Centuries-old art that inspired Disney arrives at the Met

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Walt Disney created a rich and vibrant fantasy with his animations, but his inspiration was firmly rooted in the real world.

The just-opened exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, “Inspirational Walt Disney: Animation of French Decorative Arts,” shows how historic European design influenced both animators and those who worked for him. Is shown.

The exhibition dates back to the post-World War I era when 16-year-old Disney traveled to France for the Red Cross. He fell in love with buildings and art. The subsequent trip to Europe in 1935 inspired him even more when he was in his thirties. He photographed the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles during those trips. Decades later, the design was used as a clear reference by Disney artists as the background to the famous ballroom scene of “Beauty and the Beast” in 1991.

Only a week ago, the exhibition was already lined up with excited crowds outside the gallery.
Stefano Giovannini

“He sucked it all up like a sponge,” said 36-year-old Wolfbar, a Met Associate who curated a new display that was on until March 6th and was already drawing a line outside the gallery. Chard said.

Disney’s journey also looked at the Gothic Revival architecture that appeared in the 1950s Cinderella and the medieval art that influenced the appearance of the Sleeping Beauty in 1959.

While some inspiration is direct and concrete, such as modeling “Sleeping Beauty” from a medieval tapestry, Disney is more generally Rococo-like with the Lumiere character of “Beauty and the Beast.” I used other inspirations, such as references to.

“The final product often doesn’t look like the original source of inspiration. I think it’s really important,” says Virtualard. “This is because it shows that Disney animators aren’t just copying their ancestors beyond imagination, they’re actually creating something new.”

Here’s a backstory of the four items and how they influenced Walt Disney and Co.

Small room, big dream

Despite its small size, this miniature French interior and such other small models helped Disney shape Disneyland's larger ideas.
Despite its small size, this miniature French interior and such other small models helped Disney shape Disneyland’s larger ideas.
The Art Institute of Chicago / Art Resources, New York

Disneyland, California — a fantasy park that opened in 1955 across 160 acres of former orange groves — has its roots in much smaller ones. The late American artist Narcissa Niblack Thorne’s 1930s miniature room (a dozen small reproductions of stately European, American, and Asian interiors) was exhibited in San Francisco in 1939 by Walt Disney. It caught my eye. “These rooms were made for Americans who couldn’t travel. [abroad] … And because they are so accurate, they really help to make a leap forward in imaginative travel, ”says Virtuald. At the Metropolitan Museum of Art, you can see a miniature French private room of about 18 x 24 x 23 inches from Thorne during the Louis XV era. This room is decorated with chandeliers surrounded by ornate moldings. These detailed reproductions initially led Disney to think of Disneyland as a model town, with particular attention to imaginative play. “They’re about this childish fantasy,” said Virtualard in Thorn’s room. “This idea of ​​escapism is to let your imagination run freely — children see it and let their minds travel.”

The miniature room is actually a small attraction taken by the visitor.
The miniature room is actually a small attraction taken by the visitor.
Stefano Giovannini

The power of flowers

Using medieval tapestries as an influence, Eyvind Earle "sleeping Beauty" Use a similar technique to sharply focus on the lush foreground and background.
Using medieval tapestries as an influence, Eyvind Earle used a similar technique to prototype “Sleeping Beauty” with a vivid focus on the lush foreground and background.
Walt Disney Animation Research Library, © Disney

The visual inspiration for “Sleeping Beauty” was the “Unicorn Tapestry” of flowers designed in Paris and woven in the Southern Netherlands in the 1500s. The Metropolitan Museum of Art purchased a tapestry in 1937 and exhibited it in Uptown Cloisters. Disney employee John Hench introduced the tapestry during his trip to New York in the 1950s. “”[He] Returning to Los Angeles, he suggested to Disney that “Unicorn Tapestry” should really be a template for storytelling of aesthetics and “Sleeping Beauty,” Virtuald said. “Disney then hired art director Eyvind Earle to create that very stage set. It’s considered one of the most artistic and sophisticated of all the films.” At the exhibition, visitors can see the vibrant gouache work of Earle’s “Sleeping Beauty” concept art. The idea is “to step into a tapestry where the foreground and background are reproduced with the same level of detail,” said Virtualard. According to the catalog of exhibits, Earl once said, “I rearranged bushes and trees into geometric patterns. I made medieval tapestries from the surface as much as possible. All my foregrounds are decorative. It was a tapestry design of various weeds and flowers. ”

