Past Treasure of the Month – September 2009

Cel animation of “Sneezy”
from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Cel

The Museum at the Rosenberg Library was thrilled to feature a Courvoisier cel animation of “Sneezy” from Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs as the September “Treasure of the Month.” Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was Walt Disney’s first full-length production. It first debuted in 1937 and revolutionized the animation industry as the first animated film in Technicolor. Never before had animators drawn the human form so convincingly while also entertaining an audience for an entire length of a film.

Snow White is known as one of the highest-grossing motion pictures of its time, and was only surpassed by Gone with the Wind in 1939. The original worldwide gross was $8.5 million, a figure that would translate into hundreds of millions of dollars today. Costing $1.4 million, the film was in production for three years and utilized more than 750 artists. At the Academy Awards in 1939, actress Shirley Temple presented Walt Disney with one full-size Oscar along with seven dwarf Oscars.

For its 1993 reissue, the film was the first animation film to be fully restored. It was completely digitized by computer, cleaned up, and then printed back to film. Snow White has been reissued eight times, in 1944, 1952, 1958, 1967, 1975, 1983, 1987, and 1993, and then released on video in 1994.

Cel animation is the traditional form of animation used in the production of cartoons and animated movies where each frame of a scene is meticulously drawn by hand. The artistic process begins with the storyboard, which illustrates the action of the script. Next, animators create pencil drawings that give life and movement to the characters. After the drawings have been transferred onto acetate, the cels are then meticulously hand-painted. Producing a full-length feature film using the technique of cel animation would often require the use of up to, or more than, one million drawings to complete.

It was after the release of Snow White that Walt Disney Studios decided to retail their animation art through the Courvoisier Gallery which was then located in San Francisco. A Courvoisier piece can be identified by its whitish matte as well as the white sticker on the back of the piece which identifies the name of the character, the short or feature film it is from, and the year of its release. The Courvoisier Gallery sold these matted cels for roughly ten years until it closed in 1948.

“Sneezy” was donated to the Library by the family of Rosella Werlin. It is inscribed in the dwarf’s characteristically nasal tone, “Bay The Bood Always Beab Od the Galveston Hay Fever Colony XXXX Zneezy.”