Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Visiting the Disney Animation Research Library

Continuing my story of my February Los Angeles trip, today is my visit to the TOP SECRET Disney Animation Research Library. I say "top secret" in all caps like that because it really is some serious, Area-51 level secrecy going on with this place. The address is not listed anywhere on the building. It is plain on the outside and surrounded by a huge fence. We were not allowed to take any photos (so all the ones in this post are thanks to the Disney photographer who followed us around in an official manner) and we were not permitted to tweet or do anything on our phones with geolocation services active. In fact, we were not allowed to take anything but our notepads (or in my case, my iPad, wifi off, note taking app only) back on the tour with us. Not even pens, you guys. NO PENS ALLOWED.

The entrance to the ARL. Image © Disney.

We were taken on a lovely tour of the facility with literally every piece of Disney animation art in existence housed within. It was incredible. The first part of our tour included some original Peter Pan artwork laid out on tables for us, which was used in research for The Pirate Fairy characters, specifically young Captain James. The animators for Pirate Fairy were allowed access to the art so that their work would be in line with previous Peter Pan stories, which was their intent.

Some of my blogger friends checking out the art. I didn't make it into any
of these shots unfortunately. Images © Disney.

The original art is obviously very old and delicate at this point. Those tasked with handling and cataloging the pieces are required to do so with museum precision, wearing gloves and using spatulas to move the artwork. Many of the people who work here have degrees in art history or have worked in museums.

Image © Disney.

Then we were taken into the vaults. These places are massive and have huge rolling cabinets that house the gigantic background artwork all the way to individual cells. It's climate controlled and even has a special fire suppression system that won't damage the art.

Visiting the vaults. I'm not in these pictures either.
Images © Disney.

We were also shown the way the art is digitally photographed for online cataloging, so that animators can access it from their desks and without having to handle the art. These cameras are also, like many things in the ARL, huge.

Digitally photographing and scanning the art. Images © Disney.

Another stop on the tour was to see where and how some of the realistic props are made for promotional and display use. For instance, there was a special bottle in the Pirate Fairy movie that the filmmakers wanted to have made in real life. The prop makers used a light bulb and LED lighting to make the bottle the right shape and size, and to give it a blue glow.

The prop masters and their offices. Images © Disney.

Being the good little geek I am, I managed to record audio of my entire tour. It's almost an hour worth of listening, but it's broken up into individual tracks. The first track is the introduction to the ARL in the front foyer. Track 2 is the presentation of the Peter Pan artwork and a little more in-depth about the ARL and its history. Track 3 is the prop masters. Track 4 is the vault presentation. My audio from the camera room somehow did not record properly (boo hiss!).

Finally, here is just a sample of some of the original Peter Pan art we were treated to! They didn't get a shot of my favorite piece, which was concept art of Never Land floating as an island in space, but the few they did give us access to are really cool. Some original concept art for Captain Hook, an idea for Never Land, and Skull Rock. I love how the color bleeds out of the little box in the Never Land picture. Just incredible!

Images © Disney.

Be sure to stay tuned for more Pirate Fairy coverage, as it hits store shelves on April 1st! No foolin'!

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