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Arts Featured Rancho Santa Fe Lead Story

Collector drawn to Disney artworks

ESCONDIDO — San Diego resident David Yaruss is recently retired from his professional work as a pharmacist.

Though it’s his work as a hobbyist dealer at Comic-Cons for the past 35 years that has drawn his interests.

Since 1975, Yaruss has collected close to 300 pieces of Disney animation artwork — everything from concept art to character cells to backgrounds of some of the company’s most iconic films. More than 250 pieces of his collection will be on display for the first time publically later this month at the California Center for the Arts, Escondido.

The former pharmacist said he began collecting roughly in 1975, out of total serendipity. He learned about a local comic show from TV and thought that it would be interesting.

Yaruss went to the old El Cortez for the small show, where he saw some of the old comics he’d had as a kid. Those comics turned out to be very popular, he said, because of the artists that drew them.

“It all just changed my collecting life at that point,” he said.

Yaruss talked a little more about his passion for collecting and gave some advice on what to look for when going to the exhibit.


Do you remember your first piece that you collected?

A couple of my earliest pieces — I don’t even have anymore — were some early “Snow White” drawings.


Is there a bit of nostalgia for you in collecting these works?

I collect for every reason. Nostalgia started it and then just the beauty and quality, especially the concept art and backgrounds, the cells — the images of the characters are cute and that is sort of the final touch on a piece of Disney art, or the process that goes on the screen — but there’s the concept art, storyboards, drawings, all of which come first.

One of the more than 250 pieces of David Yaruss’s Disney animation collection that will be on exhibit features Mickey Mouse, including other artworks from the company’s iconic animated film library. Courtesy photo
One of the more than 250 pieces of David Yaruss’s Disney animation collection that will be on exhibit features Mickey Mouse, including other artworks from the company’s iconic animated film library. Courtesy photo


Is it only the art of the “Golden Age of Animation” that you’re interested in collecting?

That’s my primary focus, but as far as strictly Disney, I have some other non-animation stuff that I’ve picked up over the years. But mainly the passion is Disney before the 1950s and earlier. Although I certainly wouldn’t say no to anything later if it was nice. There’s so many factors involved.


Is it difficult to find these pieces today? Are you still collecting?

Yes. The passion is always there. And each year it becomes more difficult. A lot of sources wind up in auctions and it’s becoming harder each year.


Is there one piece that you’re especially looking for that you haven’t yet found?

Well, anything that I’m looking for these days, and since I do have quite a good collection, I really can’t afford. I started this in the early days. I can’t afford the pieces I would like to have.


Who do you think this art appeals to?

I would say anyone and everyone that sees it and has seen any of the movies. Probably, “Fantasia”…it had a re-birth in the ‘60s, the psychedelic-era, which is my favorite movie. That’s sort of the passion of my collecting is aimed. But newer stuff, they did wonderful stuff on “The Lion King.” So I would say it’s kind of like Disneyland, it appeals to all ages.


Do you think today’s animated films being computer generated takes away anything from the artwork you collect?

I would think if anything it will make it more rare as time goes on. In other words (it’s) one of those they don’t make them anymore sort of things.


For someone who will see the exhibit, what should they look for?

They might want to, now with smart phones and computers, look up “animation process,” educate themselves briefly on what the process of getting a film on the screen (is)…To be more specific, some of the concept work — the detail in the drawings and the paintings, in some cases, are just astounding…Concept art to me is among the most beautiful.


Where: California Center for the Arts, Escondido; 340 N. Escondido Blvd.

When: July 26 through Sept. 7

Tickets: $8; members and children under 12 are free. Senior, student and military discounts available.

Info:; (760) 839-4138

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