this "Shepherds and shepherds make music" Tapestry is hanging with concept art "sleeping Beauty" About the influence of similar design.
This “Music Making Shepherd and Shepherd” tapestry is alongside the concept art of “Sleeping Beauty” influenced by a similar design.
Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Far upstream, the new exhibit with the “Unicorn Tapestry” has a 16th-century “Shepherd and Shepherd Making Music” tapestry next to Earl Art, explaining its impact.

There is light

Due to the constraints of hand-drawn animation, Lumiere eventually couldn't have a more glamorous body, but due to the influence of Rococo, the designer would give him other decorative designs to bring him to life. became.
Due to the constraints of hand-drawn animation, Lumiere eventually couldn’t have a more glamorous body, but due to the Rococo influence, the designer would give him other decorative designs to bring him to life. became.
Walt Disney Animation Research Library, © Disney

Known for its highly decorative design, the 18th-century Rococo sconces in France inspired Disney animators to develop gorgeous Lumière characters in “Beauty and the Beast.” The exhibition combines Lumiere’s concept art work of 1991 with a golden bronze sconces made by designer Juste-Aurèle Meissonnier from 1735 to 1750.

Lumière's inspiration came from the Rococo candlestick.  By Meissonnier, this is a good example of an abstract shape that brings movement to an otherwise inanimate object.
Lumiere’s inspiration came from a rococo candlestick. By Meissonnier, this is a good example of an abstract shape that brings movement to an otherwise inanimate object.
Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Lumiere’s inspiration is not unique to this one candlestick, but to the aesthetics of the era as a whole. Both works aim to show visitors how a somewhat theatrical design brings inanimate objects to life.The concept art of the movie shows “melting wax formed” [Lumiere’s] A sly face creates a shiny metal sconces themselves that allow you to see how your arms move and see how the animation works, “Birchard said. increase. The 18th-century candlestick, on the other hand, sits on a rotating table and shows a series of glittering curves that give a normal object a sense of movement. “This is another kind of animation,” Burchard said. “This is how the Rococo designer, a precursors of film and hand-drawn animation, tried to animate an object across a complex abstract surface … with a swell and eye. That’s the best job. “

Mi Castle, Su Castle

These four Rococo vases have no direct effect, but have elements similar to Disney's castle.
These four Rococo vases have no direct effect, but have elements similar to Disney’s castle.
Stefano Giovannini

In the final gallery of the exhibition, viewers can see four towering French porcelain vases covered with pink and green domes. The vases standing next to each other have the same outline and color scheme as Disney’s castle. Created by the Sèvres workshop around 1762, these rococo pieces are the most ambitious to date due to the high level of detail, like the windows carved into the dome. He said he was ranked as one of the porcelain vases. Two vases have been rented from Disney’s Huntington Library in California, but it’s not clear if he saw them.

Similar to the look of a gorgeous wedding cake in a porcelain vase, Disney's castle has a similar shape and color, like this one near Paris, France.
Similar to the look of a gorgeous wedding cake in a porcelain vase, Disney’s castle has a similar shape and color, like this one near Paris, France.
Getty Images

“This doesn’t mean that Disney was inspired by them when they saw those vases and oversaw the production of Disneyland,” said Virtualard. But what matters is the reason behind the design. “The important thing is to encourage Rococo designers to use the same rhetoric to run our imagination freely. These porcelains are as magical as Disney’s castles. Thing.”

Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Avenue. (212) 535-7710, MetMuseum.org

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