Inspiring Walt Disney: The Animation of French Decorative Arts exhibit at The Huntington is ready to have the company impressed with a vivid collection of the types of works that have inspired the enchanted looks of Disney fairytales including BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, CINDERELLA, and SLEEPING BEAUTY.
The collection will be on display from December 10, 2022 – March 27, 2023 in the MaryLou and George Boone Gallery at the The Huntington.
Images on this page are provided courtesy of The Huntington, all rights reserved.
The international traveling exhibition explores the early inspirations behind Disney Studios’ creations, examining Walt Disney’s fascination with European art and the use of French motifs in Disney films and theme parks.
Approximately 50 works of 18th-century European decorative art and design, many of which are drawn from The Huntington’s significant collection, will be featured alongside hand-drawn production artworks and works on paper from the Walt Disney Animation Research Library, Walt Disney Archives, Walt Disney Imagineering Collection, and The Walt Disney Family Museum.
About the Exhibit
Courtesy of The Huntington, below is a detailed description of the wonders within.
- The concept of “Animating the Inanimate” is explored in the first section of the exhibition, which features French and German Rococo porcelain figurines alongside story sketches for The China Shop (1934), one of Disney’s “Silly Symphonies.”
- These types of whimsical porcelain figures, originally inspired by the pastoral scenes of French Rococo painter Antoine Watteau and his contemporaries, were brought to life by the first generation of Disney animators.
- The exhibition suggests connections between the remarkable technological advancements of the Meissen and Sèvres porcelain manufacturers over the course of the 18th century and the cinematic innovations pioneered by Disney animators at the beginning of the 20th century.
- The next sections of the exhibition focus on two early animated features.
- The Cinderella (1950) section spotlights the barrier-breaking female artists who managed to enter the creative realm of Disney Studios, especially the celebrated Mary Blair.
- The Sleeping Beauty (1959) section spotlights medieval sources that Disney artist Eyvind Earle and his colleagues consulted for the style of the animated classic. In 2011, The Huntington’s conservation team restored the Walt Disney Archives’ Sleeping Beauty prop book, several pages of which will be on view in the exhibition.
- Disney’s most Rococo film, Beauty and the Beast (1991) is celebrated in another section of the exhibit. The film is famous for featuring inanimate objects that come to life—from the level-headed Mrs. Potts to the charismatic Lumiere.
- The exhibition explores anthropomorphism and zoomorphism in 18th-century French literature and decorative arts, the interiors of the movie’s enchanted castle, and the design and animation of the Beast and other characters. Disney’s satirical take on Rococo fashion will be explored alongside works from The Huntington’s collection of macaroni prints—18th-century illustrations that poked fun at the extreme fashion worn by the upper classes at the time.
- Disney architecture is also examined, specifically the fairy-tale castles that are central focal points in many Disney movies and theme parks.
- While the fantastical buildings exist outside actual periods and styles, Disney’s artists were heavily influenced by French and German architecture when creating their settings, particularly for the theme parks.
- The centerpiece of this section is the first bird’s-eye view illustration of Disneyland, drawn by Herbert Ryman under Walt Disney’s guidance over one weekend in the fall of 1953, as well as the only two known pairs of so-called Tower vases, made by Sèvres around 1762–63 and reunited for the first time. One pair is from The Huntington’s collection, and the other is on loan from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
A fully illustrated catalog, Inspiring Walt Disney: The Animation of French Decorative Arts, by Wolf Burchard—the curator of the exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where he is the associate curator in the department of European sculpture and decorative arts—is available at the Huntington Store or online at thehuntingtonstore.org. It is published by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and distributed by Yale University Press.
The exhibition is organized by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Wallace Collection in London in association with The Huntington.
See it for Yourself
Inspiring Walt Disney: The Animation of French Decorative Arts at the at MaryLou and George Boone Gallery in the The Huntington is available from December 10, 2022 – March 27, 2023.
Capacity at The Huntington is limited daily and online reservations are required for weekend visits and strongly recommended during the week.
- Adult: $25/$29
- Senior (65+): $21/$24
- Youth (4–11): $13
- Child (under 4): Free
- Members: Free (MORE INFO)
- Additional discounts available for Military, Students, and Groups of 15+ (MORE INFO)