Not too long ago, an animation dealer shared a number of original Disney animation sketches with me. They were a series of drawings from Walt Disney’s fifties classic Sleeping Beauty. As expected, the dealer was quite proud of his find. These were marvelous original sketches from a classic Disney film. There was only one small problem. The sketches were fakes. They were not the real deal.
Now, I suppose it’s fairly easy to dupe people not familiar with the Disney motion picture. In fact, some of the art floating around out there is pretty good and art dealers can easily be taken in. You see, the forgers have taken great care to make sure their drawings are on Disney 6.5 field paper with the proper Disney registration punch. Sometimes they’ve even included the gummed peg reinforcements we used back in the fifties. However, there’s one thing that can’t be faked. And, what is that you ask? It’s the quality level of the artwork. The animation artists who labored on Sleeping Beauty had to be skilled draftsmen and women and there was no way to fake your way through an animation scene on this particular film. The demand for perfection in the animation drawings was unparallel and the animation teams worked to acheive perfection. At least an animation perfection not seen in years.
For those of you not aquainted with the animation production procedure back in the fifties, let me explain the extraordianry process our scenes went through. Let’s pick up when I was a lowly inbetweener in the “Fairy Unit” on production 2082. When I completed my scene I would hand it off to the animation Clean-Up Assistant, Chuck Williams. Chuck would go over the scene drawing by drawing and if it met with his approval he would hand the scene over to our Lead Clean-Up Assistant, Freddy Hellmich. More than just an assistant, Freddy was also an animator who had stepped down from animating to supervise the drawings in our unit. If the drawings passed muster, they were then taken to the animators (in this case it’s Henry Tanas) of the three fairies. If Hank is satisfied with the job we’ve done on his scene it would be then passed on to the Directing Animators. As you can imagine, Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston would scrutinize the scene for any last minute fixes before letting the scene go to camera. However, it’s not over yet. Remember, we still have “sweatbox” to go through, and there the director may decide to view the scene frame by frame. In case you’re wondering, Director, Eric Larson was known to do this and give notes on particular drawings he thought needed revising.
Now, you have some idea of the process our animation art went through back in the fifties. So, when an animation dealer shows me drawings that supposedly come from the motion picture Sleeping Beauty, believe me, I know what I’m looking at. If the drawings are ever slightly off model. If they’re just a little bit wonky I know the drawings are fakes. I know they’re not real because there’s no way the drawings could have gotten pass the scrutiny given them by the Disney artists. Finally, this is not to heap blame on the art dealers. After all, they’re only doing their job and the bogus artwork is often convincing. However, if you make the mistake of showing me the artwork - I might have some bad news for you.