In a non-descript building, in a hidden location, lies the Disney Animation Research Library. Imagine, if you will, a repository where animators can visit and research every note scribbled napkin or original art cel created by a Disney artist. It exists somewhere in California and I had a chance to visit it. Here is what we discovered in the cartoon knowledge bank.
One huge undertaking that they perform at the Research Library is the scanning of artwork. All of the images that you get in those bonus features on the re-released versions of Disney classics come from here. The researchers here have multiple scanners working around the clock to record every piece of artwork that has ever been created during the production of an animated Disney movie. Another major reason for this is for the next generation coming through the ranks. If any researcher ever needs to see a piece or investigate production notes, they are saved in the highest definition- ready for viewing – while the originals remain safe in the vault.
This is where the “vault” is located and this is what it looks like. However, the real pieces that need to be kept locked up are not reels of movies, but the original pieces of art and inspiration. During the beginning days of Disney Animation, they never thought that art cels or models used in design would have any value. Much of it was trashed or reused for another production. Now when they find these pieces, they are brought here and imaged and stored for posterity.
The final reason for the Library is research. Disney artists come investigate how and why certain pieces were done they way they were. It allows them to have insight into what the original artist was thinking, especially since all notes and journals are archived also. Many times, these artists have models made so they can see how lighting effects items in different ways and how an item would “lay” in a different position, or how a material would look when moved.
Moreover, it is important to know that a place like this exists – a little look behind the curtain.