The Metropolitan Museum of Art aka The Met in New York City is opening its first ever exhibition in collaboration with Disney to showcase the company’s namesake and his inspiration by French art and design.
Inspiring Walt Disney: The Animation of French Decorative Arts will feature a selection of objects and curatorial narrative from both Disney and non-Disney sources, but will point towards Walt’s personal fascination with the European country’s artistic byproducts.
Walt’s early recorded European travels eventually made their way into everything from his animated films like Cinderella and even his castle design at Disneyland park.
In partnership with the Wallace Collection in London and Met curator Wolf Burchard, 60 works of 18th-century European decorative arts and design—from tapestries and furniture to Boulle clocks and Sèvres porcelain—will be featured alongside 150 production artworks and works on paper from multiple Disney sources including the Walt Disney Animation Research Library, Walt Disney Archives, Walt Disney Imagineering Collection, and The Walt Disney Family Museum.
“In mounting The Met’s first-ever exhibition devoted to Walt Disney and his studios’ oeuvre, it was important for us to explore his sources of inspiration as well as to recognize that his studio’s animated interpretations of European fairytales have become a lens through which many view Western art and culture today,” he said. “Our fresh look on this material, which prompts an effervescent dialogue between the drawings and illustrations of some of the most talented artists in the Walt Disney Animation Studios and a rich array of the finest 18th-century furniture and porcelain, brings to life the humor, wit, and ingenuity of French Rococo decorative arts.”
Additionally, selected film footage illustrating the extraordinary technological and artistic developments of the studio during Walt Disney’s lifetime and beyond will also be shown.
The exhibition will highlight references to European visual culture in Disney animated films, including nods to Gothic Revival architecture in Cinderella (1950), medieval influences on Sleeping Beauty (1959), and Rococo-inspired objects brought to life in Beauty and the Beast (1991), which will get a special nod in the exhibition as it celebrates its 30th anniversary this year.
While this is the first ever exhibit at The Met about Disney, Walt Disney has a personal connection to the museum that began when he presented the celluloid of The Vultures to The Met in 1938 as a publicity exercise to drum up interest for the cels from “Snow White” offered for sale after the release of the film.
The Met will also offer a free special curator-led video tour of the exhibition on December 16 as part of The Met’s virtual opening plans.