On a recent trip to Disney World I was impressed by the way Disney has adapted state of the art digital technologies for a new generation of rides and events. Everywhere I turned there were flashing video screens and interactive robotics and music and bustling activity.
Then I unexpectedly stumbled across a quiet and nearly empty building where I had the most interesting experience of my visit: a beautiful exhibition of original background drawings and paintings from Disney's classic films. This art exhibit, entitled "Setting the Scene," will be on display until approximately 2019.
|From Fantasia's pastoral sequence. All images copyright Walt Disney|
The show contains a rich array of paintings from movies such as Fantasia, Pinocchio, Snow White and many others. Here you can see the fertile imaginations of the founding fathers (and mothers) at the dawn of animation.
|From Sleeping Beauty|
The exhibition was assembled by the Walt Disney Animation Research Library in conjunction with Walt Disney Imagineering/Florida. It provides a good sense for the massive treasure trove of talent that made Disney what it is today.
I strongly recommend this exhibition to anyone who makes it down to Disney World. It won't be crowded and it's worth careful study.
Disney reports it has begun curating additional exhibitions that will get its art our of the vaults and in front of appreciative audiences. "We are currently curating two original exhibitions, one that will open this year in China entitled, Drawn from Life and a second one that will open in Europe." Disney also plans to release several books in 2015 and 2016 making use of art from the archives.
A few of the masterpieces in the exhibition are attributed to specific artists such as Gustaf Tenggren but as Disney reports,
In the early days of the Studio, artists did not sign their names as the films were seen as a highly collaborative experience, so we can only identify those pieces as having been created by a "Disney Studio Artist....In recent years, all the artwork has been signed (or digitally catalogued with the artists' names) so we can cite the artist attribution in books and exhibitions and properly recognize the very talented individuals who contribute to the films in his or her own style.
As I left the gallery and returned to the main park, I couldn't help thinking of the ancient Egyptian temple of Karnak.
Karnak was one of the most monumental religious sites ever built. The majestic temple grounds took more than 2,000 years to construct and included 200 acres of buildings, sacred lakes and grand courtyards. Its "Sacred Enclosure of Amon" alone is 61 acres, big enough to hold ten European cathedrals. Robed priests conducted torchlight processions along a 2.5 kilometer avenue lined with a thousand ram-headed sphinxes.
But in the beginning Karnak was only a small spot in the desert where a few people with vision saw something holy. The first structure on that site was apparently a tiny reed hut but it was enough to provide a spiritual foundation for the mighty Egyptian empire that followed. As the centuries passed, engineers, builders and armies arrived at the site and built outward from that first sacred spot, the "Holy of Holies,"
The handful of visionaries who put pencil to paper back in the days of Snow White and Pinocchio, they provided the spiritual foundation for the Disney empire. These small, imaginative paintings can be found in Disney's Hollywood Studio Theme Park. They didn't attract long lines of visitors like the tumultuous Toy Story Midway Mania 4D ride, but they deserve your close attention, for they are the Holy of Holies.