The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum’s collection includes a small but significant collection of artwork from traditional, hand-drawn animated films. The images included here show a portion of the animation process and are pieces that contributed to just a few seconds of a scene in Walt Disney’s 1951 adaptation of Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.
First, storyboards are created based on the script. These rough drawings give the animation team a basic sense of the film’s scenes and transitions. From here, tight pencil drawings of each frame are made on transparent paper. This paper is punched with registration holes that line up with “peg bars” on the animator’s desk, to keep each page in place. The pages work like a flipbook; they break down the motion of a scene to the second. Separately, background artists paint the sets on which the action of the film will take place. The pencil drawings of characters are traced or photocopied onto pieces of celluloid (cels), and the reverse side is painted to add color. Once each of these steps is complete, the pieces are layered on top of the background, a piece of glass covers and flattens them, and the photography process begins.