Disney's Ink & Paint Collection

by Gregg Jacobs, contributing writer

As the MousePlanet community, we're all big fans of all things Disney. No matter what our specific interests are within that broad category, I think we can all agree that Disney Animation is where it all began, and is arguably at the center of the Disney we know and love. From the classic films to the parks to, yes, tons of merchandise, Disney's animated films and characters make us laugh, smile, and cry as well as appreciate all that goes into the making of the Mouse (with a capital M).

From the beginnings of The Walt Disney Company in the 1920s through today, the many talented animators that have walked the Disney halls have been the backbone of the company. Though the tools of the trade in 2020 are more likely than not to be of the electronic variety, in the beginning, there was ink and paint.

To create the Disney animated features and shorts we've enjoyed over the years, there were teams of artists that each had specific roles. The first artist would "sketch" out the character. Since there would be many artists working on a given character in a given film, consistency was key. To help with this process, the artists worked with model sheets. The sheets would have the subject character drawn in several different poses, each with instructions next to them that acted as guides. These would tell the animator anything from how to proportion the size of a characters ears to what props should be included next to them.

These model sheets were duplicated using a photostat machine (no email then or even copy machines that could mass produce). The photostat copies were then given to the animators doing a specific character so that their work would be consistent.

The first piece of animation art I ever bought (and those who've read Mickey's Basement know I have a problem) was a 1930s photostat model sheet of Mickey and Minnie Mouse. I like to look at it and picture an animator looking at that very sheet while drawing my favorite Disney character for some classic short.

Model sheets offer great insight into how Disney animators work. Photo by Gregg Jacobs.

The sheet depicts Mickey in progress, with specific instructions as how he was to be drawn. It's covered with notes like, "Body doesn't have to keep the same shape. But best to keep the same volume" and "this line for division of eyes and base of nose" next to the basic circle that would become Mickey's head. These sheets really give an insight into an animator's process.

After sketching, comes "clean-up." Another artist would take the sketch from the first animator and literally clean it up. They'd erase stray marks and sharpen the lines, making the sketch clean and ready for the next step, which is "ink."

The ink process is the beginning of making the animated cel that would be used in the actual film. Depending on the time period, they would take a piece of celluloid or acetate (celluloid up until the 1950s, and then acetate) and lay it over the cleaned up drawing. They would then use, well ink, and trace an outline of the image on the acetate.

They would pass the animation cel in progress to the final artist who would, as expected, "paint" the image. They'd fill in the inked image with color according to the specifications of the film makers. This results in a completed animation cel that's joined with the thousands of others that will ultimately make up the animated feature or short.

I'm vastly oversimplifying the process in the interest of time and not boring you too much. Any animated project features thousands of hours of work by these talented men and women. There's actually a pretty good video on YouTube that demonstrates the "sketch, clean-up, ink, paint" process pretty well if you want to check it out.

Disnerds like myself really eat stuff up about the history of the company, so when Disney comes up with a line of merchandise reminiscent of the golden years, it really grabs our attention (to no one's surprise). This brings us to the Disney Ink and Paint Collection, described as "inspired by the unique artistry of Disney animation, this collection celebrates the magic of our beloved characters and timeless films. Combining the rough sketch line and a splash of color, each character is brought to life through the lens of an animator."

The collection includes a lot the usual suspects, like clothing and bags, but there is also so much more. There are items that let you be creative and add your own touch (more on that later), holiday ornaments, glassware, pins and other things you wouldn't normally see, that take advantage of the creativity of the subject matter. Now let's take a look at some of the items from Disney's new Ink & Paint Collection. I tried to pick a wide variety to show a cross-section of all the things available in this unique group of merchandise.

Let's start at the end of my previous article, on Disney cell phone cases. I always have a Disney case on my phone—usually one with Mickey Mouse (I'm a big dog lover, so Pluto has snuck in once or twice over the years). I'm a Disney history and animation fan, so was immediately drawn to the case from the Ink & Paint Collection.

