A Mortuary for Disney’s Art

by M-Gillies

The underground tunnels connecting the Disney Animation Building with the Ink & Paint Building was called "The Morgue".

There’s a place in the world known as the magical kingdom, a place said to be the happiest in the world and where dreams come true, it’s an empire built on the success of an arsenal of animated movies since 1937, and it all happened on the lot of The Walt Disney Studios in Burbank California. But, there’s a place in the studio of which very few people know. Hidden deep beneath the studio’s courtyards, streets and brick-and-mortar buildings is a labyrinth of concrete corridors. It was in this secret location, originally constructed to house and maintain plumbing and electrical systems, that a passageway conveniently connects the Animation Building to the Ink & Paint Building. And convenient it was as it allowed the transportation of celluloids or cels from one building to another during intemperate weather.

However, with low ceilings, pipes of every shape and size running along the walls and ceilings, and hidden rooms adjoining the long hallways, the atmosphere became a fitting backdrop for a spooky movie. Aptly named “The Morgue”, it was this location that, up until 1989, was the home of old scripts and a breathtaking collection of animation art.

From concept art to cels, “The Morgue” has been the final resting place for animation art for nearly 40 years. It was a location that seemed a suitable repository for artwork when filming wrapped up and staff moved onto the next project.

“In our morgue, these shelves, tables and file cabinets hold all our history as a motion picture studio,” said Walt Disney in a 1957 episode of the television series Disneyland. “In these file cabinets are research materials of every kind and description. This room represents the repository; the well of our experience, and experience is the key to progress.”

In 1989, “The Morgue” lost its name and the cozy underground location, which had become a home to retired research and the ghosts of artwork, was moved to a larger facility in Glendale, California. While the morgue was primarily used as a place for artists to seek inspiration from the brush strokes and textures applied to each piece of artwork, the studio felt it was necessary to preserve the original animation pieces for posterity.

“For Disney to invest the resources it takes into preserving and maintaining the art, shows the commitment the Company has to its legacy,” a statement from 20th Century Fox said.

Read more:

Mystery of the Morgue | Disney

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