The following place I am going to tell you about is the Disney Animation Research Library. I was allowed access to this area to celebrate the upcoming 40th Anniversary, October 2 release of The Jungle Book from Walt Disney Video. Before you start scratching your head and asking where the Animation Research Library is, let me just say that I cannot divulge that information and even if you went searching for it chances are you would never find it, that's because the powers that be have gone out of their way to make this place look as unassuming as possible. In fact I drove by it a bunch of times before I realized where it was. Like all things Disney this place has certain aura and magic about it. It houses a lot of animation that has been used to create many of the Disney classics. Imagine getting to walk into a room and seeing the real backgrounds that were used in Bambi? Or Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs? What about getting to see maquettes that were used in movies like Pinocchio, 101 Dalmations, and even such recent films as Cars?
Hosting more than 40 million pieces of animation art, this collection spans the range of over 80 years of work from the classic and timeless original shorts, featurettes and full-length feature animated films that comprise the legacy of Walt Disney's masterful works of animation. In fact this collection is so comprehensive that it includes some of the earliest images of Mickey Mouse including production artwork from Steamboat Willy, and the oldest Disney character, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit.
The exhibit at the Animation Research Library began with a visit through the Work Area. It was explained to us that this is where a lot of the digital research happens as well as where they work on layouts for restoring movies in the past and present. It looks like their systems for all of the content in the library and each of the pieces is kept meticulously organized because of its irreplaceable nature. After this we were moved into a vault which was essentially a storage area for the aforementioned maquettes. There were 3-D models of Jiminy Crickett, Aladdin, and The Little Mermaid, etc. After this, the person who was showing the group I was with the Library explained the three camera process that was used to create the early Disney movies. He then showed us some of the plate glass pieces that had been saved from this time. (Apparently, back in the day, when they were done using one plate of glass, rather then start work with a new one, they simply erased away these irreplaceable pieces of artwork).
After being shown more backgrounds from films like Lady and the Tramp, we were informed that in the film Aladdin, the character of Princess Jasmine was animated in Florida while Aladdin himself was done in California. After this we moved into another vault that resembled something out of Raiders Of The Lost Ark. With even more background sequences stored in these chambers that could only be opened by turning a steering wheel like lever, we were informed that as much material as there was stored in this particular vault they couldn't recreate an entire film from the ground up. We were also informed that Disney's Animation Research Library only housed the images to their films and none of the audio assets. Upon leaving this vault were were taken into this exhibit area of Disney merchandise. Apparently, Pixar Chief Creative Officer John Lasseter has had the biggest hand in spearheading the effort to preserve these priceless Disney artifacts. Also, the Research Library lends out certain pieces for exhibits and eventually it looks like there might be a Disney Exhibition of some of these pieces in Los Angeles.
After this, I had the pleasure of sitting down and conducting the following video interviews with Andy Siditsky who was in charge of the extra features for the 40th Anniversary release of The Jungle Book. After him I spoke with Theo Gluck who restored The Jungle Book for this DVD release, and lastly, I had a chance to sit down with the voice of Mowgli himself, Bruce Reitherman. Click below to watch our exclusive video...
The 40th Anniversary of The Jungle Book comes to DVD October 2 from Walt Disney Video.