A lot of cels had been laminated in 70s and 80s as part of the Disney Original Art Program and they were beginning to have problems as early as the 90s. Dumbo and Bambi cels, laminated some 40 years earlier, lasted longer but were suffering from lamination failures just the same.
Early in 2003 we received a call from Roy E. Disney. He was VP of the Disney animation department at the time.
He asked Lab Director Ron Stark to come to his office the next time he was in the Studio and pick up a cel that was in need of repair.
When Ron arrived, about a week later, he learned that Al Kosnetzni, an ad and marketing artist who’d been been recognized as a Disney Legend, had been given a laminated cel as a retirement gift. Al sent Roy his cel with a note saying that he wanted Disney to fix it. It had, as you might guess, lamination failure. Ron never saw Roy that day. Barbara Wilcox, Roy’s administrative assistant, gave Ron the cel and said “Good luck.” The odd smile on her face said it all. She thought it a fool’s errand or, worse, that Stark didn’t know what he was getting in to. Lamination problems were not new at the Studio, but no one at Disney had been able to fix them. What was S/R Labs gonna do?
The truth is S/R had been working on various systems to cope with what they foresaw would be an onslaught of lamination failures. The problem and its answers were complex and the manpower to accomplish removing the lamination required more than a single conservator, no matter how the treatment was organized.
When Ron returned to Roy’s office a few weeks later, Roy was in and eager to see what S/R had accomplished. He put the cel on his desk and looked at it, stared at it really. Then looked at Ron and back at the cel. He really didn’t say much about the cel but offered Ron an easy chair and took the one across from it. Roy was quiet a moment, then said, “You do know we must have laminated a gazillion of these things, right?” Ron nodded, but didn’t bother saying he’d preached against the practice for what seemed like forever.
As a point of interest, some employees in the Studio told Ron they had taken their vintage art—cels, drawings, and so forth—over to Ink & Paint to be laminated, thinking it was the new and best way to preserve their art. They were told it couldn’t be done because their art hadn’t been released through the Disney Original Art Program and there was no budget to cover the cost of lamination. Looking back, given what we now know about lamination, they were very fortunate.
Roy continued, “A lot of people purchased our laminated art believing we know what’s best. They bought in to the Disney name and, in time, they are going to be disappointed. Looking at what you’ve accomplished here gives me hope. Will you tell me how you did it?”
Ron looked hard at Roy in return and said, “Only on the condition that it remains our proprietary treatment. We own it. We worked very hard for it. Get what I mean?” Roy nodded and crossed his heart. He listened. The procedure is complex, and Ron wondered if Roy understood it at all, then decided it didn’t matter.
As he finished his explanation, Roy smiled at him and said, “I think I get it. What’s more important, I hope people find you when they need you. Because they’ll need you all right. Let me give you a letter so that if you ever need anything from anyone in the Studio they’ll know I approve.” Roy dictated a brief letter and signed it. He thanked Ron for sharing with him and trusting him. Oh, and Mr. Kosnetzni was delighted with his art as well.
Ron left Roy that day knowing Roy knew S/R Labs was doing good things. Now in their 40th year, S/R Laboratories Animation Art Conservation Center in Westlake Village, California is still doing good things and are way better at it than they ever imagined.
We recently completed a delamination for Ira Rubenstein, Senior Vice President at PBS.
Ira’s comments on his experience is below as are his Before and After photos. We always appreciate hearing from our clients and thank Ira for his kind words.
“I have known Ron Stark and SR Labs for well over 20 years now. I have been to his office several times where I saw his team working carefully on restoring animated cels. The paint room itself is remarkable. The level of detail and accuracy that Ron has invested in for Disney Animation is truly remarkable. I collect animated cels from the three Winnie The Pooh featurettes; “Honey Tree”, “Blustery Day”. and “Tigger Too”. Unfortunately, most cels you can purchase with the Disney seal from “Blustery Day” come laminated. You all know that this was the worst thing that could have been done to the art because eventually all laminations will fail.
I have a large Christopher Robin cel from Bluster Day and it was probably the worst lamination fail you have ever seen. The entire lamination failed and the cel looked like someone had crunched it all up. Now I could have said, well that is that, but I showed it to Ron and he said his team could fix it.
If you look at the before and after pictures you will be blown away. The restored cel is amazing.
I would say it looks just like it did they day they used it to shoot the scene in the film. The colors are amazing and the framing that Ron did makes it truly one of a kind. I could not be happier.
I am so grateful that Ron has invested so much time and energy in the historical preservation of Disney Animation. There is no one else in the world who I would trust with a restoration job on any of my other animation cels.
Thank you Ron and the team at SR LABS.”