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When animation art once again began its stellar climb to fame in 1984, S/R Laboratories Animation Art Conservation Center director Ron Stark was already well familiar with the Courvoisier name. He was quick to recognize that for nearly 40 years the name of the once-famous art distributor had lain quietly in history’s memory and might be reactivated in order to bring attention to S/R, the only facility in the world able to service the famous artwork the long-gone gallery had represented so well. In 1997, with the encouragement of the Walt Disney Company, S/R Labs became the new owner of the Courvoisier Galleries name and trademark. "We had no intention at that time of doing anything with the name except to safeguard it for historic reasons," explains Ron Stark, director of S/R Laboratories.

 

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Stark's story began earlier, in 1976, when he volunteered to help the local chapter of the International Animated Film Society raise money by preparing studio-donated animation art for market. "The artwork was dirty and damaged after having been stored for years," Stark recalls, "and cleaning it and doing minor repairs was imperative before the art could be sold."

 

Together with a

team of volunteers he recruited from the membership, Stark devoted every weekend for more than six months prior to the Society’s August art sale, working on contributions from Hanna-Barbera, Filmation, Ruby-Spears, and many other studios. Hundreds of pieces of artwork were fixed and prepared under Stark’s supervision.

 

"In the off-season I would work on other members' artwork as a means of relaxation. It was fixing art that I loved. I had no notion of being a conservator at the time. I unceremoniously dubbed our little group the Search and Rescue Team. because we helped members find art and repaired it as well. Eventually everyone took to calling it "SR," so the name stuck."

 

Learning all he could about the art form and still working as a volunteer while maintaining an active production schedule as the American Heart Association’s radio/TV/film producer, Stark appealed to local conservators at nearby museums for assistance. What he found out was eye-opening. S_R-logo-1

 

"I thought I would be given the inside track to animation art conservation and preservation, but what I found out was I knew more than the museum experts did. Being referred to as a conservator felt funny at first, but I realized that what I had learned as a volunteer was far superior to what traditional conservators know about animation art. I did learn, however, that conservation is extremely specific and scientific in its thinking, and my background was ideal for applying the modalities of museum conservation to animation art."

 

In 1984 two events took place that changed Ron Stark’s life. One, he lost his job, and two, the first major animation art auction took place at Sotheby's in New York, creating the largest animation art trend the world had known.

 

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Asking to take the S/R project private and receiving unanimous approval and well wishes from his animation industry friends, Ron Stark began S/R Laboratories in the summer of 1984. "All of a sudden everyone was passionate about animation art," he remembers. "People were bidding wildly on art they knew little about except that they recognized the characters!"

Soon, major auction houses on both coasts were holding animation art sales, inventing mythologies about the art they were selling, "It was all quite fascinating, " Ron said. "There was a mad rush to find, sell, and repair animation art of all eras. It was overwhelming, and we were unprepared for the influx of demand on our time and skills."