Getting an Inside Look at the Disney Animation Research Library

By Shannon Gurnee
In Blogging Events
September 19, 2013

Disney Disclosure

Animation Research Library

At the beginning of August, I had the opportunity to visit the Animation Research Library in Southern California.  It is housed in a very discreet location.  In fact, we couldn’t even check in to Foursquare – that’s how discreet it was!  The Disney Animation Research Library is so amazing and contains the largest animation collection in the world – over 65 million pieces of art!  As a blogger, I am ALWAYS taking pictures with either my phone or camera.  However, in the Animation Research Library, we were only able to take pictures in the lobby.  Thanks to Walt Disney Studios, we were provided with some images from our tour of the Archives.

Disney ARL 1

Image courtesy of Walt Disney Studios.

During my visit to the Animation Research Library, it was fascinating to witness the meticulous preservation and organization of the animation artifacts. The dedicated team of archivists ensures that each piece of art is carefully cataloged and stored, allowing artists and researchers to access them for reference and inspiration. The ability to visit this treasure trove of animation history provides a unique opportunity to delve into the rich heritage of Disney and explore the creative process behind some of the most beloved animated films and characters. The Animation Research Library truly serves as a haven for both artists seeking inspiration and enthusiasts eager to glimpse the magic behind the scenes.

So, what is the purpose of the Disney Archives?  The Disney Archives, which was known as the Morgue in the past, has the task of taking care of animation but keeping it accessible at the same time.  Walt Disney saw the value in retaining artwork so that future generations of artists could refer to it.  In fact, artists sometimes even visit the Animation Research Library for inspiration on current projects they are working on.

Disney ARL 2Image courtesy of Walt Disney Studios.

As part of our tour, we had the opportunity to tour a few of the Vaults within the Animation Research Library.  Vault #3 contained 40 years of art – all the way from Snow White to Winnie the Pooh.  The artwork contained in this vault is so valuable and fragile that any employees entering the room must do so with white gloves on.  Included in the vaults are pieces of animation, scale models and other artifacts.

Disney ARL 3Image courtesy of Walt Disney Studios.

The Vaults in the Animation Research Library are kept from 59-61 degrees Fahrenheit and the humidity at 50%.  This is to preserve the drawings for as long as possible.  The walls are about 1 foot thick and designed to protect the art from fire.  The carriages are even designed to not fall over in the event of an earthquake.

Disney ARL 4Image courtesy of Walt Disney Studios.

After visiting the vaults, we had the opportunity to interview Leila Smith, the Creative Director for The Little Mermaid.  We learned about how challenging it was for the artists to create the perfect Ariel.  The artists for The Little Mermaid got inspiration from how an astronaut’s hair floats in space.  Originally Ariel was going to be blonde (weird, right?), but red looked better against the blues and greens and the artists felt her red hair popped more!  We also learned that Walt had started development of The Little Mermaid in the 30s, but it was scrapped and revisited in the 80s.

Remember, you can own The Little Mermaid Diamond Edition on October 1st, 2013!

Have you ever been to the Animation Research Library?  What is your favorite Disney movie?

About Has 2214 Posts

Shannon Gurnee is the author of Redhead Mom formerly "The Mommy-Files", a national blog with a loyal following. She has a Bachelor's Degree in Marriage, Family, and Human Development with a Minor in Business Management. Shannon and her husband, Frank, have a large family with 6 awesome kids and love living on the Central Coast near San Luis Obispo, California, as well as traveling around the world. A full-time Social Media and Professional Blogger, Shannon also serves as a National Brand Ambassador for many well-known companies. Her blog focuses on motherhood, family fun activities, traveling, fashion, beauty, technology, wedding ideas and recipes while providing professional opinions on products, performances, restaurants, and a variety of businesses.

21 Responses to “Getting an Inside Look at the Disney Animation Research Library”

  1. What an amazing place to visit, growing up in So Cal, I’ve been a Disney fan my whole life.

    • Shannon Gosney says:

      Denise – it was an awesome experience. I would have had no idea it was located where it was and wonder if those living near it even knew. 🙂

  2. Julie Wood says:

    I have never been to the Disney Animation Library, but I would love to go there. My favorite Disney movie is the Little Mermaid because I like the story so much.

    • Shannon Gosney says:

      Julie – I love The Little Mermaid too! It was so awesome seeing the original pictures and learning that she was gonna be blonde at first! So glad they made her a redhead. 🙂

  3. Kelsey Apley says:

    Little Mermaid WAS and IS my all-time favorite cartoon! That would be such an amazing and neat experience!!! Thanks for sharing!!

  4. Jeannette says:

    How cool to get an inside look like that! It sounds amazing!

  5. How fun! Love the Little Mermaid pics!

  6. Tara says:

    I love visiting Disney’ Animations. It’s always a treat. And to see Ariel being created. The steps. Awesome!

  7. Sarah says:

    What a fun day! The Little Mermaid has always been my favorite! I can totally see the astronaut hair inspiration.

  8. What a neat experience! I’ve never been to one. My favorite Disney movie is Alice in Wonderland. Although Monsters Inc is a close second. So hard to choose, they’re all great!

  9. mel says:

    This is so unbelievably cool! Seriously I am so jealous! The little mermaid is Hayley and I’s favorite Disney movie!

  10. Oh man! I have been in Walt Disney Animation Studios but never the research library – I didn’t even know it existed – that is awesome!

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