Getty, Disney partner on study of animation cel artwork


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Snow White and the seven dwarfs -- along with other classic Disney characters -- are heading to the Getty.

The Getty Conservation Institute said Wednesday that it is partnering with a division of Disney to study the deterioration that can occur in plastics -- specifically, the kind used in animation cels.


The study will be conducted as a partnership between the Getty Institute in Brentwood and the Disney Animation Research Library, which is located in Glendale.

Tom Learner, a senior scientist at the Getty, said in an interview that the research will take place at both locations, with some of the cels traveling to the Getty for in-depth analysis. He said the study, which is likely to take three years to complete, is intended to explore the reasons why certain cels are deteriorating and to possibly come up with ways to slow the deterioration process.

‘The end point of the study isn’t restoration -- that would be something further down the line,’ said Learner. The cels tagged for study date as far as the 1930s, he estimated.

Among the recognizable Disney characters headed for the microscope are Snow White, Pinocchio and at least one character from the movie ‘Fantasia.’

Some of the cels already examined by the Getty show that paint is starting to come away from parts of the plastic, while others show signs of warping and yellowing, according to Learner.

The Disney Animation Research Library houses an estimated 65 million pieces of animation created over more than 80 years by the Walt Disney Animation Studios.


The Getty said the initial phase of research will involve an assessment of the best methods for the identification of the actual plastics used in the cels, and for monitoring the condition of cels made with cellulose nitrate and acetate.

Scientists at the Getty will also examine the physical and thermal properties of the plastics.

The new collaboration is part of the Getty’s “Preservation of Plastics” project that was initiated to study signs of deterioration in plastic objects in museum collections.

-- David Ng