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"Disney Dossiers" showcases some seldom-seen art from the studio's animation research library

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"Disney Dossiers" showcases some seldom-seen art from the studio's animation research library

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It's what every good Disney dweeb dreams of. Someday getting into the ARL. As in: WDFA's Animation Research Library.

You see, the ARL is the place where -- once production is completed on a particular animated feature -- all the artwork is then sent. Both the finished animation drawings as well as the more conceptual material. You know? Those drawings that the studio's artists and storymen do when they're still trying to find their way on a film.

It's all this amazing "What If" material that really appeals to the hardcore animation history buffs like myself. Which is why people like me dream & scheme about someday getting into Disney's ARL. So that we can then have the chance to see what Snow White would have looked like if she were blonde ...


Copyright 2006 Disney Editions

... or what the Beast would have looked like if he had been more mandrill than man.


Copyright 2006 Disney Editions

Or see if the Blue Fairy in "Pinocchio" would have appeared a bit more magical & majestic if she had had darker hair or worn a different crown.


Copyright 2006 Disney Editions

Or learn if Bernard & Bianca from "The Rescuers" would have been even more appealing if they'd worn different outfits and/or looked a bit more like real mice.


Copyright 2006 Disney Editions

Yeah, the ARL is where all of Disney's great "What Ifs" live. And it's extremely unlikely that any of us civilians will ever get the chance to prowl around its archives.

Which is why we should all be grateful that Jeff Kurtti has just written Disney Dossiers: Files of Characters from the Walt Disney Studios" (October 2006, Disney Editions). For this 160-page paperback seems like a pretty good approximation of what it would be like to have unfettered access to the studio's Animation Research Library. To be able to dig through the past 80 years worth of material.


Copyright 2006 Disney Editions

I guess I should stress here that the "Disney Dossiers" doesn't pretend to be a definitive history of the studio or its characters. But -- rather -- it's just this cleverly designed book that briefly touches on some of the more intriguing projects that the Mouse Factory has churned out since 1928.

The conceit of "Disney Dossiers" is that it supposedly reproduces this set of secret studio files. Manila folders that loosely group Disney's films & characters into specific categories. Cats & Dogs. Royalty & Sidekicks. Villains & Extra-Evil Villains. Children & Perpetual Children.

Speaking of Perpetual Children ... As you page through "Disney Dossiers," you'll see some wonderful pre-production art from "Peter Pan." The richly detailed concept paintings that David Hall did for this proposed animated feature back in the late 1930s ...


Copyright 2006 Disney Editions

Which suggest what Walt originally had in mind for J.M. Barrie's characters ...


Copyright 2006 Disney Editions

Creating an animated feature that was to have been more in the style of "Pinocchio" and "Snow White." Rather than what we eventually ended up with in 1953.


Copyright 2006 Disney Editions

Mind you, Kurtti doesn't group all of this "Peter Pan" material together. So -- in order to find these gems -- you really have to do some digging through all of the "Disney Dossiers" that are collected in this paperback.

But if you are paying attention, there really is some pretty wild stuff hidden in here. Like what? Well, how about a six-legged version of Elliot, the title character from "Pete's Dragon"?


Copyright 2006 Disney Editions

Or how about artwork from films that never actually made it off the drawing boards at WDFA? Animated features like "Kingdom of the Sun" ...


Copyright 2006 Disney Editions

... or "Sweating Bullets"?


Copyright 2006 Disney Editions

Mind you, Jeff makes sure to spread the love around. Meaning that "Disney Dossiers" doesn't just concentrate on the full-length animated features that WFDA churned out over the years. This book also pays tribute to some of the more remarkable shorts that the studio has produced. Great little films like "John Henry."


Copyright 2006 Disney Editions

As I said toward the start of today's article, "Disney Dossiers: Files of Characters from the Walt Disney Studios" doesn't pretend to be a definitive history of Disney Studios or its characters. All this book really tries to be is an attractively laid-out paperback that showcases some of the seldom-seen pieces of art that are stashed away in Disney's Animation Research Library.

That (admittedly) may not be the most ambitious goal. But -- that said -- Jeff Kurtti still delivers in spades. "Disney Dossiers" is a doozy of a book. So if you're a real animation fan, make a point of picking up a copy of this paperback about Disney's ARL ASAP.

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  • I just added this book to my Christmas list- thanks for letting us know about it!  I'm in awe of these pictures.  It's almost like the book "The Disney That Never Was" by Charles Solomon, in the sense that it has concept art from films that never actually came out (or films that changed (KOTS & SB).  Concept art is my favorite animation art, so I hope Santa brings this to me.  

    Snow White up there looks like Alice a bit, and it's kind of cool to see "Alice" and Grumpy together... :-)

    Thanks for the article & pictures!
  • May have to pick this one up. But what I'd really like to see are Tim Burton's design drawings for "The Black Cauldron."
  • I thought that Kingdom of the Sun was renamed to Emperor's New Groove. Am I correct? This book looks very interesting and will be a great one to get.
  • Hey, Jim (or anyone), how much (if any) crossover is there between this book and the Solomon book that blackcauldron mentions?
  • rainjax- I can't fully answer your question, but "The Disney That Never Was" came out in December of 1995, so this new book has a lot of stuff that hadn't even been created yet for the first book (John Henry, Kingdom, Bullets, etc.).  I've read "Never Was" a few times years ago, and I think both are worth getting (they're both on my Christmas list!).
  • ooh, I hate double posting, but, RogerRmjet, there totally should be a book devoted to the art of "The Black Cauldron"!  Good idea!  I mean, some of the concept art is on the DVD, as Aunt Eye Bias said, but I'm sure there's so much more hidden away in the vault!
  • "Empire of the Sun" became "The Emperor's New Groove" and "Sweating Bullets" became "Home on the Range," even though the plots of both movies changed, the former titles are mentioned on each of the films DVD releases if you listen to the audio commentaries.
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