What luck! On the weekend I went to Korea, a new exhibit came to town!
I went to the Seoul Arts Center on my last day to visit the Disney exhibit featuring concept art, sketches, and animation drawings from many of Disney’s most beloved cartoons.
Since photography was not allowed inside, the following select images are scans from the book specially published for the exhibit.
The exhibit was arranged chronologically and grouped into titles. It featured some of Disney’s early shorts like Three Little Pigs, Mickey and the Beanstalk, and one of my favorites, The Ugly Duckling.
Milt Kahl. Young Chick
Of course, no Disney exhibit would be complete without its first full-length feature film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
Walt Disney didn’t really make Snow White for children, and that’s why scenes like Snow White being in the creepy forest and the Evil Queen’s transformation into a witch were scarier that your average kids’ cartoon.
There was the cartoon that launched a thousand cliches, Cinderella.
Mary Blair. Costume sketch of Cinderella
Any student studying animation would know the name Mary Blair. She provided many concept art for Disney, including Cinderella. Her work syncs with Disney’s aesthetics so well that she was tasked to design the world-famous It’s a Small World attraction in Disney’s amusement parks.
Eric Larson. Prince Charming and Cinderella
There was the world’s most beautiful sleepyhead, Sleeping Beauty.
Marc Davis is one of Disney’s most revered artists. He is a master of character art, known for heroines like Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella, as well as villainesses like Cruella de Vil and Maleficent.
And the man who was responsible for setting the overall visual tone and mood for Sleeping Beauty is Eyvind Earle. You can see that Earle’s inspiration came from rich tapestries and colors, giving the film a distinct look from other Disney cartoons.
There’s also one of the world’s most famous redheads, The Little Mermaid.
Glen Keane. Ariel
Glen Keane is another one of Disney’s more prominent artists. He once said that Ariel’s hair was one of the most difficult things to draw, being that she’s underwater. Instead of having her hair move realistically and in clumps onscreen, he sought inspiration from how hair moves when floating in space. This is why Ariel’s hair moves as one unit but still retains that ethereal grace all throughout.
The Little Mermaid is the last Disney cartoon that used hand-painted cels. The Disney films that came after it were painted on the computer.
Roger Allers. Ariel gives up her voice to Ursula
Next, the Disney film that proved bookworms can be princesses (yeah!), Beauty and the Beast.
The narration in the beginning — using stained glass art as visualization — is as haunting and unforgettable as the film score that accompanied it.
Merry Clingen (Belle) & Bill Berg (Beast). The dance
Thanks to a partnership with Pixar, the animation for Beauty and the Beast moved more freely, creating memorable scenes like the waltz in the ballroom and the Beast’s transformation.
Chris Sanders (color sketches) & Brenda Chapman (B&W sketches). Beast transformation
Fast forward to the 2000s with The Princess and the Frog.
Shout out to Armand Baltazar, a Filipino artist (born in the US) who worked on this film! Josie Trinidad is another Filipino who worked on this, but the book has no art from her.
Lastly, Disney’s latest offering, the cute and crazy Tangled.
Jeffrey Turley. Lantern-filled sky
Glen Keane comes back to work on this feature with his daughter, Claire Keane.While the elder Keane supervised bringing to life Rapunzel’s 75-feet long hair, his daughter provided the whimsical drawings and murals that covered Rapunzel’s tower.
These are just a few of my favorites. There were over 600 artworks in that exhibit alone! It really gives us a newfound appreciation for all the work that goes behind each Disney film we watch and sing along to. And even if many of these works don’t become part of the films themselves and only serve as concept art and inspiration, they can rightfully be called masterpieces on their own.