Oh my goodness, all – I’m not sure if I’m going to be able to adequately put into words how amazingly awe-inspiring and special it was to have toured Disney’s Animation Research Library last month as part of the #DisneyPlanesPremiere and #LittleMermaidEvent trip!! This is super secret stuff – not something that most people outside of the “Disney family” ever have the privilege of seeing (but just so you know, everything here has been “ok’d” 😉 ). And, oh what an amazing privilege it was! We rolled up to an unmarked building at an undisclosed location where we weren’t allowed to take any photos other than the lobby! So, you can be sure snapped a few there! Photographs of Walt, memorabilia, a giant Alice in Wonderland wall mural – it was so cool and that was only the lobby! Please note that all photos from here on out are the property of Disney, used with permission! Secret stuff, I tell you! It was SO hard to not take photos while we were touring and tweeting. But, this post will give you at little a nice little glimpse!So, what exactly is the Animation Research Library (ARL)?
Well, it’s a lot of things really. First off, it’s the largest collection of animation art in the world! How big? Well, try around 65 million pieces! WOW!!!! The collection spans from the 1920s through current day. So, it’s definitely a place to celebrate and curate history. In fact, John Lasseter is said to view the Research team here at the ARL as a legacy team of sorts. They are preserving this rich Disney and animated film history for generations to come!
Secondly, it’s a way for all of that rich Disney history to be accessible to members of the Walt Disney Company. So, in that regard, it really is a research facility. Artists, animators, writers, imagineers, etc. can come to the ARL for inspiration, problem solving, reusing/resurrecting old ideas, etc.
One of the many amazing things they are doing at the ARL is attempting to digitize major portions of the collection! With some special equipment and cameras, they are able to digitize the artwork and animation such that artists can see details that you wouldn’t be able to with the naked eye. It was incredible to see them work!
On the screen was some very old animation of a fun Goofy segment. It was amazing to see that come alive in high-tech fashion! Then, he pulled up a whole sequence from The Little Mermaid. It was unbelievable! And, after the Image Capture Room, we headed into the ARL design team’s space. And, oh my goodness all, what COOL jobs they have!! This team is involved with the art work, decor, etc. found in all kinds of various Disney buildings, exhibits, etc. They played a big role in helping with the Art of Animation Resort design at Walt Disney World! Amazing jobs! Everywhere we looked there was amazing Disney artwork and artifacts. This wall happened to showcase reproductions of story sketches from Sleeping Beauty, “Mickey and the Beanstalk” & “The Pied Piper”. But, there is a lot of original artwork, some of which I got to stand *this* close to. One place we got to see a lot of original art and artifacts were in the vaults. They really do exist! 😉 Yes, there REALLY are Disney vaults. We actually got to go into Vault 3 and Vault 5 (there are currently 11 total).
Among many other things, we got to see an original glass pane from a forest scene in Bambi and we saw the original background art of Malificent’s layer in Sleeping Beauty. Goosebumps! I’m a bit of a history nerd anyway, so when you combine that with creativity and Disney – well, it’s hard to come up with the right words! 😉
The vaults are organized by production dates and have many safeguards in place (along with very specific environmental controls). So, they are housing the artwork better than in the past (and thus, preserving the art better), yet it is still accessible to those in the Walt Disney Company family! And last but most definitely not least, we got an amazing behind-the-scenes look at a lot of art from The Little Mermaid, including original concept art! It was sooooo incredible and completely fascinating to see how things change from original concept art to the final product. In the interview with Ron Clements & John Musker, we learned some back story on how “Mermaid” came to happen and to see the concepts unfold via the art was so neat. One of the original concepts for Ursula was completely different than how she ended up (and was quite a bit scarier- looking). And, did you know that in some of the concept art pieces Ariel is actually blonde?! I can say with certainty that she looks much better as a red-head! 🙂 So neat, huh?! It was beyond amazing -something truly that I will never, ever forget! So, I hope you enjoyed this little glimpse that I was allowed to share with you! 🙂
Remember that The Little Mermaid Diamond Edition on Blu-ray/DVD will hit stores on October 1st!
What would YOU have been most excited to see in the Disney Animation Research Library?
Disclosure: Disney provided me with an all expenses paid trip to the Hollywood for the purposes of this coverage. As always, all opinions, experiences, and love of Disney are entirely my own!