Preserving the Collections: The Challenges of 2D Animation Preservation

The Bob Godfrey collection comprises several different media from acetate animation cels, paper drawings, storyboards, scripts, dope sheets and occasional audio tracks. One of the big issues we are facing is how best to preserve a multi-media collection of this kind, and more specifically how best to preserve acetate animation cels.

Acetate is a highly volatile format which is prone to deterioration if it is not kept in conditions which provide a constant level of temperature and humidity, ideally the colder the better. Coming from a film background I am very familiar with the issues surrounding the preservation of acetate films. The challenge with acetate animation cels is that not only are we dealing with the acetate itself which is prone to vinegar syndrome, curling and folding but in addition each cel can be seen as a piece of artwork, carefully painted by hand, usually with acrylic paints. Quite often the paint will stick to the paper used to separate the cels and then we are faced with how to separate these without causing paint transfer and the loss of the image.



The second challenge is that the preservation of acetate cels is an under researched area. Due to historic storage issues some of the cels have been folded, quite often right across the picture. Here the problem we face is how to flatten the cels out without causing the acetate to crack as acetate tears easily and can be quite brittle.


We have actively been looking for answers to these challenges, undertaking research and seeking advice from our archive colleagues. Since so little research has been carried out in this area it is an exciting opportunity to find a way forward. Both Disney’s archives and Cinematheque Francaise have undertaken most work in this area. For more information follow the links below:



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