Friday, April 30, 2021



Disney's Animation Research Library is a marvel. It houses tens of millions of artworks from all of the companie's animated films. Story sketches, layouts, animation drawings, background paintings, models and much more. 
When I started at the studio in 1980 this massive collection was housed in the basement of the Ink & Paint building on the Burbank studio lot. At that time it was called the Morgue. A few years later all the art was moved to a state of the art, temperature and humidity controlled site nearby. 
As an animator I had the privilege to visit the ARL frequently and study scenes (the actual drawings) from Snow White to The Rescuers. Classic short films as well. 
It was important that before each visit I sort of knew what I was interested in researching. Without a clear idea in mind your brain would drown in this seemingly endless archive of masterpieces.

Analyzing the work by Disney's incredible animators was simply the best school you could ask for. And then to have the opportunity to ask Frank, Ollie, Milt, Marc and Eric in person why they did things a certain way!  

You can find "mini tours" of the Are on youtube. here is one of them:


  1. For those who have Disney plus, there's also a short segment in the second episode of "Disney Insider" from last year where Andreas and Burny Mattinson visit the ARL.
    I'd love to get a closer look at the closet where all those maquettes are stored.

  2. Like in that movie The Breakfast Club, I would love to be left alone in the ARL on a weekend looking and studying everything I could on Milt's work, Bill Peet, Marc, Lounsbery,etc....

    1. One weekend only? ;-)
      I would stay there my whole life! :-)

  3. You would have to drag me out of there, if I was ever allowed in!
    You can get a quick look at how it used to be in this 'making of' thing for Mickey's Christmas Carol

    I wonder how they store digital art works now? Do they store all the working files for the CG films in there also? Do they print out digital paintings like the BGs for the Princess and the Frog?
    I'm kind of concerned about this stuff because a lot of the productions I work on just lock up the servers at the end. The roughs, layouts etc are never seen again, unless someone sneaks a copy or they're able to get some stuff for their portfolio (studios are not always cooperative about that)

    1. Spot on. I get the impression even the preservation of the original digital ink and paint files for hand-drawn films can be put into question.

      I realise that Disney Animation has diligently kept a few workstations running CAPS as a means to retain access to these assets, but what about other studios?

      When The Iron Giant earned a Blu-ray release, I was sceptical whether it was sourced from the digital files or a 35mm archival print. It seems to have been the latter, which makes sense considering God knows what happened to the source data when Warner Bros. Feature Animation shut down!

      And now, of course, there's Blue Sky. What happens to all their archived digital assets now that the studio is officially shuttered? I wish I knew ...

    2. The physical artwork for the Iron Giant is archived,( so I'd guess that the digital stuff is just sitting on hard drives somewhere?
      That's super interesting that they keep some CAPS computers around! I wonder if they'd also convert all the assets to newer formats as they come up.
      Like you said about Blue Sky, companies come and go, and there's not always someone there who's going to care about archiving the artwork!

  4. that's my dream library right there! Thank you so much Andrea for sharing all these pictures.