art_pioneer

 

Guthrie Courvoisier was a leading San Francisco fine art dealer in 1937, the year Walt Disney released Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Although the Disney brothers were masters of character merchandising by that time, it was Courvoisier who convinced them to market the art used to make their animated films. Courvoisier had been looking for a unique line of artwork to represent, and he believed in the Disney product as work of important artistic expression with enormous sales potential if promoted at the fine art level. It was his plan to market the original art from Snow White through art galleries and museums in major cities all over the world. On July 19, 1938, he came to an agreement with the Disneys, granting him the exclusive right to market their original animation art.

 

A special 20-person crew of Disney artists from the animation department was set up at the Disney studio under the direction of the late Helen Nerbovig to assemble and prepare the art. The program was so successful the art was being sold almost as fast as they could get it ready. After only one year, demand was actually growing beyond Courvoisier's ability to meet it.

 

Throughout 1938, the program was limited to sale of cels from Snow White, but early in 1939 it was expanded to include other films as well, and backgrounds, story sketches, and animation drawings were added. According to Cecil Munsey in his authoritative book Disneyana, by March 1939, 8,136 cels, 150 backgrounds, 206 story sketches and 500 animation drawings from Snow White alone had been designated for Courvoisier, as well as almost 5,000 cels from other Disney productions. Ferdinand the Bull was the only other film to that time from which backgrounds and drawings were also released.