walt disney inspirational
now in public view, inspiring walt disney: animation of french decorative arts marks the very first exhibition at the MET to explore the work of walt disney and hand-drawn animation from walt disney animation studios. the show explores the dialogue between iconic films and the historic European works of art that inspired the vision.
the show is staged between a selection of early Disney shorts, key feature films and castles to reveal themes that span centuries of French decorative arts – the medieval depiction of the landscape, the opulent ornamentation of 18th century rococo and Gothic architecture. the show will be visible at the MET from December 10, 2021 to March 6, 2022.
manufactory of sèvres, covered vase in the shape of a tower, ca. 1762 | image courtesy of the Huntington Art Museum
header: gallery view, photo by paul lachenauer, courtesy of MET © disney
Disney meets European opulence at the Met
as part of inspiring walt disney: animation of the french decorative arts, the Metropolitan Museum of Art (find out more here) presents some sixty works of European design alongside 150 works of disney production and on paper. Also on display, film sequences illustrate the artistic and technological developments of the studio during and beyond the life of Walt Disney.
a constant theme revealed through the retrospective is the concept of “animating the inanimate”. one of the first sections of the show shows a first example of anthropomorphized objects through the story sketches of two of Disney’s short films: the watch store (1931) and the porcelain shop (1934). Beside the films is a collection of French and German Rococo porcelain figurines which underline the clear influence.
left: narcissa niblack thorne, Louis XV period french boudoir, 1740-60, miniature room approx. 1937 | chicago art institute / art resource, NY
right: Mary Blair, Cinderella, conceptual art, 1950 | walt disney © disney animation research library
Walt Disney’s early trips to Europe were an inspiration from which he and his studios drew inspiration throughout his life. his travels also sparked his passion for collecting and building miniature furniture, revealing the creativity he would use to oversee the creation of the new “worlds” of his parks and films. a selection of these miniature objects will be presented alongside personal film footage of disney and her family visiting paris and versailles.
similar 18th century interiors can be found in the show Cinderella (1950) section. this section further sheds light on female artists breaking down barriers that entered the creative realm of disney studios, including bianca majolie and mary blair. the original paintings show off the bold and colorful blair style that inspired the look of studio feature films of the 1940s and early 1950s.
left: manufacture de meissen, johann joachim kändler, faustine bordoni and fox, 1743 | the Metropolitan Art Museum
right: Mary Blair, Cinderella, background painting, 1950 | walt disney © disney animation research library
the beauty and the Beast
the next series of galleries at the MET walt disney inspirational is devoted to the beauty and the Beast (1991), which Walt Disney himself had suggested for animation in the 1940s and 1950s. The tale was first published in 1740 by suzanne-gabrielle barbot de villeneuve, although a later adaptation and abbreviated (1756) by Jeanne-marie leprince de beaumont is better known. the expansive section will explore the subjects of anthropomorphism and zoomorphism in 18th century French literature and decorative arts, disney’s satirical take on rococo fashion, the interiors of the film’s enchanted castle, and design and animation of the beast and other characters.
meissen manufactory, johann gottlieb kirchner, Lion (one of a pair), 1732 | the Metropolitan Art Museum
preparatory film sketches shown alongside 18th-century clocks, candlesticks and teapots will illustrate how Disney animators and Rococo craftsmen sought to bring what is essentially inanimate to life. an exhibition focuses on the transformation scene of the beast, moderated by glen keane and inspired by that of sculptor auguste rodin the bourgeois of Calais, as well as the ballroom stage, whose vast architectural backdrop is inspired by the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles. to be our guest‘ the table display is reminiscent of the glittering silver and porcelain sideboards at Versailles and other European courts.
left: case attributed to andré charles boulle after a drawing by jean berain, clock by jacques III thuret or more likely his father, isaac II thuret, clock with pedestal, 1690 | the Metropolitan Art Museum
right: peter j. room, the beauty and the Beast, conceptual art, 1991 | walt disney © disney animation research library
on the left: according to the drawings of Juste Aurèle Meissonnier, one of a pair of candlesticks (torches or chandeliers), 1735-1750 | the Metropolitan Art Museum
on the right: kevin lima, the beauty and the Beast, conceptual art, 1991 | walt disney © disney animation research library
the exhibition sheds light on the medieval sources that disney artist eyvind earle consulted for the style of Sleeping Beauty (1959). the hunt for the unicorn tapestries (1495–1505) from the MET Cloisters Collection are credited with providing a starting point for the visual development of the film. woven in wool, metallic threads and silk, the iconic tapestries present an idealized representation of the French landscape.
disney artist john hench visited the MET cloisters in the early 1950s and brought home californian reproductions of the famous tapestries, suggesting them as a visual model for Sleeping Beauty. while these originals are still hanging from the cloister, the walt disney inspirational the exhibition presents a comparable tapestry, shepherd and shepherdess making music, from the same cultural context.
eyvind count, Sleeping Beauty, conceptual art, 1959 | walt disney © disney animation research library
the medieval influence on the style of the film extends beyond the depictions of landscapes. illustrated pages from the storybook of props for Sleeping Beauty are adorned with the decorative typeface and marginal art typical of contemporary literature. exhibited at the MET, the sheets used in the film recall one of the best-known works of art of the late Middle Ages: the Book of Hours of the Limbourg brothers the very rich hours of the duke of berry (1412–16).
view of the exhibition | image © designboom
gallery view, photo © designboom
view of the gallery, photo by paul lachenauer, courtesy of MET © disney
meissen manufactory, decoration attributed to the Aufenwerth workshop, teapot with lid, ca. 1719-1730 | the metropolitan museum of art, new york
Pierre J. hall, beauty and the beast, concept art, 1991 | walt disney © disney animation research library
mel shaw, beauty and the beast, concept art, 1991 | walt disney © disney animation research library
artist from the Disney studio, the porcelain shop, story sketch, 1934 | walt disney © disney animation research library
frank armitage, the castle of sleeping beauty, disneyland paris, 1988 | walt disney collection imagineering © disney