“Inspiring Walt Disney” Exhibit at the Huntington Library Celebrates Tales as Old as Time

The “Inspiring Walt Disney: The Animation of French Decorative Arts” exhibit has arrived at the beautiful Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, California after successful runs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Wallace Collection in London. If you are a Disney fan, “Inspiring Walt Disney” is a must-see exhibit. It explores the early inspirations behind Disney Studios’ creations, noting Walt Disney’s fascination with European art, especially French motifs.

The exhibit clearly depicts objects and art and how they inspired characters and concept art for Disney’s CINDERELLA (1950), SLEEPING BEAUTY (1959), and BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (1991). Not only can you view 18th-century candlesticks and porcelain vases, but for the Disney fan there are plenty of gems – prop pages from the SLEEPING BEAUTY Storybook, original CINDERELLA concept art by Mary Blair, and the original 1953 Herb Ryman bird’s-eye concept drawing of Disneyland, which was used to pitch the theme park’s concept to investors.

Perhaps most breathtaking of all, “Inspiring Walt Disney” features an entire wall – 24 drawings – depicting one second of Cinderella’s transformation. These drawings are painstakingly recreated from the originals, containing not only the image of Cinderella from rags to ballgown but also little notes and sketches the artist used. Helpfully installed within this wall is the scene playing in rudimentary form, and it literally takes your breath away to see this ground-breaking animation. Click below to watch Cinderella transform.

Growing up in the Disney Renaissance era, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST’s connection to French decorative arts intrigued me the most. Imagine my delight upon seeing a 17th-century Grandfather clock that looked like it would wake up and say hello as Cogsworth! The exhibit showcases real clocks, teapots, and candlesticks; concept art from Disney artists, and finally scenes from BEAUTY AND THE BEAST showcasing the final designs and movement of Cogsworth, Mrs. Potts and Lumiere. Click below to see examples.

“Be our guest,” indeed! After viewing the exhibit, don’t forget to peruse the Museum Store for plenty of companion merchandise. The highlight is the companion book, “Inspiring Walt Disney: The Animation of French Decorative Arts” by Wolf Burchard in collaboration with The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (where the exhibit debuted). It contains pictures of all the art on exhibit, as well as the painstakingly-researched history of how each object or painting inspired various Disney films and Walt Disney himself. The book is available at The Huntington and online.

I encourage all of you to check out this exhibit, either here in Southern California through March 27th, or wherever it travels next. Because it currently resides at The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens in So-Cal, you also get the benefit of several other museum exhibits plus the gorgeous Gardens for one admission price from $13-29. It’s easy to spend an entire day there! Details can be found at Huntington.org and I recommend you reserve your date in advance. Check it out and let us know what you think, @skywalkingpod!

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