Paper to princess: Disney’s fairy tale inspiration

The Little Mermaid

Hans Christian Andersen, The Little Mermaid. Illustrations by Dorothy P. Lathrop, Walt Disney Imagineering Information Resource Center

It’s hard to believe Dreams Come True opens in less than a week, but as Tinkerbell said to Peter, you really must believe.

As we write this, our exhibitions, AV and curatorial team are fervently working down in Gallery 1 to set up our gigantic ode to the art behind Disney’s 20th century re-imaginings of these classic tales.

The lineage of the Disney fairy tales is a long and fascinating one. While the work of Walt and his team in California reflects the time and place it was created, it draws from a rich history of European folk stories, made in far different circumstances.

Jack and the Beanstalk

Elisabeth Vernon Quinn, Stokes' Wonder Book of Fairy Tales. Illustrations by Florence Choate and Elizabeth Curtis, Walt Disney Imagineering Information Resource Center.

In 1935, Walt Disney, his brother Roy and their wives went on a European holiday. When Walt returned, he brought with him over 300 beautifully illustrated storybooks from France, England, Germany and Italy, some of which are shown here. These books were placed in a newly-formed library for the inspiration and reference of the Studio artists.

A conservator at work

A conservator plays spot the difference while undertaking a condition report on our new arrivals

Working to help support his family as a teenager, Walt was unable to pursue a formal education but visits to the local public library stimulated his appreciation for the knowledge books could impart.

Two books on animation – E.G. Lutz’s Animated Cartoons: How They Are Made, Their Origins and Their Development and Eadweard Muybridge’s The Human and Animation Figure – were of particular interest to him and he read them voraciously.

“These books,” Walt said, “taught me everything I needed to know as a beginner – all about the arts and the mechanics of making drawings that move on the theatre screen.”

Sneewittchen

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, Sneewittchen. Illustrations by Franz Juttner, Walt Disney Imagineering Information Resource Center

The Little Mermaid

The serpentine Sea-Witch awaits The Little Mermaid to strike a deadly bargain - Hans Christian Andersen, The Little Mermaid. Illustrations by Dorothy P. Lathrop, Walt Disney Imagineering Information Resource Center

All the way from the Walt Disney Animation Studios, you can see this collection of beautifully illustrated fairy tale books in Dreams Come True: The Art of Disney’s Classic Fairy Tales. The books are only the introduction that leads you to the hundreds of beautiful Disney artworks on show in the exhibition, opening on Thursday 18th of November.

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One Response to “Paper to princess: Disney’s fairy tale inspiration”

  1. Mary Kuliveovski 12. Nov, 2010 at 10:31 am #

    As well as Disney, I adore vintage fairytale books and reading this has made me even more excited about the upcoming exhibition!

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