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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Original Animation Production Cel of Dopey Set On A Wood Veneer Courvoisier Background from "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," 1937


Original hand painted and hand inked production cel of Dopey set on an airbrushed wood veneer Courvoisier background from "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," 1937; Size - Dopey: 4 1/2 x 3 1/2", Image 8 x 8"; Unframed.

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Development on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs began in early 1934, and by June Walt Disney announced to The New York Times the production of his first feature, to be released under Walt Disney Productions.  Before Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the Disney studio had been primarily involved in the production of animated short subjects in the Mickey Mouse and Silly Symphonies series.  However, Disney hoped to expand his studio's prestige and revenues by moving into features, and he estimated that Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs could be produced for a budget of $250,000 (this was ten times the budget of an average Silly Symphony).

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was to be the first full-length cel animated feature in motion picture history, and as such Walt Disney had to fight to get the film produced. Both his brother and business partner Roy Disney, as well as his wife Lillian attempted to talk him out of it.  The Hollywood movie industry mockingly referred to the film, while is was in production, as "Disney's Folly."  Disney ended up having to mortgage his house to help finance the film's production, which would eventually ran up to a total cost of $1,488,422.74; an absolutely massive sum for a feature film in 1937!

Although the initial concept designing of the dwarfs was relatively easy for the Walt Disney animation department, the actual animating of them proved to be difficult. The animators, already finding human figures difficult to animate, now had to animate dwarfed human figures. The great Disney animator Vladimir Tytla noted that the dwarfs should walk with a swing to their hips, and Fred Moore commented that they had to move a little more quickly in order to keep up with the other human characters. A 3-D armature sculpture of each dwarf was constructed as reference for the animators.

In the pre-production stages of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," Dopey was simply called 'The Seventh'. His personality and role were finalized late in the process, after it was suggested that Dopey should move like burlesque comedian Eddie Collins. Collins began his career in vaudeville and went on to become a successful comedian, actor, and singer. He helped to define the character's personality through his live action filmed sequences, as well as providing the few vocal sounds that Dopey made during the film. He also provided the sounds of a sneezing chipmunk and a squirrel.

Dopey is the youngest of the dwarfs, as proven by his lack of a beard. But perhaps his most notable trait is his lack of speech. In the film Happy states Dopey is simply unaware whether or not he can speak, as he has simply never tried. In spite of this, he can occasionally be heard making various vocal sounds such as whimpers, hiccups, and a one-shot yell. The other dwarfs seem to have no problem understanding Dopey, and Doc was able to easily translate Dopey's blathering into a cohesive sentence. Various Walt Disney artists were involved in the animation of Dopey throughout the film including: Vladimir Tytla, Fred Moore, Frank Thomas, Shamus Culhane, Les Clark, Ollie Johnston, and Art Babbit.

This is an absolutely wonderful original hand painted and hand inked production cel of Dopey set on an airbrushed (used to create the shadow and the dwarf name) wood veneer Courvoisier background. The Courvoisier portrait series from Snow White is highly desired by collectors for their beauty. Courvoisier Galleries, the first to recognize the artistic value to the newly emerging animation art form, in the 1930s and 40s created the series to sell to the public. All the characters from the film were made for the series including The Seven Dwarfs, Snow White, The Huntsman, The Old Hag, and The Evil Queen. The character cels were trimmed and applied to the wood veneer background. This is a beautiful portrait cel of Dopey with both eyes and his mouth open.