It is not every collector that has an employer so generous as to provide extensive space for that employee to assemble his collection. But that's the kind of employer that Dave Smith has!
Smith is an expert on the subject of Walt Disney and devotes much of his time to collecting memoriabilia of the man and his creations. When you start trying to gather together the work of fifty years, you need a lot of room. So here in a sub-basement, under water pipes that sometimes leak, are millions of Disney animation drawings from films like Snow White, Fantasia, Dumbo, Pinocchio, Sleeping Beauty, and Lady and the Tramp. Smith is a librarian by profession so everything is carefully cataloged.
He can flip through any number of Walt Disney comic books - the kind Disney collectors dream about - including Volume One. Number one from 1938 is now worth 5 to 6 hundred dollars.
And his bookcase has hundreds of other Disney books - including the well known Big Little Books, and ones that pop up.
Smith has time to show Mickey Mouse watches - both pocket and wrist variety - and the even harder to find Donald Duck pocket watch. And bisque, porcelain and rubber figures of Disney characters that once sold for next to nothing, or were given away in promotions, now crowd together on shelves in Smiths office.
And Smith has things that even the most ardent Disney collector could not conceive of ever owning - although to do so would make a collection one of a kind.
Like the accounting book for the early years of the Walt Disney studio - with entries in the period just before Mickey mouse was introduce publically where Walt Disney was getting ten dollars a week and the chief animator 90.
Or the original story sketches and script for the first Mickey Mouse film-Steamboat Wllie.
Or the early pencil sketches in the creation of Snow White. Perhaps you are beginning to get the idea that Dave Smith is no ordinary collector - that he must have access to material beyond what the usual collector can acquire.
Dave Smith is the archivist for the Walt Disney Studios. He came here three and half years ago from UCLA to organize an archives system - he told the studio they should catalog all this stuff and build a facility to house it. Disney hired Smith to do the job - the building is still in the planning stages and Smith is still prowling.
David Smith: I smoked throughout the company. I went into the attics, the basements and opened the storeroom closets and found a lot of things people didn’t know were here. For example down in the basement I found two large crates of phonograph records. When I opened these up and started playing them I found out they were transcriptions of radio shows back from the 1930s and 1940s on which Walt Disney appeared and shows on which Disney songs were plugged and these types of things. One of these shows was the interviews at the time Snow White opened at the Cathey Circle Theatre In December 21, 1937. And Walt Disney was one of the people interviewed at that time and he was so flustered he could not even remember the names of the Seven Dwarfs (chuckles).
IV: There was a wealth of this kind of material in this odd corners.
David Smith: Oh yes, definitely. And a lot of them are still there. We just haven’t had the space to bring them into the archives. But at least I know where they all are now.
- 00:02:38 Dave Smith interview