Saving 'Snow White': Disney, Getty Extend Animation Cel Conservation Research Effort

The organizations want to learn the optimal way to save cels from classics such as 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.'
Courtesy of Photofest

The Walt Disney Animation Research Library and the Getty Conservation Institute are starting a new phase in their research into the conservation of Disney animation cels from classics such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

The organizations are launching a four-year effort to investigate optimal storage conditions for cels, as well as strategies for re-attaching flaked and delaminated paints to the plastic surface.

“The findings of this ongoing collaboration will create a path toward significantly extending the life of this hugely important collection of animation cels,” said Tim Whalen, director of the Getty Conservation Institute. “This project also offers the Walt Disney Animation Research Library a more complete understanding of their collection and simultaneously expands our knowledge of a complex material that is a challenge to conservators worldwide.”

The ARL and GCI began this combined effort in 2009, when the ARL provided access to over 200,000 cels from the 1920s to 1989 in their climate-controlled facility in Glendale. Researchers analyzed and differentiated three types of plastic used to produce animation cels – cellulose nitrate, cellulose acetate, and Mylar (polyester). They also assessed the condition of sample cels, and observed yellowing, warping, cracking, shrinking, and delamination of paint, and in some cases were able to correlate the extent of deterioration with the specific composition of the cels.

The Walt Disney Company and the GCI are funding the research.