We start with the ink and paint Sorcerer Mickey phone case. © Disney.

It features Sorcerer Mickey in the process of being drawn and painted. The image on the case looks just like a animator's model sheet (this is the theme of many of the items in this product line). There are different images of Mickey from Fantasia, with "instructions" to the animators on how he was to be drawn.

The phone case in action. Photo by Gregg Jacobs.

The case, of course, had to be mine—and now happily decorates my iPhone 11. IThe case is transparent, so you can still show off your (in my case, red) phone and is made of a kind of polycarbonate material that's easy to grip, but still protects your phone. It's made by Otterbox, so you know it's solid, and runs for $59.99 at Shopdisney.com (I used some Disney Visa rewards points to bring that cost down—always look for discounts!).

As with most Disney product collections, clothing plays a large part. I'm happy to say there are plenty of options here for both adults and children. Most of what's available are T-shirts and sweatshirts, all featuring many different characters from the Disney universe in sketchbook style.

One standout for me was a raglan T-shirt that depicts Sorcerer Mickey in the four stages of the animation process (sketch, clean-up, ink, and paint). It gives you a creative little tour of what animators do in creating classic characters. The T-shirt, priced at $36.99, does run on the steep side—but the image is terrific.

There is a great raglan T-shirt that shows the whole four-step process with the help of Sorcerer Mickey. © Disney.

Another great T-shirt is a ringer featuring Donald Duck, Panchito, and Jose Carioca from The Three Caballeros (fun fact—the film was done in honor of Donald Duck's 10th anniversary). This yellow T-shirt with blue rings also features the images of a classic animation model sheet. There are images of the three together holding their signature sombreros, as well as pictures of each of them alone with instructions as to how they were to be drawn.

You can learn how the animators draw the "Three Caballeros." © Disney.

For example, next to the image of the three characters holding their sombreros is the instruction, "Jose's sombrero is the smallest of the three." The prospective animators would now know that no matter the drawing, Joe's hat is always the smallest as a matter of perspective. Again, this is a great example of how the animators work. This T-shirt also goes for $36.99.

Another item from the collection that you can wear, though in a very different way, is a Mickey Mouse Disney Ink & Paint MagicBand 2. Colorful RFID-chipped wristbands that wearers use as their hotel key card, park admission, and even credit card, the second-generation design comes with a removable Mickey logo in the center.

I love a good paint splatter MagicBand. © Disney.

The design on this one is a bit different than the majority of the collection in that, rather than having a model sheet design, it features abstract Mickey images in the form of paint splatters. These are fun—and if you love Mickey, are a nice accessory to have in the parks. At $29.99, however, if you're not a big big fan, you might want to opt for the free MagicBand you get with a resort reservation. Note that this one is a limited edition, so it may not be available for long.

[Editor's note: Disney has announced that MagicBands are only complimentary for resort reservations through the end of 2020, after which the functionality of MagicBands are transferring to smartphones. MagicBands will continue to be available and functional, but they will no longer be free with a hotel stay.]

Staying with the Disney Parks theme, the Ink & Paint Collection includes a giant fleece blanket. In one corner is a huge color image of Cinderella's Castle from Walt Disney World. The rest of the throw is covered with sketch images of a wide range of Disney classic characters from penguins to toads, from princesses to dalmatians and elephants to fairies. The throw is a generous 60 by 72 inches, and is available for $39.99.

A comfy fleece giant throw will keep you warm and make you think of both Walt Disney World and Disney Animation. © Disney.

The next group of items is a lot of fun and different in the sense that you get to contribute to the design.

The first is a kids baseball cap. The cap has the signature Sorcerer Mickey image in color, but that rest of the design is a series of sketch outlines of different Disney characters, similar to the Cinderella's Castle fleece throw.

