Disney thanks Chiba University with $1 million gift

by Reiji Yoshida

As thanks for preserving hundreds of rare images used in early Disney films, Walt Disney Co. of the United States has donated $1 million to Chiba University, the school said in a statement Tuesday.

About 250 original celluloid prints and background pictures actually used in the production of animated films and sketches were found in a warehouse in the university’s engineering department in 2005. They were originally transported to Japan in 1960 for a string of 17 exhibitions on Disney artwork.

The university is now set to return the pictures to The Walt Disney Animation Research Library in California, one of the largest archives of animation arts in the world.

The university released the announcement on the donation as Lella Smith, head of the research library, visited the university Tuesday.

The pictures includes images from “Sleeping Beauty,” (1959), “Cinderella” (1950), “Fantasia” (1940), and “Flowers and Trees,” (1932) the world’s first full-color animated film.

“(The donation) will be used to promote arts and animation education as well as to promote academic research to raise children from the next generation,” the university said in the statement.

Walt Disney donated the works to the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, after the exhibitions ended in 1960. The museum then passed them on to the university for educational purposes in 1963.

After the items were rediscovered in 2005, about 200 of them were redisplayed in five exhibitions across Japan from July 2006 to last September, including at the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo.