Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Revisiting the Disneyland Art Corner - Part One

Editor's Note: Our previous article on the Disneyland Art Corner has proven to be one of our most popular endeavors here at 2719 Hyperion. Noted musician and Disneyana collector Rob Richards was instrumental in providing resources and information for that post. We are now very happy to welcome Rob as a contributor to 2719 Hyperion as he shares with us in a two-part series, more insight into the Disneyland Art Corner, along with some wonderful animation art from his own personal collection.

Special to 2719 Hyperion by Rob Richards

The artwork released at Disneyland’s Art Corner comprises a significant percentage of all available, collectible original Disney production cels. The studio considered these cels essentially worthless, just a necessary step in producing animated films. They were sold as souvenirs at Disneyland instead being thrown into the garbage. . . and sold cheaply at that. Some Art Corner cels were priced at seventy-five cents! Usually the price was a dollar for a single character. Multiple character setups went for as much as five dollars.

The artwork was thrown together quickly, haphazardly trimmed and stapled. Sometimes they were layered with another cel from the same production, but often not. On rare occasion the setups included an original painted production background. What a prize that would be! Most often the cels received a color print background (a reprint of Disney background art) or simply a colored piece of art board. The setups were usually uninspired. The preparation of these setups was undoubtedly a do-it-as-quickly-as-possible assembly line.

Whatever the circumstances, an incredible volume of significant art found its way to the Art Corner. Now, some fifty years later, that same art is still moving through galleries and private collections. Now the prices range from hundreds to thousands of dollars!

The examples here include all the Art Corner artifacts . . . in some you can actually see the staple used to assemble the setups!

Here, a variety of combinations typical of the Art Corner artwork.

Occasionally, the Art Corner created a really wonderful setup almost by accident. The Maificent shown is such a setup. It is trimmed, and paired with a non-key Sleeping Beauty print background. Marc Davis’ powerful character is beautifully represented by this single dramatic cel.

Another setup that works is Donald’s nephews in the backyard. The print background and trombone player are from unknown production(s). The party hat nephew is from “At Home With Donald Duck,” a TV production that paired new interstitial material with vintage theatrical shorts. The overall setup is pleasant and very satisfactory. (The ducks' white paint had cracked, and this was one instance where the paint was re-wetted by the restorer, enabling restoration with all original paint! This is not always possible.)

Unusual, eccentric pairings are never a surprise. One very bizarre combination is Tinkerbell (post-Peter Pan) paired with a Huey/Dewey/Louie, on a Sleeping Beauty background! Very strange. But, with cel layers separated and Tink put on the appropriate background of the Disneyland Castle, the art takes on a whole new feeling.

There are a great many setups that paired Donald Duck from the industrial/educational film Steel and America (1965) with penguins from Mary Poppins (1964). These turn up with some regularity on eBay. Here are several examples, followed by the separated cel setups with digitally recreated key master backgrounds.




Each collector is different. To many, the complete setup with a key background is essential to the presentation. In order to make this happen, the cel layers of the Art corner cels are separated. The character's key production background is digitally recreated and sized, laserprinted, then combined with the cels to recreate one magical moment (and one frame of film) from a classic Disney film.

Restoration is also part of the equation. The cels were never meant to last. In the early days, they were washed off and re-used!

When cels age, paint undergoes a variety of indignities: flaking, cracking, peeling, bleeding and glassing. Additionally, water damage is also sometimes seen. These problems can be repaired to perfection by professional cel restorers. There are many good ones. Never trust a company’s public relations alone. Always ask for references before you entrust your art to anyone.

Many Art Corner cels have survived intact. Others have fared badly. One theory is that certain binding agents which may or may not have been used in a certain batch of paint could cause problems. It’s as good a theory as any.

Take for example this Goofy from "The Adventure Story," a TV production which aired in 1957. The missing character is Goofy's son. They're together up in the attic reading a history of the Goof family. This cel was in the worst condition possible, a victim of aggressive water damage. After restoration, it reveals a great pose of Goofy. One day, a digital background with Goofy's son will complete the setup.

Return to 2719 Hyperion tomorrow as we continue Revisiting the Disneyland Art Corner with Rob Richards.

Animation art from the collection of Rob Richards.