Inspiring Walt Disney: Wallace Collection Announces Disney Animation Exhibition

Laura Reynolds
By Laura Reynolds Last edited 6 months ago
Inspiring Walt Disney: Wallace Collection Announces Disney Animation Exhibition
Cinderella, 1950, Disney Studio Artist, Background painting, gouache on paper © Disney

Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast are two of the films taking centre stage at an exhibition about Disney animation.

Inspiring Walt Disney: The Animation of French Decorative Arts compares 20th century hand-drawn animations from Disney films, to 18th century French art, showing the similarities between the two.

'Uncle Walt' himself had a personal fascination with France and French culture, and encouraged Walt Disney Animation Studios artists to use French artworks as their source material when attempting to infuse life and character into inanimate objects — something which the company continued after Disney's death in 1966.

Beauty and the Beast, 1991, Peter J. Hall, Concept art, gouache, marker and ink on paper © Disney

The exhibition features over 120 examples of production artwork and works on paper from the Walt Disney Archives, along with 18th century artworks including furniture, clocks, porcelain and silverware.

Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s painting, The Swing (c.1767), which has provided visual inspiration for several Disney films including Beauty and the Beast (1991), Tangled (2010) and Frozen (2013), is showcased for the first time since it underwent conservation.

Bracket clock, Attributed to Jacques Gouchon, Movement Maker, France, c. 1739 © The Wallace Collection

Cinderella (1950) and Beauty and the Beast (1991) are given particular focus, as they are both films in which household objects and decorative artworks come to life. Early work from Cinderella in particular showcases the work of female artists such as Bianca Majolie and Mary Blair, at a time when animation was a male-dominated industry. The earliest known variant of Beauty and the Beast was published in 1740 by French author Suzanne-Gabrielle Barbot de Villeneuve, giving the film its French roots.

Beauty and the Beast, 1991, Peter J. Hall, Concept art, watercolour, marker, and graphite on paper © Disney

The castles in both films were inspired by the architecture of Versailles and buildings in the Loire Valley. Works by Disney animation artist Hans Bacher show how the atmospheric interiors in both films came together, showcased alongside two pairs of Sèvres turret vases — the only two in the world — on loan from The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Huntington Library in California.

Tower vase with cover, Sevres Manufactory, c. 1762 © Courtesy of the Huntington Art Museum, San Marino, California

Early films from Walt Disney's Silly Symphony series (1929-1939) also feature, highlighting the animator's fascination with inanimate and anthropomorphic objects such as vases and clocks.

Wallace Collection has worked with New York's Museum of Metropolitan Art to put the exhibition together — it's already been on display stateside, and now it's coming to London.

Inspiring Walt Disney: The Animation of French Decorative Arts is at Wallace Collection, 6 April-16 October 2022. Tickets are £14, available now.

Featured image: Disney

Last Updated 15 February 2022

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