THE DISNEY ARCHIVES
I recently got a rare tour of the Disney archives (you’ll be reading a lot more about that visit very soon), and I can’t tell you how fascinating it was to see such a vast collection of artifacts and “lost” art. These costumes, props, animation cels, posters, documents, paintings, models, etc. are more than the ultimate cache of pop-culture collectibles — they chart the history of America’s most amazing entertainment success story.
We’re going to be digging a bit into that archive over the months to come to bring you glimpses into these treasures, and we start off with some compelling images that date back to “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,” Disney’s landmark 1954 live-action film.
These are preproduction drawings from 1953 that show early visions of the famous battle against a giant squid that plays out atop Capt. Nemo’s Nautilus. These drawings have been meticulously preserved by the archive staff but never published in any form, anywhere, before now.
These show the squid attack taking place against a dramatic sunset and indeed that’s how it was filmed — but Walt Disney watched the footage and felt it could be better. The entire sequence was refilmed, this time during a vicious rainstorm, a more frenetic setting. That’s the version that moviegoers saw when the film reached theaters in December 1954.
“20,000 Leagues under the Sea” was just fifth live-action feature film from Disney (that’s not counting the nature films) and it tied with “White Christmas” as the top box-office draw of the year.
This final image below is a painting that is just amazing to see in person. It’s the original artwork for the cover of a record album that tied in to the “20,000 Leagues” re-release in 1963. The artist isn’t credited, unfortunately, and the archivists at Disney say if anyone has some insight into who did this great piece, he or she should leave it here in the comments section so the archivists can follow up and make their own records more complete.
As I said before, there’s a lot more to come from the Disney archives, and if there are specific things you readers would like to see, let me know. Also, for you hard-core Disney fans, the archives are typically closed to the public but they are scheduled to be opened several times a year to members of D23, the official Disney fan club.
– Geoff Boucher