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Tuesday, May 17 • 10:00am - 10:30am
(Paintings) A study of painted animation cels, their materials and deterioration processes

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Until the advent of computer-generated imagery towards the end of the twentieth century, traditional hand-painted cel animation was the usual method for creation of animated movies. The illusion of movement was created by sequential photographing onto motion picture film of inked and painted images – usually on transparent cellulose nitrate or acetate sheets - that differed incrementally; on average 24 separate shots provided one second of film.

Surviving animation cels today present challenging conservation problems for conservators and archivists. The Walt Disney Animation Research Library (ARL) in California houses perhaps the world’s largest repository of animation cels. In 2015 the Disney ARL began a collaborative research project with the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI) that aims to improve understanding and knowledge of animation cels, and to develop new approaches for their preventive and remedial conservation. A multidisciplinary team faces the challenge of preserving a collection of functional paintings that were originally expected to last only for the duration of the film production and never meant to be archived. Having served their initial purpose, many animation cels were discarded right after production, others were sold in limited quantities, and others were saved in the Disney art morgue. Today, there are roughly 500,000 animation cels archived at the ARL, which equals about 6 hours of animated movie.

The surviving cels are no longer simple functional items created solely for the purpose of making a movie: they are seen as works of art in their own right. They serve as historical as well as technological and cultural documents of their time. Accordingly, animation cels have value in their own right as cultural heritage material; archivists and conservators are faced with the questions of preservation, conservation and access. As a first step in this collaborative endeavor an in-depth condition survey of animation cels at the ARL has been conducted. This survey provided a unique opportunity to examine the sheets and paints used in the Walt Disney Animation Studios over the course of a 60 year period, and to observe, track, and understand deterioration processes in detail. In parallel with the condition survey, the material composition of the sheets and paints has been studied, using both archival documents and instrumental analytical methods such as FT-IR spectroscopy and Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry (GCMS). Until the late 1980s the Walt Disney Studios made their own paint based on a general recipe that was modified continuously. Studying the materiality of the painted cels and their changes over time provides the essential basis for evaluating conservation treatment possibilities.

This paper, focusing on the paint, will present broad perspectives as well as detailed findings emerging from the condition survey as well as the material studies. Consideration will be given to the implications of these findings for preventive and remedial conservation.

avatar for Katharina Hoeyng

Katharina Hoeyng

Research Associate, Getty Conservation Institute
Katharina Hoeyng joined the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI) in 2015 as a Research Associate, after being there as a visiting scientist in 2013. Her research focuses on the Disney Animation Cel Project as part of the Preservation of Plastics research, evaluating treatment methods for reattaching delaminating paint to the plastic substrate used in animation cels. Katharina graduated with a master’s degree in Art Technology and Conservation... Read More →

avatar for Alan Phenix

Alan Phenix

Scientist, Getty Conservation Institute
Alan Phenix is a paintings conservator, conservation educator and conservation scientist. He is presently 'Scientist' at the Getty Conservation Institute, Los Angeles, working partly for the Collections Research Laboratory (CRL) and partly for the Modern & Contemporary Art Research group. His work concerns mainly the analysis of art materials and the study of artists' technique.
avatar for Joy Mazurek

Joy Mazurek

Assistant Scientist, Getty Conservation Institute
Joy Mazurek specializes in the identification and characterization of natural and synthetic organic materials by a number of analytical techniques including gas chromatography/mass spectrometry and ion chromatography. She also works on the classification of biomarkers produced by microbiological deterioration from a range of cultural heritage materials. She is currently an assistant coordinator for the Scientific Research working group of... Read More →

Kristen McCormick

Art Exhibitions and Conservation Manager, Walt Disney Animation Research Library
Kristen has been at the Walt Disney Company for over a decade and a half where she has been responsible for the safe keeping, care and transport of a broad range of artworks from African Art to Animation.  In her current role she oversees the care of the Walt Disney Animation Collection that comprises of over 64 million pieces of artwork, from all facets of the production process including storyboard drawing, visual development, layouts... Read More →

Suzanna Etyemez

Intern, The Getty Conservation Institute

Tuesday May 17, 2016 10:00am - 10:30am
Room 710 A

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