You can show off your talents with an Ink & Paint baseball cap. © Disney.

The difference, however, is that you get to contribute to the design. The cap comes with four colorfast fabric markers in red, blue, green, and black. You or your little one can use these to color in the sketches in any way you see fit, just like a Disney artist. This is a fun way to act as Disney animator, and it can be yours for $24.99.

Along the same lines, but even more fun is a color-it-yourself Mickey Mouse plush and tote bag.

The color-it-yourself Mickey plush and tote bag is a great way to be creative. © Disney.

The set includes an 18-inch-tall removable Mickey Mouse canvas plush with a matching drawstring tote into which he easily fits. The set comes with five washable markers (in case some stray marks get on your clothes) that come in black, green, yellow, red, and blue. For $39.99, you can create your own design and carry it around wherever you go.

If you want your Ink & Paint a bit more upscale, you can do so with the help of Dooney & Bourke, a fashion accessory company that has long partnered with Disney to create character-inspired, high-end items such as purses.

You can go high-end with a Dooney & Bourke backpack. © Disney.

The first of these items is a small backpack. It's branded to the Disney Cruise Line as well as being part of the Ink & Paint Collection, and is covered with sketchbook nautical images of the Fab 5 and Chip and Dale. As per the description, "it features plenty of pockets for your essentials and Captain Mickey and his crew in celebration of Disney art." The images are a lot of fun and the backpack is high quality, which is reflected in the rather high $268 price tag.

There's also a Dooney & Bourke wristlet bag with the same cruise imagery for $128.

There's a Dooney & Bourke sketch bag. © Disney.

Of course, for the Disney collectors among us, there needs to be a few "collectible" items. One is a grouping of holiday ornaments that resemble picture frames. Inside the frames are model sheet images of some of our favorite characters, such as Dumbo, the penguins from Mary Poppins and Mr. Toad of Wild Ride fame.

The mini picture frame ornaments come with many Disney characters, including Mr. Toad. © Disney.

The gold finished frames are smallish (4 by 4 ½ inches), perfect to hang on a tree. The images themselves are printed on canvas, works of art.

Mr. Toad and the other picture frames go for $29.95 each.

Lastly, for the pin collectors amongst us (and you know who you are), there are a few sets of pins available of the Ink & Paint variety.

The collection includes a model sheet-inspired set of pins featuring characters from classic Disney shorts. ©Disney.

One such set includes four cloisonne pins featuring characters from classic Disney shorts. These include Bongo from Fun and Fancy Free, the singing harp from Mickey and the Beanstalk and Fun and Fancy Free, Johnny Appleseed from Melody Time and Amos Mouse from Ben and Me, a fun short about Ben Franklin and a lucky mouse that I remember seeing as a kid (though I must note it was made long before my time).

Again, the pins are done model-sheet style. As Disney describes them, "Art is presented from sketch to final color on a background resembling pegged animation paper". There are "slots" at the bottom of the pins that look like the holes in the paper that line up with pegs on the animators drawing boards. This was to hold the paper in place.

The pins (available on Shopdisney.com for $27.99), are especially interesting because they go beyond the Fab 5 and the princesses, and give us a chance to see some lesser-known characters. Again, it's a chance to see Disney animation history.

These are just a few (OK—a lot) of the many items available in the Ink & Paint Collection that happened to catch my eye. Even if you don't buy, I suggest you check out the full collection. There's a lot of Disney history on display, and seeing the items may spark a few happy memories.

Readers of my articles know I'm a big fan of a wide variety (OK, pretty much all) Disney merchandise, but my favorite items are those that tell a story. What I love about the Ink & Paint Collection is that these goods let you step into the the shoes of a Disney animator and appreciate how our favorite Disney classics are created, and do so in a way that you can use in your everyday life. Whether a phone case, throw or bag, you can carry these images around with you in a day-to-day and useful way,

Thanks as always for reading. Stay safe and see you next time.