by Katie Newstead
I’ve always been a big fan of Disney, particularly the animated films, and I’m yet to find anyone that doesn’t like at least one character from the studio’s 89 year history. Last year, while studying for an MA in Film Studies, I decided to use this interest as the basis for my dissertation, which looked at the portrayal of women in The Little Mermaid (Clements & Musker, 1989) and Beauty and the Beast (Trousdale & Wise, 1991), in comparison to their literary forebears. Let’s just say, Disney didn’t come off brilliantly, but my findings certainly didn’t ruin my enjoyment of the franchise. On the contrary, I loved the research; reading the novels by de Beaumont and Andersen to get a sense of the change in attitudes, and reviews, published at the time of the films’ release, which gave me an insight into how the films were received. Watching the films was fun too!
The Bill Douglas Centre proved invaluable to my research, thanks to the vast array of archive material, such as film publicity, press packs, toys, and magazine and newspaper articles. I actually wasn’t expecting to find so much helpful stuff for my fairly contemporary subject, but the museum really does seem to have something from every era and genre of film.
After completing my MA last September, and before that a three-year BA degree in the same subject, I felt I needed a bit of a break from being a student, and began volunteering for the Bill Douglas Centre. Phil Wickham, the museum’s curator, knew of my interest in all things Disney, due to the hours I spent in the reading room, and the fact that his wife, Helen, was my MA supervisor, and put me in charge of cataloguing the Robin Allan collection. Robin is the author of Walt Disney and Europe: European Influences on the Animated Feature Films of Walt Disney (1999), and a renowned Disney scholar who conducted years of research on the subject, particularly the role of European Art as an influence on the animation within the films. Robin gained his PhD on Disney from Exeter in the 1990s and very kindly donated his vast collection of Disney research and ephemera to The Bill Douglas Centre . This includes interviews with Disney animators (82672), original artworks and concept drawings (82621), and a lot more besides.
It’s fascinating, looking through this collection, and now I find myself always on the lookout for items that might be worthy of a place within the Disney collections at the BDC, or even on display in the gallery. To this end, I’ve been [somewhat obsessively] collecting the trading cards that Morrison’s supermarket has been giving away free, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Disneyland Paris, which opened on April 12th, 1992. http://www.morrisons.co.uk/disney
There were 99 cards in all, each depicting a well-known character or characters from a number of Disney films and eras. It became quite exciting, opening the packets each week to see if I’d finally found that elusive Sebastian (the lobster from The Little Mermaid – number H3 in the sticker album), and swapping with other people (via Facebook) to get those that just seemed impossible to track down. I never did find a gold card, and win a trip to Disneyland though. It reminded me of the whole Pokémon card craze, back in the ’90s, not that I was ever into it then, but I remember the hype. Anything can be deemed collectable for, as well as collecting one type of item, such as stamps or coins, people may collect things that relate to a certain event, like the Queen’s Jubilee, or period in history; the 1960s is currently very popular in terms of fashion and iconography. It goes without saying that film provides a huge range of collecting opportunities, from cigarette cards with images of famous actors (80431-80475), to all things Star Wars, all of which can be seen on display at the Bill Douglas Centre.
Other than anything David Tennant-related, I don’t collect, but I really can understand the enjoyment that dedicated collectors get from adding a much-desired item to their hoard, or finding that one missing piece that they’d long been searching for – like the blessed Sebastian! I think a lot of people just want to own a bit of history, kind of like saying you ‘were there’, almost. With sites such as eBay and gumtree.com, collecting is even easier and more accessible to a larger number of people and, as practically anything can be considered collectable, I can’t see this phenomenon ever going out of fashion.