A little bit of Disney magic is hidden in Mattapoisett

Oct 25, 2017

Donna Cushman says her collection of Disney memorabilia is "a little piece of history."

Cushman's collection, which is worth several thousand dollars, began with a statue of Dopey, one of the dwarves from "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves," given to her by her husband, Jim. Jim is a well-known collector of Beatles memorabilia, and he encouraged his wife to start her own collection.

So she did. Now, her collection has grown from the Dopey figurine to animation drawings, cells from movie reels, toy collections  and other artwork used in the movies.

Cushman collects Disney memorabilia from 1937, the release of Disney's first full-length animated movie, "Snow White," to 1965, when the animated "101 Dalmatians" was released.

"Walt Disney had been successful doing little animation shorts like 'Steamboat Willie,'" she explained, "but when he proposed doing a full-length animated movie, everyone thought he was crazy. Even his wife tried to talk him out of it."

Disney's gamble proved a success though. The original "animated film," Snow White is still one of the top-grossing movies of all time.

The movie took several years to make. According to Cushman, it takes 24 drawings to create one second of film; the movie is 90 minutes long. That's 1,440 drawings for every minute of the film, or 129,600 drawings overall.

Of all that, little remains to be collected. The tricky thing, Cushman said, is the scarcity of available authentic items, particularly cells and animation drawings.

"Animation drawings were supposed to be returned to Walt Disney Studios," Cushman explained. "The animators took some of them home and kept them with their things, and when they died their families found them and offered them for sale. That's about all we have."

Cells from movie reels are even harder to find. The animations would've been drawn onto the cells by hand. Often, to save costs, reels were wiped clean to be reused, so very few cells remain. Cushman has a few, particularly from Snow White. "When you pause the movie and see the exact frame that you have hanging up, it's the greatest thing," she said.

She's always searching for more, particularly when it comes to Disney villains. Maleficent, Cushman said, is her favorite. "She's the original villain."

Unlike her husband's Beatles memorabilia (currently on display as part of a moving tour), Cushman usually keeps her Disney artifacts at home, though the collection has been displayed locally. "People love to see it," she said. "With computer generation, movies aren't made this way anymore. Sometimes, people don't even know how animated movies were put together."