Inspiring Walt Disney : the animation of French decorative arts Wolf Burchard

This very interesting exhibition catalogue exposes the inspiration Walt Disney Animation Studios found in eighteenth century European art and architecture. We learn that Walt Disney made several long stays in Europe where he purchased books for his studio team. He not only provided an art teacher for them, but gave them access to visual material in the studio’s library. He acquired books by the Brothers Grimm, Jean de La Fontaine, the comtesse de Ségur, H.C. Andersen, J.M. Barrie, Wilhelm Busch etc.  Also included were illustrated children’s books by Gustave Doré, Jean de Brunhoff and Félix Lorioux. Walt Disney also purchased miniature furniture and porcelain on these trips, he was a big collector. In his short films The clock store and The China shop decorative objects come to life and the dancing porcelain figures are compared to Meissen, Höchst figurines. The book analyses the inspiration of the decor of the film “Beauty and the Beast” by Rococo decorative art and the modelling of Sleeping Beauty’s castle after Schloss Neuschwanstein in Bavaria. There is an emphasis on the playfulness and fantasy of motion of the rococo style with the joyful spirit of the Disney animation. Even today, 18th century art inspires Disney movies, Fragonard’s Swing makes an appearance in the film Frozen. The Metropolitan Museum of art hosted this exhibition and holds in its collection a gouache on celluloid from Snow white and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), a donation which was very controversial at the time. An interview with Walt in the New York Times (Feb. 26, 1939) had the caption “It’s Disney, but is it art?” This catalogue will make you wonder again.

Available at the library

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