Friday, March 21, 2008

Art Corner Restorations: Pete & Donald

Ah, the magical, mystical Art Corner. Long ago, it was Disneyland's dispatch center for thousands of vintage Disney cels, where you could buy original Disney artwork as a souvenir!

The Art Corner setups were often very puzzling - unlikely characters from completely different movies thrown together, with non-matching print backgrounds.

The cels were trimmed (often badly). I'm sure the idea was, the smaller the trim job, the smaller the mat... less cost! And the mats were not top-of-the-line to begin with!

All this showed how little regard was given to the actual artwork. It was making movies that was the thing... the artwork was just a part of the process, thought relatively worthless once photographed.

But thank God Disney sold these at the Art Corner instead of hauling them to the dump. Little did anyone know at the time, they were saving a significant portion of animation history.

As a collector, I find the Art Corner pieces intriguing for many reasons. Not least is the fact that you could buy hand-painted original Disney artwork for a dollar! (Occasionally slightly more. The very high end pieces I'm told were five dollars. That was for large setups with multiple characters.)

As a collector, I also enjoy saving pieces of animation history that might otherwise end up lost.

Such is today's story of Pete and Donald.

When I acquired this two-cel setup it was a mess. It had just about every problem possible. Cracking and missing paint plus major adhering problems. Not only was the bottom cel (Pete) adhered to the colored art board B/G (a common malady), Donald (the top cel) had adhered to the top of Pete. Specifically, the colored paint on the back of Donald's cel had adhered to Pete's ink lines on the top of his cel.

As I said, this was a mess. A big mess.

But the beautiful thing about cel restoration (done properly) is it can bring back damaged art. Even as bad than this!

The cels went to my talented restoration artist. And I began my research.

The Donald cel was immediately recognizable from DONALD IN MATHMAGICLAND. I digitally re-created the key master B/G.

As for the Pete cel, it's from interstitial material from "Donald's Award." Walt created his TV animation in color. Some of it was filmed in both color and black and white. Maybe someday the color version will surface and we'll see it.

In the meantime, the black and white version is on YouTube. Take a look!

The restorations turned out beautifully. But even more mind-boggling, my artist friend Kathy is capable of painting stunning reproduction key master backgrounds in every Disney style and from all eras.

I sent Kathy these screen grabs.

Using her imagination, she concocted the dandy custom B/G (and its color palette) for Pete. Fantastic!

Two wonderful pieces of vintage animation art are now restored with key master background presentations.

Is this a great hobby or what??!!!

Monday, March 10, 2008


Pictured here, the finished setup of Cruella DeVil, one of the greatest animated villains of all time. Mark Davis was the Disney artist who brought her to life. He animated every frame of this character, a Disney first.

Here is the cel, originally released by the Art Corner at Disneyland. Great pose, beautiful colors. Imagine getting this for a dollar!Unfortunately I was about 30 years late for an Art Corner bargain. But I was still delighted to add this to my animation art collection in January 2008. I purchased it from the good folks at the Van Eaton Gallery in Sherman Oaks, CA. They are great people, with a staggering array of artwork from which you can choose. They are knowledgeable and friendly, and their prices are very fair. The Van Eaton Gallery gets my highest recommendation. When in the Los Angeles area stop by and tell 'em Rob Richards sent you!
Van Eaton's presentation had cleverly set up the cel with a laserprint of a background layout drawing of Roger and Anita's living room. It was quite nice. But ever the perfectionist, I wanted my setup with a digitally recreated key master B/G from the movie. And fortunately I knew just the guy to do it... me!

With the key master B/G recreated, Cruella was carefully positioned, and the cel now precisely recreates the exact frame in the movie. With one exception... the new setup actually lets us see more of the cel than we did in the movie!

Monday, March 3, 2008


Last year, I was delighted and surprised to find two Disneyland Art Corner original animation cel setups, featuring the unlikely pairings of Donald Duck (from the film AMERICA AND STEEL, 1963) and penguins from MARY POPPINS (1964).

These came from separate sources but appeared within days of each other! Simply unbelievable.

The likelihood of this ever happening again was absolutely impossible. Right? Wrong!

I recently received an email from a very thoughtful fellow who discovered me via my animation blogs. He'd found some original Disney cels at an estate sale, tucked in between some old vinyl records. He asked if I had any interest in them. You better believe I answered that email quickly!

I made an offer, he accepted, and the deal was done. The cels arrived today. They are absolutely mint. No restoration needed (rather unusual for cels over 40 years old). These look like they were painted yesterday! Even the clear plastic cel material (on which the art is painted) is flawless, without any rippling or shrinking so often seen on pieces like this.

Typical of Art Corner setups, the color print backgrounds provided are totally non-key, from unrelated films. The pine tree B/G is from PAUL BUNYAN and the wintry B/G is from 101 DALMATIANS! Not to worry, I am at work on digitally reconstructing the key Master backgrounds for each individual cel.

Art Corner setups included the official "Gold Seal" certificate of authenticity affixed to the back of the artwork. Here's the Gold Seal from the Donald/Penguin with the "Paul Bunyan" background:

Perhaps the most amazing thing is the original Disneyland price, handwritten in pencil on one of these setups - $1.50! Oh, if only I had a time machine...

The Art Corner presentations as originally released by Disneyland are pictured above. Below, the the cels' actual corresponding moments in their respective films. Don't forget to click on the photos to see the larger versions with more detail.

And finally... the cel setups with their new digitally re-created key backgrounds: