Bringing Rare Disney Photos Straight to Your Home!

Have you ever seen a striking Disney image and wanted to put it up in your home?  Have you seen an image of Walt Disney doing something different and unique and thought it would look incredible in your office?  Thanks to Photographs from the Walt Disney Archives, you have the chance to bring some of these rare and rarely seen images home with you. From black and white candid shots to full color publicity photos, these frameable moments are now available to the public.

Photographs from the Walt Disney Archives is a recently launched venture at the Walt Disney Studios which debuted last year on Walt’s birthday.  To celebrate the occasion, the Archives issued a special image of Walt riding his miniature train at the studios with a unique holographic sticker on the back as well as on the Certificate of Authenticity made for this particular image only.  Although no other images so far have that designation, Becky Cline, Director of the Walt Disney Archives, said that they hope to do other such special issue images in the future.

Walt Disney poses for a photo with the then-newly-minted Disneyland Monorail expansion in Spring 1961. The expanded attraction connected Disneyland® Park to the Disneyland Hotel, allowing Guests easy transportation from one location to the other.
Walt Disney poses for a photo with the then-newly-minted Disneyland Monorail expansion in Spring 1961. The expanded attraction connected Disneyland® Park to the Disneyland Hotel, allowing Guests easy transportation from one location to the other.

All archive photographs come with a Certificate of Authenticity and are available in three different sizes depending on the image.  Each one also comes with the option of either paper or canvas and your choice of frames if you wish to have the archives send it to you that way.  As Becky shared, often the choice of paper or canvas is just a matter of personal taste since both are priced the same.  I bought the image of Walt riding the train on canvas at last year’s special D23 Light Up the Season event on the Studio campus and have to say it is high quality – not just the image but the care they put into presenting the image as well.

Becky and Mike Buckhoff, Archivist at the studios, graciously gave of their time to let me interview them about this new venture and the process behind it:

With so many photos in the archives, how do you choose which pictures to reproduce? How often are new pictures added to the collection?

Becky: The selection process takes into account a number of different variables.  Of course there are iconic photos of Walt Disney and the films and parks, but it is really tricky to decide.  Our criteria is to try and show photos that haven’t been seen before in a publication or rarely seen.  They need to be special and decorative because it’s something you’re going to want to see every day.  And we try to find things we thought were fun, interesting, and told the story of Disney in an unique way.  We also have to take into account licensing rights and that kind of thing and at the same time we want to add a broad selection to what we offer.  (Becky and Mike shared with us that licensing is different for the photographs being offered since they are sold instead of in use for publication and takes different permissions).  We launched with 25 first just to gauge interest and see how they were selling, which were the most popular and some of those are still on the website.  We switched some of them out 3 or 4 months ago and we are kind of feeling our way through the process, if we see a trend anywhere, but we’re still learning.

What’s the process of bringing these photos out of storage and turning them into the quality needed to be reproduced?

Mike: We have a large scale digitization project which is our number one priority, turning our photographic collection into digital images, so it’s not that difficult since the originals are housed in the same studio as the image capture equipment.  Essentially we are taking a photograph of a photograph.

Becky: It’s incredibly state of the art.  The new image capture can bring out details we hadn’t even seen in the originals.

Mike:  It’s very fast, very high resolution.  The quality is better than anything I’ve ever seen.

Becky: As we’re going through the collection and digitizing these images, Mike will pull images aside that capture his eye he thinks might make for a good addition to the photos we’re offering and he’ll say, “Hey, I’ve got a group of photos for you to look at.”

This 1940 publicity photo shows employee Eva Sinclair touching up the lettering to the iconic sign at The Walt Disney Studios intersection of Mickey Avenue and Dopey Drive while Jackie Walker holds the paint ready for her. The sign was originally created as a movie prop for the film The Reluctant Dragon (1941).
This 1940 publicity photo shows employee Eva Sinclair touching up the lettering to the iconic sign at The Walt Disney Studios intersection of Mickey Avenue and Dopey Drive while Jackie Walker holds the paint ready for her. The sign was originally created as a movie prop for the film The Reluctant Dragon (1941).

I loved the photo of the two women painting the iconic Dopey Drive street sign. And the one of Walt winking seems so personal. Why were these more seemingly random pictures taken? Were there staff photographers even at that time recording events at the studio or were these just random shots that happened to be caught on camera?

Becky: A mixture of both.  That one of the two girls and Walt winking are a couple of my favorites!  The picture of the two girls painting was taken in the early 40’s as a publicity shot for the new studios in Burbank.  There were a lot of photos of that time period.  It’s like a slice of life with the brand new studio.  Everyone was very proud of it and there were lots of publicity shots taken during that time.  The shot of Walt winking I think was just a candid taken of him.  Some shots are staged and done for publicity like the Shaggy Dog photo.  The Walt with Monorail photo was sort of staged.  But then you have live action photos like the behind-the-scenes Cinderella photo.  And I love the Walt with Mr. Stubbs picture.  It was just a candid shot of Walt hanging out with the chimp from Toby Tyler. Walt happened to be sitting down with the chimp and a photographer snapped the photo.  But it tells a story all by itself.  When we select each photo we’re looking for each one to tell a story.

Walt Disney aboard his Carolwood Pacific Railroad, seen here set up at The Walt Disney Studios in the spring of 1951 prior to it's installation at Walt's Carolwood Drive home in Holmby Hills, California.
Walt Disney aboard his Carolwood Pacific Railroad, seen here set up at The Walt Disney Studios in the spring of 1951 prior to it’s installation at Walt’s Carolwood Drive home in Holmby Hills, California.

When we bought our picture, the gentleman we bought it from said it had a special “2015 Studio Edition” demarcation on it. Will there be other pieces offered with a limited edition print run? And will these prints ever be “retired” from circulation or are they just rotated out depending on demand?

Becky: That one (the image of Walt riding the miniature train) was released on 12/5 to commemorate both Walt’s birthday and the launch of the program.  We also opened Walt’s office that week.  We don’t have any other limited edition pieces yet, but I’m planning on it.  As for retiring the prints, it’s a little of both.  We’re not aiming to make them rare necessarily, but we’re hoping to gauge public interest. If people aren’t buying it we might rotate it out and try another type of image people might like.  I know my own taste and what I would put on my wall but we want to see what other people are interested in. I would get requests from people whenever we would do presentations of the archives.  They would come up to me and say, “Oh I’d love to have that! How can I get that photo?”  Well, now they can!

Thank you so much Becky and Mike for taking the time out of your busy schedule to help our fans get a better appreciation of these beautiful pictures.

Be sure to check out the Photographs of the Walt Disney Archives site and see what great photos are being offered.  The perfect gift for any Disney fan, these images are sure to please.  Let us know if you get one and what you think!

The Photographs of the Walt Disney Archives website is www.disneyphotoarchives.com where you can read even more about these wonderful images and even buy one (or many) for friends, family, or yourself.

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