to its current location where the items are catalogued, cleaned-up if necessary, and stored properly to retain them for future generations.
Disney is also digitizing many of the important pieces of work. This has a twofold purpose. First to make the pieces available to all Disney venues – pieces can be used in marketing, as displays, or to be sold in books, posters, DVD special features, etc., and to insure that the pieces are saved, at least electronically, in the case the piece is damaged or fades.
They been working daily on scanning for years and they’ve barely touched the approximately 64 to 65 million pieces of art available and more comes in every day. Pieces are still being found and sent to the ARL and at times they purchase collections.
The ARL is a fascinating place for any Disney fan and one I’ve had the privilege of touring twice. It’s the Holy Grail where one can see early animation from some of their favorite films as well as the actual backgrounds and characters used in the films. Plus the people who care for these pieces of art truly love them and it shows in the way they handle them and describe them. Being around such passion for characters that I love is inspiring.