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The Magical Disney Vault

We attended as a guest of Disney

Walt Disney Animation Studios

If you’re a fan of Disney animated films, you already know that they often reference “The Vault.” It’s where the original films and artwork are allegedly kept.

Walt Disney Vault

I was surprised and delighted to find that it really exists. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, The Disney Vault is real.

A nondescript building in Glendale, California houses an amazing collection of Disney animation art dating back to the 1920’s where the storyboard sketches and animation cells are painstakingly preserved in a protected environment.

Sneak peek into the Walt Disney Vault

The actual name of this magical place is the Walt Disney Animation Research Library (the ARL).
The occasion for this visit was the release of the Walt Disney animation classic, Pinocchio on Blu-ray (available in stores now).

Learning about Pinocchio at the Walt Disney Animation Studios

The Disney Vaults – there are 11 of them – contain every sketch, every conceptual design, every layout, every background, every cel dating back to the 1920’s. Because Walt Disney was an artist, he obviously had a high value for preserving art in any form.

Learning about the creation of Pinocchio at the Walt Disney Vault

Vault Number 3 has been nicknamed “Walt’s Vault” because it houses the animation from the films that Walt Disney himself worked on, from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs up to The Jungle Book. For us Disney nerds, standing in that particular vault felt like we were actually standing on hallowed ground. What a precious moment!

As I said, there are 11 of these vaults, containing everything from sketches – over 65 million pieces of art! – to puppets used in stop motion type animation like Nightmare Before Christmas.

Walt Disney Vault Historians talking about Pinocchio

We were treated to a display of just a handful of the art used to help bring Pinocchio to the screen, from original charcoal pencil concepts to beautiful watercolored backgrounds. Walt Disney Archivist, Fox Carney (wearing the requisite white gloves) explained to us just how they go about preserving those 65 million drawings into digital media.

Learning about the Making of Pinocchio in the Walt Disney Vault

Two giant high-tech cameras are used to photograph about 1000 pieces of art per day. The Digital Imaging Department spends their days diligently capturing and recording every piece into a super high resolution database that can be accessed by the Disney animators at any time.

The arrival of Pinocchio to the Walt Disney Signature Collection on Blue-Ray brings the classic movie back with some very special features that highlight the amazing collection of archived art from the Disney Vault. It took Fox Carney and his team almost a year to digitally archive the amazing art that helped bring Pinocchio to the big screen. The special features on the Signature Edition Blu-ray release are an amazing treat for Disney fans everywhere.

Original artwork of Pinocchio from the Walt Disney Vault

For an even more in-depth peek into the making of Pinocchio, the book, Pinocchio: The Making of the Disney Epic is what you want. Author J.B. Kaufman is a Disney buff and film historian. He researched his beautiful book at the ARL. Interestingly, he shared with us that it was Walt himself who wanted Pleasure Island to be a darker and much more sinister place than originally conceived. Walt thought that it served the story better to have that nightmarish boys-turning-into-donkeys scene before Pinocchio can prove himself “brave, truthful, and unselfish” in his climactic confrontation with Monstro the Whale. Of course, he was right and the rest is Disney history.

I recommend you grab your copy of Pinocchio: The Walt Disney Signature Collection – in stores on January 31st, 2017 – before it gets locked away in the Disney Vaults once again!

Marta Darby is a blogger, business owner, cook, graphic designer and homemaker. You can find her and her stories over at
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