Monday, May 07, 2007

Disney in Montreal

I was in Montreal last weekend to see Once Upon A Time Walt Disney: The Sources of Inspiration for the Disney Studios at the Museum of Fine Arts. The exhibit runs until June 24 and if you've been thinking about going, I highly recommend it.

The show features European artwork that may have influenced the Disney films, with the emphasis on Disney design and background art. There are Disney originals by Gustav Tenggren, Mary Blair, Kay Neilson, Joe Grant, Claude Coats, David Hall, Salvador Dali, and Eyvind Earle. The show also includes cel and background set-ups, multiplane paintings on glass, maquettes and well-chosen clips on video screens. For example, the shot moving over the village from early in Pinocchio was playing on a video loop right next to the original background painting, allowing you to understand how the use of the camera and cropping resulted in what's on screen. My only disappointment was that there were very few animation drawings. There were four from Plane Crazy by Ub Iwerks, four from The Band Concert by Les Clark, one from "Night on Bald Mountain" by Bill Tytla, one from The Country Cousin by Art Babbitt and one of Cruella from One Hundred and One Dalmatians by Marc Davis.

There were also video monitors playing clips from other film sources, such as Faust (1926), Frankenstein (1931), Dr. Jeckle and Mr. Hyde (1932), and King Kong (1933) showing scenes side-by-side with the Disney scenes they influenced. Destino was playing in a continuous loop surrounded by development art by Dali and John Hench.

The non-Disney art was equally impressive. There was a 47 second praxinoscope animation by Emile Reynaud which I hadn't seen before and which includes some very good acting. I wish that I knew more about Reynaud as I think that he might have been as much of an innovator as Winsor McCay, though his work isn't as well-known. This was my first time seeing originals by Heinrich Kley (in colour and black and white) and Beatrix Potter.

In addition, there was a separate floor with pop art that had been influenced by Disney.

There's a 350 page catalog with English and French editions available at the museum. If you order it, make sure you specify which language you want.

The exhibit was almost too much to absorb in a single visit. If I lived in Montreal, I don't doubt that I would have visited the exhibit several times.

This is the only North American stop for this exhibit and there's nothing like looking at originals. You will know several of the pieces on exhibit here from various books, but the reproductions can't compare to the originals. This is even true for the animation drawings. If you're looking for an excuse to go away for a weekend, it will probably be a while before this much Disney artwork is on display again. Catch it while you can.

1 comment:

Tamu said...

Hi Mark,

I liked your overview of your visit. I'm planning to see the exhibit again next week.

I agree with you that I expected more animation drawings, but the selections of concept art and maquettes was fabulous and more than made up for it. (I wonder what an animated Alice in Wonderland that looked more like David Hall's artwork would have been like...)

It definitely is overwhelming to go through in a single visit. I try to at least warn people to get to the museum early in the day so they will have as much time as possible to digest the information without feeling rushed.

Mr. Girveau did a fantastic job, as he managed to somehow pack what is enough for 4 exhibitions into one and mesh them coherently: the animation/cinema exhibition, the fine art exhibition, the fairy tale art exhibition and the pop art exhibition.