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S/R Labs' annual online auction gets underway today, company becomes official Disney licensee

S/R Labs' annual online auction gets underway today, company becomes official Disney licensee

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It's a busy but happy time for the folks at S/R Laboratories Animation Art Conservation Center. And not just because their annual Spring auction gets underway today. Which means that - now through tomorrow afternoon PT- some rarer-than-rare cels, storyboard and concept sketches will be coming up for bid.


Image courtesy of S/R Laboratories, Inc.
All rights reserved

No, Ron Stark and his team in Westlake Village are happy these days because S/R Laboratories Animation Art Conservation Center has just recently become an official licensee of the Walt Disney Company.

"After 30 years in the business, we're now officially an overnight success," Stark quipped. Back in the mid-1970s, Ron actually pioneered the practice of animation art conservation. "We began in 1976 as a project of the animation society, with the hope of then fulfilling the dreams of the animation art collecting community by professionally caring for their artwork. On our own since 1983, now with our new association and partnership with Disney, S/R Labs kicks an exciting new chapter in our history."


Ron Stark shows a sampling of some of the 15,000
colors that S/R Labs animation art conservators
have at their disposal. Photo by Jim Hill

Which isn't to that - even before they cut this new deal with Disney -- that there weren't already exciting things going on at S /R Laboratories Animation Art Conservation Center. Late last Fall, Ron personally took me on a tour of his facility in Sherman Oaks. Which I can only describe as being this weird combination of a hospital, the greatest animation art gallery you'll ever see and a scientific lab.

Throughout the S/R Laboratories Animation Art Conversation Center, dedicated staffers were seemingly doing the impossible. Which involved taking these incredibly fragile pieces of celluloid that had once been used in the creation of classic Disney films like "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" ...


Here's a beautiful Courvoisier original of the Seven Dwarfs which -- because the paint
has begun to chip & fall off of the back of this piece of celluloid -- now needs
some serious TLC. Photo by Jim Hill

... "Pinocchio" ...


Paints at the ready, S/R Labs conservators gets ready to
repair a Geppetto cell. Photo by Jim Hill

... and "Bambi."


Here's a perfect example of the sort of restoration magic that S/R Labs can do. Taking the
damaged almost-beyond-repair Bambi celluloid on the left and then replicating this piece
with stable paints and inks on the right. Photo by Jim Hill

And then - by taking what can only be described as a surgical operation to the restoration of these decades-old pieces of animation art - S/R Labs carefully matches paint colors, no mention replicating & repairing fine bits of inking line work. And what was once a mess of chipped paint and cracked celluloid then becomes a beautiful piece of animation art that's been restored to its former glory.

Of course, what really helps here is that - as Walt Disney Feature Animation was stepping away from using actual ink & paint in the production of its animated features in the late 1980s and then embracing the CAPS system -- S/R Laboratories Animation Art Conservation Center was there.


Check out all of the paints & inks that are necessary to
replicate this image from "Winnie the Pooh and
the Blustery Day."  Photo by Jim Hill

"It took us decades to do this. But the color books that S/R Labs created internally are the most thorough and accurate that currently exists," Stark explained. "Our paint library features more than 15,000 different colors, all individually matched to films and characters. Which means that our conservators can  - with complete accuracy and authenticity - match the precise shade that was used to paint a character in a particular scene of any Disney animated feature."


Amelia Dodge prepares to work some color magic as she gets ready to replicate some
colors on a Tinker Bell cel. Photo by Jim Hill

Mind you, in order to replicate some of these shades in a archival-friendly form of paint, you need someone who has the skills of a chemist AND a colorist. Luckily, S /R Labs has Amelia Dodge on staff. Who - as Lab Supervisor - is an absolute whiz when it comes to matching colors.

S / R Labs also can replicate the delicate inking that was done on cels of this era. Thanks to Beth Ann Gee's skilled hands as well as the fact that S /R Labs was able to locate a stash of Esterbrook and Gillot pen nibs. Which are the exact same long-out-of-production pen nibs that Disney's own inkers used to use back when they were inking cels back in the 1940s & 1950s.


Beth Ann Gee carefully inks a Courvoisier Miniature.
Photo by Jim Hill

But what's truly great about S/ R Labs that they're now able to take all of their years of experience when it comes to restoring animation art and then apply that to the creation of whole new pieces for their Courvoisier Miniatures line.


It takes a really steady hand to ink Tink. Photo by Jim Hill

Though these pieces are just 8.25" x 6.75" (i.e. just a quarter of the size of a standard production animation cel), S /R Laboratories Animation Art Conservation Center doesn't stint on quality. Every Courvoisier Miniature is hand inked and painted in the tradition of the finest Disney eras of animation art. What's more, each piece is embellished with special effects doine in the original styles. Airbrushed enhancements, such as delicate shadows, are applied individually to each cel with Paasche´ airbrushes, just as they were done back in the day at Disney Studios.

And as you can see by these shots of the then-in-production "A Brave Tale" Courvoisier Miniature ...


Mickey seems startled by the number of paint colors that are used to create a
Courvoisier Miniature. Photo by Jim Hill

... this piece (which was created from an original drawing by Disney Legend Fred Moore) was produced with complete fidelity to the craft & the artistry that was originally used to create the Mickey Mouse cartoon that inspired this piece, 1938's "The Brave Little Tailor."

 "We're very excited about "A Brave Tale," said Ron Stark, Director of S/R Labs. "Not only because we are continuing the Disney legacy by producing artwork as it was made over 70 years ago, but also because S/R is now an official Disney licensee, allowing us at last to introduce new and unique animation art editions we've had in our imagination for years. I think the Disney animation art collecting community is in for a real treat."


Here's a veritable Silly Symphony full of classic Disney characters on celluloid that S/R
Labs hopes to restore & frame someday. Photo by Jim Hill

Which is why it's probably wise to keep an eye on S/R Labs in the weeks and months ahead. Not just so you can then bid on some of the terrific pieces of animation art that always come up for bid at their annual Spring & Fall online auctions. But also for all of those handmade bits of magic that S /R Laboratories Animation Art Conservation Center - now that it's an official Disney licensee - will soon be making available for purchase.

FYI: If you're looking to get on the ground floor when it comes to these exciting new line of animation art collectibles, Courvoisier Miniatures are available through exclusive retail dealers and at Disneyland and Walt Disney World. For a list of dealers or more information on the Courvoisier Miniatures line, please click on this link.


Image courtesy of S/R Laboratories, Inc. All rights reserved

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