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    17 Magical Facts About How Disney Preserves Its Animation

    Fact: Belle would love this library.

    You probably love Disney animated movies, but you've probably never thought much about what happens to all the drawings and sketches that go into making them, right?

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    Well, I got to visit Disney's secret Animation Research Library, aka the ARL, the huge building where they keep all the cool behind-the-scenes Disney stuff. Here's everything I learned about how Disney preserves its past:

    1. The ARL isn't open to the public, and its location is technically a secret.

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    Although, according to ARL Manager Fox Carney, the location leaked decades ago when "a competing animation studio down the street" broke ground on their facility and accidentally let slip they were moving in next to the ARL.

    2. Pens are prohibited.

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    I had to take notes with a pencil — which, unlike pen, can be erased from precious artwork in the event of an accident.

    3. The ARL houses an estimated 65 million pieces of art.

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    4. Anything that went into the production of a Disney animated movie — concept art, story sketches, layout drawings, background paintings, etc. — from the 1920s to today can be found there, if it was saved.

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    Obviously not all the artwork has been saved, and even Walt Disney himself used to give away drawings to celebrities and VIP visitors.

    5. All the artwork housed in the ARL is used for internal educational purposes. Any Disney employee in any division can access the ARL.

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    6. Teams working on current live-action adaptations of Disney animated classics have visited the archives, though no one would say exactly who. Those teams have, however, "mostly wanted to look at story material like environment drawings."

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    *cough* LION KING *cough*

    7. The artwork has to be handled with cotton gloves because the oil in human hands can react with and damage the art. With certain delicate pieces, employees use non-latex rubber gloves because even cotton gloves can sometimes pull and damage the artwork over time.

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    8. There are 11 vaults in the ARL. Some house props and reference objects such as maquettes, which are stored with meticulous care depending on what they're made of. Some of the newer maquettes are made of tough resin, but older models are delicate and prone to rot.

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    9. I saw some of the original puppets that were actually used in The Nightmare Before Christmas, which are kept in a big glass cabinet with a shade pulled over it. The puppets are made of foam latex, and unless they're protected from both air and light, they'll mold and disintegrate.

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    10. Some of the original background paintings had to be stored away in drawers because people breathing on them — yes, just breathing on them — was wearing down the paint.

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    11. The vaults include secret material from unproduced Disney films that never made it off the ground, from scripts to early visual development.

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    12. The vaults also include early concept work of beloved characters who looked really different in the beginning. I saw Tinkerbell with funky antennae, in a sparkly headband, and as both a redhead and a brunette.

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    13. For the past nine years, the ARL has been carefully digitizing and cataloguing every single piece of artwork. Photographers take pictures of the artwork...

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    14. ...which are then identified and catalogued with unique barcodes. This enables people to look up specific pieces of art, view them digitally, and easily locate them in the library.

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    15. The art isn't catalogued and archived chronologically. They prioritize iconic scenes that are referenced more often, like the "Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo" scene from Cinderella and the pirate fight scene in Peter Pan.

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    16. On a good day, professionals can photograph 1,000 pieces of animation art, which are then sent to a quality control team to check for errors in the image.

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    17. Over the past nine years, over 1.1 million pieces of art have been digitized and catalogued.

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    Only roughly 64 million left to go!

    Disney

    To revisit even more of your favorite Disney animated classics, check out Peter Pan on Blu-ray and Digital, available now in honor of its 65th anniversary.

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