Auctions offering Disney artwork and memorabilia are fairly commonplace, but the material gathered for Profiles in History’s newest event, in conjunction with
Van Eaton Galleries, is positively staggering. There are animation and layout drawings, cels, conceptual and inspirational artwork by such great artists as Mary Blair, Eyvind Earle, and Tyrus Wong, maquettes from the original Character Model Department, artifacts from Disneyland, and much, much more—including some juicy non-Disney items like title-card treatments from MGM cartoons.
But there are two headline-making Disney items of vast historical significance. One is a hand-written letter from Walt to his old Kansas City friend Ub Iwerks (whom he addresses as Ubbe, his given name), dated June 1, 1924, celebrating the news that—
—Ub is going to join him in California. The four-page missive is even accompanied by its original envelope from Disney Brothers Studio on Kingswell Avenue. The seller points out that this is the only known hand-written piece of correspondence betweenthese two animation pioneers, and the only known hand-written letter from Walt Disney to reach public auction.
The other is a simple legal document, dated January 22, 1930, in which Iwerks agrees to relinquish all rights and ownership in the (now-renamed) Walt Disney Studio for the sum of $2,920.00. As one of Walt and Roy’s most valued colleagues, Iwerks had been given one-fifth ownership of the company, but relinquished it when P.A. “Pat” Powers offered to back him in his own cartoon studio. Animation buffs know the rest of that story: Iwerks was a prodigious animator who was largely responsible for the success of Disney’s operation, but he was not an inspired producer and his studio was short-lived. This is another document that properly belongs in a museum.
To download a virtual copy of the full-color auction book (the “real” copies are already sold out) go to www.profilesinhistory.com. The auction will take place on May 14 and 15 at the Saban Theater in Beverly Hills.
If you live in the Los Angeles area, you can see those letters and an array of the outstanding animation artwork from this auction on display at Van Eaton Galleries, 13613 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, CA 91423. Their telephone number is (818) 788-2357 and their website is www.vegalleries.com. The exhibition continues through May 13. Just one word of warning: Mike Van Eaton has great, even affordable animation artwork in his file bins, and if you start browsing (as I usually do) you’ll be hard-pressed to walk away empty-handed.
It was Joe Grant who suggested that Walt set up a character model department, where “maquettes” like this were manufactured to help the animators with their drawings of figures like Pinocchio.
One of Eyvind Earle’s stylized visual concepts for Sleeping Beauty.