Inspiring Walt Disney: The Animation of French Decorative Arts ★★★★ The Wallace Collection | Apr 6 - Oct 16, 2022


Two ideas you may never have previously put together – Walt Disney and French 18th century art. This compact exhibition will show you that connection and is bound to make a lasting impression. Disney initially visited France in the First World War and later returned to study its culture and make a charming home movie which opens the exhibition. The focus is primarily on two of Disney's works that have their sources in French stories: Cinderella from 1950 and the more recent Beauty and the Beast (1991). Both are 18th century tales of transformation that the Walt Disney Animation Studios brought to the screen, and in both there is an attempt to capture the wit, elegance and playfulness of the Rococo. Disney's fascination with anthropomorphic objects mirrors the whimsical inventions of that period, and his pumpkin/carriages and teapot/housekeepers are unforgettable extensions of the original French fascination. The Wallace Collection's own masterpiece, Fragonard's The Swing (c. 1767), is also displayed as an inspiration not only for Beauty and the Beast (1991), but also for the more recent Disney films, Tangled (2010) and Frozen (2013). The exhibition, while illustrating the labour-intensive task that is hand-drawn animation, also brings to the fore some of the barrier-breaking artists working at the Studio such as Bianca Majolie and Mary Blair. Whether you are a connoisseur of 18th century French culture or an aficionado of Disney's animated films, this exhibition juxtaposes those two artistic outputs in a manner that is both delightful and quite unforgettable.

Rated: ★★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Image: Beauty and the Beast, 1991, Peter J. Hall, Concept art, gouache, marker and ink on paper © Disney

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