The Disney Auction

We’ve been working on a Disney themed auction for quite some time now. It was last November that we broached the subject of working with the Disneyana Fan Club to do a live auction. It’s been about eight months in the making, but we finally have a catalog.

Once again, because it’s a live event we are have a time constraint. The event will take place at the Disneyana Convention on Friday, July 18 starting at 7pm. With a two to three hour window, we figured we could do about 100 to 150 lots. The final count for our catalog is 135.

We believe we have put together a well-rounded collection. There are posters, artwork, costumes, props, maquettes, theme park signage, attraction ride vehicles, award statues, plaques, autographs, books, animation cels, photos and decorative art pieces.

One of the more remarkable (in my humble opinion) items we have is a document from 1938 that was part of Inez Henderson’s collection. Ms. Henderson was one of Walt Disney’s personal secretaries. This document is a five page analysis written by Dorothy Ann Blank, who was one of the writers for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), Walt Disney Studios’s first feature length animation film. Walt Disney received an Academy Award for it.

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The analysis, dated June 15, 1938, was an examination of a popular Hans Christian Anderson story called, “The Snow Queen.” Dorothy Ann Blank was exploring the idea of adapting it into a cartoon feature. She and Disney had settled on the preliminary name, “The Ice Maiden.” In her analysis, Ms. Blank states:

“The Chief reason that the story SNOW QUEEN seems an ideal subject for a cartoon feature is that it has, in addition to a definite plot, a strong underlying theme.

The plot needs tightening and, for our uses, cries out for the addition of comedy–but it is dramatically correct.

The theme is sound and universally appealing. THE SNOW QUEEN is one of Anderson’s best known and most widely read tales.”

Indeed, Anderson’s original story does cry out for “the addition of comedy,” as it is quite dark. Disney had by this time identified part of the formula that would help it create some of the most beloved animated films in entertainment history. Ms. Blank’s final conclusion:

“The most valuable thing Anderson says in this little fairy tale, which is fanciful and fantastic at times, highly amusing at others, and occasionally deeply pathetic, is… No one is ever so lost that a simple, child-like faith cannot touch him…

No one can grow so old or so clever that something truly simple cannot make him see the true values of life… childhood is never really gone.

It is a great message of hope. If we could make a picture which would be, like Anderson’s story, fanciful and fantastic, and put into it our own unique entertainment value spiced with high comedy–yet retain this underlying theme–I think we would have made something truly fine.”

This movie that Dorothy Ann Blank was hoping to make in 1938 went through a rigorous and exhaustive process that saw revisions after revisions. In fact, Disney encountered tremendous difficulty with the original story, particularly with relating the Snow Queen character to modern audiences, despite the cinematic possibilities that the animators saw.

Disney did managed to find a solution many years later, even if it meant deviating drastically from the original fairy tale. The movie Disney finally made and released in 2013 — 75 years from the date of Dorothy Ann Blank’s analysis! — went on to become the highest grossing animation film in history and won two Academy Awards, for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song (“Let it Go” — yes, that song!). That movie, of course, is Frozen.

This historic document is fascinating in that it sheds light on the fact that Disney had a “formula.” Dorothy Ann Blank overtly states it — “our own unique entertainment value” — albeit this document was probably meant for internal use only. It is clear that Disney had a process and the company adheres to it vigilantly to produce some of the most memorable cartoons ever. But it is also obvious, considering how vast the Disney empire is now, that there is a company philosophy that extends beyond animated features. If one look closely at the foundational conception of Disneyland and other Disney properties, the values, customer service tradition, and vision that Walt Disney instilled are clearly still on display.