Conservation, inpainting and preservation to production cels and background from Walt Disney’s 1948 feature film Melody Time. Art gifted from Walt Disney to Hardie Gramatky, ex-Disney employee and author of the children’s book: Little Toot. Collection of Kendall & Linda Gramatky. Image courtesy of the Archive of Ron Barbagallo, Animation Art Conservation. Melody Time - © Disney Enterprises, Inc.
Once upon a time animation art wasn't worth the celluloid it was painted on. Art that would now be worth tens of thousands of dollars was washed or thrown away – and what was saved often handled thoughtlessly or just forgotten about. Things have changed since then, changed a lot. People now realize that animation art is exactly that - a thing of beauty in its own right, and a cultural heritage to be cherished and preserved. (The fact that original cels, concept art and similar items are high-valued collectibles that are transitioning to museum art hasn't hurt either.)
Preservation is where Ron Barbagallo comes into the picture. Even the most carefully preserved original art cannot escape the inevitable decay of the materials that went into its creation, and clients on the order of the Walt Disney Co., Warner Bros., Hanna-Barbera and even individuals like Roy E. Disney have turned to Ron's Animation Art Conservation practice for rescue and restoration projects that often border on the miraculous.
Ron's been at it for nearly 25 years. While his work has focused on the preservation of hand-painted cels and backgrounds, his work also includes physical objects like Mary GrandPré's Harry Potter pastel art book covers, Batman's suits from the Tim Burton and Christopher Nolan movies and a four-year preservation effort for the long-term care of Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas, Corpse Bride and James and the Giant Peach puppets. Ron's skills have even led him to the shattered remnants of the World Trade Center.