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Collector Spotlight: Harry Kleiman

Above: Eyvind Earle concept painting from Walt Disney’s “Lady and the Tramp.” Offered by RR Auction.

A lifelong love of animation

Harry Kleiman grew up enjoying Saturday morning cartoons, like many of us. That turned into a love of animation and illustration – and obtaining significant examples for his collection – that has continued for more than 50 years.

Read Harry’s firsthand account of his love of animation

Kleiman is RR Auction’s animation expert, and has shared some of most compelling pieces of original artwork with our other passionate collectors in past auctions. Our August Fine Autographs and Artifacts auction (through Aug. 8) has a special Animation feature section, with more of his incredible finds from the world’s greatest animation artists.

Kleiman’s favorite illustrator would have to be Eyvind Earle, the noted artist behind such Disney works as “Lady and the Tramp,” (seen above) “Sleeping Beauty,” and more. “His attention to detail was unsurpassed,” Kleiman said.

Within 194 animation lots, RR is offering 140 Walt Disney items. We spoke with Kleiman about one of his favorite things: Walt Disney’s paradigm-shifting master work, Snow White. He told us the amazing story of how that film came to be.

Animation expert Harry Kleiman
Animation expert Harry Kleiman.

Kleiman on Snow White

Nobody thought he could do it. Film titans Louis B. Mayer and Jack Warner called it “Walt’s Folly.” For who would sit through a full-length animated film in a theater? It was absurd; it was never done before.

Walt Disney proved everyone wrong.

“Once upon a time” in 1934, Walt Disney sent his animation staff to dinner (with a nickel or dime to pay for it), telling them to come back to the office afterwards. When they did, Walt acted out the whole story and his vision of Snow White – the voices, the actions, all the dwarves’ personalities.

Unbeknownst to any of his staff, Walt had been planning Snow White all on his own. “It was all in his head; he had amazing character development,” Kleiman noted.

Once the story was revealed to his staff, Walt mortgaged his house and his old studio and work began on Snow White. Creating “The Old Mill” as a test film for 3D, and Silly Symphonies cartoons as “practice” films, Walt even had to create the multiplane camera to capture the 3D aspects of the film.

Bashful, Doc, Sneezy, Happy and Sleepy production cel from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Offered by RR Auction.
Snow White production cel Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Walt Disney signature RR Auction
Snow White production cel from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, with Walt Disney signature. Offered by RR Auction.
Snow White Prince the Seven Dwarfs limited edition cel Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs RR Auction
Snow White, the Prince, and the Seven Dwarfs limited edition cel, from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Offered by RR Auction.

Despite naysayers like Mayer and Warner, the film was, of course, an international hit. All the songs – all written for the film – became No. 1 hits as well. Walt was even able to build a new (the current) Disney studio with revenue from Snow White.

A special Oscar was also created for the film, as there had been no award for an animated feature yet. It featured one big Oscar, and seven little ones, for the dwarves. It was presented to Walt by a young Shirley Temple.

Take home Snow White

We have 18 beautiful pieces from Disney’s Snow White – production drawings and production cels that feature the heroine, her seven small friends, her prince and one poison apple-proffering witch.

“I hope that you see the hard work and beauty that I saw in these wonderful works,” Kleiman said.

Dopey Grumpy Doc production cel Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs RR Auction
Dopey, Grumpy and Doc production cel, from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Offered by RR Auction.