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A Bit of Disney Magic at the Met Museum of Art

Ellen Levitt

Posted on February 25, 2022 19:35

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An exhibition about Disney animation and decorative arts is wowing visitors at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

My husband and my pal Cindy and I waited almost an hour on a snaking line, on the first floor of the legendary Metropolitan Museum of Art, in order to see the temporary Disney exhibition. "Inspiring Walt Disney: The Animation of French Decorative Arts" was an enjoyable and nostalgic show, and an intriguing mix of decorative art traditions and commercial, modern art.

It was worth our time waiting!

I'm a big fan of animation and cartooning, and this highly popular exhibition made for a fun and educational experience. While some purists may scoff at giving gallery space to a huge corporate entity (and that is something to ponder) this still was a way to reach many casual art fans, with a show that brought together historic design and culture and linked it to beloved Disney films such as Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, Sleeping Beauty, and others. 

One of the more remarkable aspects of this exhibition was showing how furniture and furnishings from France (especially of the 1700s and 1800s) influenced the creation of the animated household objects in so many Disney cartoons, both short form and long. This animated tradition of "bringing to life" items such as chairs, teapots and clocks is shown in short cartoons such as the "Silly Symphony" series, as well as "Beauty and the Beast." In the exhibition, we got to see historic pieces that impacted the designs we have watched on the screen.

I have to admit that I was one of those visitors who took more delight in the animated items than in the older artifacts. "2D" (two-dimensional) animation was highlighted here, certainly something that most of us over the age of 21 could appreciate (and young'uns too). There were plenty of rudimentary sketches of beloved and obscure animated characters and props, and hand-painted cels (short for "celluloids") from older animations. It was interesting to see how these developed into the characters of cartoons we know and love.

One section toward the end of the exhibition featured sketches of the various Disney theme parks, before they were actually built. It was eye-opening to see a little about the proposed castles and other attractions, and how they changed due to various structural considerations. 

Certainly, we can debate the intersections of corporations and art for art's sake. This is not an easy topic to parse. But if you want to see how fine art and commercial art impact each other, this is the kind of exhibition that can help you delve into the subject. We also got a glimpse at how animation has changed greatly in the past few decades.

It's also quite fascinating to learn about animation, which is seemingly everywhere in contemporary society. The history of animation, of cartooning, of comics, is quite lengthy, although certainly not as lengthy as fine art. But an exhibition like this Disney display can inspire visitors to think about how fine art influences commercial art. Art doesn't exist in a vacuum. 

 

Ellen Levitt

Posted on February 25, 2022 19:35

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