Wednesday, July 27, 2011

"Dreams Come True:...

... the Art of Disney's Classic Fairy Tales" is the name of the exhibit currently showing at the Hangaram Design Museum at the Seoul Arts Center. Being that the rabbit and I (along with Maria and Adrian) were already at the center to attend a Beethoven concert in the afternoon this past Sunday, we decided to make it a double-bill.

This is a very focused exhibit, and one organized with great attention to detail by the Walt Disney Animation Research Library. As the title would suggest, this is all about the "classic fairy tales", so while here you will find representative pieces from Snow White to Rapunzel (Tangled), there is nary a Peter Pan or a Lady & the Tramp to be found.

The Good: As a waning Disney enthusiast (I once worked at the company store in my hometown and was a 4-time Western-Canadian district Disney trivia champion - something I still like to put on resumes for shits and giggles), I still harbour a long-held interest in the theme parks and animated films - especially the concept work that rarely sees the light of day. I'm especially fond of the contributions of the background artists - there's something about the textures found in the background paintings of the really early stuff (Pinocchio and Snow White to be specific) that I have deep affection for. There is a fair amount of such work on display, and A LOT of completed original cels used in the production of the films.

The Disappointing: The best stories are the ones Disney never wants you to see. While there is plenty of attention paid to Uncle Walt as the source of inspiration for most of the studio's product, it would have been refreshing to have seen a little more focus on the actual animators. Walt's ghost-written quotes dominate the empty spaces on exhibition walls, but the real treats are the small and unassuming pieces hidden among the reproductions - the most affecting among them being some actual storyboard frames for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and a really wonderful character sheet drawn by Glen Keane for Rapunzel - suggesting many of the ways in which she might use her hair. More of this would have been welcome.

Now that I've been out of the company for more than a decade, and now that I have some distance from the machine, it's much easier for me to be subjective about the whole Disney experience. It's tiresome for me to watch and hear short films (designed for 5 minute museum consumption) that white-wash what is actually quite a historically and artistically fascinating process. I know this exhibition was all about dreams coming true, but for the hard-core Disney enthusiast (if indeed there is such a description), this is really all stuff you've seen before. I'm hopeful that a more exploratory exhibit focusing on the brilliance that was left on the drawing room floor will make its way to a town near me soon.

That all being said, the exhibit was worth it for me just to see these two pieces from Beauty & the Beast. Officially, one is not allowed to take any photos inside the museum and there are guards on every corner of the walls to enforce this rule, but I have my ways. These are the original animator's drawings for what is still my favourite film - animated or otherwise. They make it worth the price of admission, so I guess I'm a bit of a Disney nerd yet.


Kid Atomic said...

Davey, that sounds amazing (although like you, I'd be more interested in the sketches and model sheets and other behind-the-scenes stuff). And yeah, man, the background paintings in Pinocchio bring me to my knees. Those guys were masters.

I honestly had no idea your love of Disney went as deep as being a mother-effin' trivia master, though. This blog entry has been a true learning experience. Are you gonna keep up the blogging when you move to Canada?

George Bailey Sees The World! said...

Hey, Robert-san - yes, I'll keep-up the blog when I get to Canada, though I'll have to be more careful with the privacy rules.

Yeah, man - Pinocchio is the greats. And I was indeed a double-blue cardigan-wearing cheese-ball at the Disney Store at Southcentre for 5 years of my sorry life. I knew a lot of stuff about things that have no practical purpose in anyone's life, but I got a couple of free trips out of it, and was only a few points from making the finals in Disneyland once upon a time. That would been somethin'. I could have tried my hand at destroying all of the other nerds in a winner-take-all nerd war in front of Sleeping Beauty's Castle.

And then I would be talking about PP'15, 'cause that's where I'd be at.