how-done

 

Helen and her crew took great care with the art they prepared. "Walt wanted every piece to be reminiscent of the film," she recalled. "I would look at the film and decide how each set-up was to be made, and I’d make the first one. Then everyone would follow my pattern." To meet the challenge, the crew developed their own original and inventive methodologies, and the results were indeed works of art. Some of the finest and most beautiful pieces of vintage animation art seen today originated in the Courvoisier program. They have a style all their own and characteristics worth noting.

 

"Because there are so many more cels than backgrounds in a film, we didn’t have enough original backgrounds to work with," Helen explained. "But it would have been inconceivable to send out art that wasn't a finished picture. So when we ran out of backgrounds, we made our own."

 

To create individual backgrounds for each piece the Courvoisier unit utilized special kinds of paper and boards and cut intricatefullfanstencils for backgrounds elements to create the desired effect of the film or to set off single characters in vignettes. For one characteristic style, they used genuine wood veneer which they hand-rubbed to bring out the richness of the grain. They also utilized original cel overlays and special effects to enhance their set-ups. The use of cut-out cels typifies their work as well. As Helen explained, "Animation art was new to people. They weren’t used to looking through layers of cel, and we were afraid they would find it distracting. We decided to carefully cut out the characters and glue them onto the backgrounds."

 

Courvoisier was delighted with the work done by Helen and her people, but the cost of preparing the art at the studio proved to be too high, and in April 1939, after reviewing a cost breakdown of the program, Roy Disney decided that art after Pinocchio would be prepared for sale by Courvoisier’s people. Major changes in how the art was prepared subsequently took place.

 

"When the studio transferred the making of set-ups to Courvoisier, little of what we had done went along," Helen remembered. "A couple of the girls went up to San Francisco to work with them and get them started, but we were part of the studio and had access to its resources, including our own paint, and they were pretty much on their own." Background techniques changed, wood veneer was no longer used, and the look of the set-ups changed. The expertise required to cut out the characters was no longer available, and Courvoisier began laminating the cels instead to prevent the paint from chipping off.