Disney Stuff - Character Sketches

by Chris Barry, contributing writer

Welcome back to “Disney Stuff.” Once again, thanks for all your emails and comments. As I'd imagined, we Disney fans not only like collecting our “Disney stuff,” we like talking about it as well. This time I thought I’d talk about what has become one of my favorite Disney items that I’ve accumulated over the years. It's actually more of a sub-category because they were part of another Disney collectible package. I’m talking about the special character sketches that were included in three recent DVD releases, The Lion King, Aladdin and Cinderella Collector’s DVD Gift Sets.

As Disney fans, I think we’re fortunate to be around during the age of DVDs. The Disney Classics have definitely benefited from the re-releases of the past 10 years. We’ve seen them get the special treatment they deserve, and a whole new generation of audience can enjoy these films in all of their glory. Along with these releases have come some great special features, but that’s another article. I’ve especially enjoyed the treatment that the three aforementioned films have received with these Collector Gift Sets. Each came in a larger, sturdier box with different artwork. Each came with a hardcover book, the special edition DVD, a reproduction of an actual frame of celluloid from the film, and my favorite addition, a set of character portrait sketches.

Cinderella and her Prince signed by Ollie and Andreas. Photo By Rosina Liquori.

I’m a big fan of animation art, as any fan of Disney naturally would be. In particular, one of the sub-genres of animation art that I love is sketch art. I love the notion that an artist begins their work with just a pencil and a piece of drawing paper and brings a character or a scene to life. To me it’s so pure, it’s rough and it hasn’t been cleaned up yet. I feel it's a real representation of how the artist feels about their character. Sure, the finished piece with all of its color is beautiful, but there’s just something special about a basic line drawing from an artist that you truly admire, the way I admire all of these great Disney artists.

A great sketch of Abu. Photo By Rosina Liquori.

Granted, these aren’t originals, (I’ll discuss original collectible art some other time) these are copies. They’re good copies, reproduced on quality paper and in limited supply. In the included Certificate of Authenticity, Disney mentions that they maintain the original drawings and may offer them for sale in the future. That’s a collection I’d like to get my hands on. (I’d better start saving.)

Most importantly, they were commissioned at the time of the DVD release. They’re not sketches from the original production, but were created by the artist strictly for the DVD Collector Set. To me, that makes them very unique and special, especially in the case of Cinderella. As you can see from the photos, Disney legend Ollie Johnston, one of the original “Nine Old Men,” was asked to work with 2nd generation animator and legend himself, Andreas Deja. Considering we lost Ollie just a few months back, these were surely some of the last drawings he did for the Walt Disney Company. It’s almost like a passing of the torch to see Ollie and Andreas’ name together on these drawings; two masters from two different eras, together on one piece of work.

My daughter's favorite sketch from the collection, Jaq and Gus. Photo By Rosina Liquori.

The prints are suitable for framing, and indeed I have them lining the walls on the way down to my basement rec room. I enjoy seeing them daily, as do all the members of my family. The images are known amongst other Disney fanatics, but it’s the reaction from those unfamiliar with all things Disney that I enjoy the most. My wife is a graphic artist and recently some of her co-workers were over and saw the prints hanging on my walls. “Wow! Where did you get these?” was a typical response. “These are real? I didn’t realize you had such a collection.” was another. Upon close examination, they realized they were copies, but the first impression is that of a great collection of animation sketch art on my walls. Genuine animation art, or copies of genuine animation art, I enjoy having them on my walls and the reactions they bring out in others.

Sure he's evil, but we all love our Disney villains, don't we? Photo By Rosina Liquori.

There’s good news and bad news about trying to find these prints for your own walls. The good news is they’re out there and readily available online. The bad news is that The Lion King version seems to have the steepest price tag, close to $100 brand new on Amazon and eBay. Aladdin and Cinderella can be had for roughly what these sets sold for when new, around $50. I bought all three as they were released and I consider them a worthwhile investment. Who’s to say if Disney will ever do this again? They had a chance with The Little Mermaid, Peter Pan and other releases and passed.

My favorite sketch, old Rafiki. Photo By Rosina Liquori.

I view these sets and especially the character portraits as something special. The company chose to honor these great films and give the fans a little something extra to remember them by. I’m also glad they took the opportunity to honor the great artists who brought us these beloved characters. After all, where would these films be without the talented people who first put their pencils to paper and worked their Disney magic?

Our hero, Aladdin, drawn and signed by Glen Keane. Photo By Rosina Liquori.

Let me know what you feel about these prints. Is there a favorite of yours that I didn't include here? Do any of you display them like I do?

I look forward to hearing from you and I’ll be back next month with some more “Disney Stuff.”