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Started by a mouse: 'Once Upon a Time Walt Disney' now on display for all to see PDF Print E-mail
Written by STEVEN HOWELL, Contributing Writer   
Thursday, April 05, 2007

The exhibition offers pertinent biography information on Disney, a nice mix of works from which Disney was inspired, and most importantly, lots of colorful drawings, original movie stills and iconic artwork from the Walt Disney studio. In all, some 500 works are displayed.
Disney was born in Chicago in 1901. As a child, his family lived on a farm in Missouri. His father was extremely demanding, says the exhibit text.
As a teen, Disney attempted to join the army during World War I, but was too young. He managed to join the American Red Cross and served as an ambulance driver in France for most of 1919. Upon his return to the States, Disney and animator Ub Iwerks failed in their attempt at an animation studio in Kansas City. The following year in 1924, the pair moved to Hollywood.
One of the first characters co-created out west, in 1928, was the one and only Mickey Mouse. Mickey was named by Lillian Bonds, an animator and Disney's wife whom he met in California. The pair remained married for more than four decades.
Other characters like Donald Duck and Pluto soon followed. In 1937, the Disney Studio made the first full-length animated feature, "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs." The film was a major hit.



On hand are a number of storyboards and studies for Mickey Mouse created by Iwerks. There's also a special Academy Award the studio received for "Snow White," along with seven miniature Oscars to represent the dwarfs.
Disney took inspiration from Hollywood movies of the time to convey Mickey Mouse in a number of comedic and cinematic situations. Duel movie screens offer comparisons like "The Mad Doctor," with Mickey as a monster strapped to a mad scientist's operating table, paired side-by-side with the actual 1936 live version of "Frankenstein."
Disney was also inspired by book illustrations, notably fairy tales and fables. Displayed are a dozen illustrated vintage books from the United States and Europe, which date as early as the mid-1800s.
Architecture and film sets were equally important to Disney as character development. Disney scouted actual locations for his movies sets with Europe a main influence. For example, the medieval Bavarian town of Rothenburg was the source of Pinocchio's home, while Sleeping Beauty's castle was based in part of castles owned by Ludwig II of Bavaria. On display is a 1990 castle model created for Disneyland Paris.



Next, the theme of anthropomorphism, or the humanizing of animals and plants, is explored. Here we find the likes of a loveable cast of characters including Jiminy Cricket, Baloo from "The Jungle Book," and ballet-dancing hippopotamuses from "Fantasia." But also displayed are more sinister works like evil-looking trees from Snow White's forest, probably inspired by painter Gustave Doré's 1884 depiction of Hell in an oil painting of the same name.
Disney was very hands-on in the creation of all of his studio's characters. For him, every detail had to be just right. But it's most fun to discover who the inspiration for many of these iconic creatures was. For example, the text informs that the not-so-nice Queen of Snow White fame was a cross between Lady Macbeth, the Big Bad Wolf, and real-life actress Joan Crawford.
Many of the Disney Studio animators, like Mary Blair, David Samuel Hall and Albert Hurter, all get proper due throughout the exhibit. And with each name, comes a famous Disney Studio work. The exhibit patiently and thematically explores Disney classics such as "Fantasia," "Dumbo," "Bambi," "Cinderella," "Alice in Wonderland," "Peter Pan," "Sleeping Beauty" and "101 Dalmatians."
Disney created Disneyland in California in 1955. He died in Burbank in 1966.
Finally, the museum also offers some two dozen works by more recent pop artists who were inspired by Disney characters in their contemporary art space. Most prominent is Mickey as the subject of a number of works. On hand are Andy Warhol's "Anniversary Donald Duck" from 1985 and "Double Mickey Mouse" from 1981. Roy Lichtenstein provides "Study for Artist's Studio: Look Mickey."



Jean-Jacques Lebel offers an incredible installation called "The Mickey Genotype," which includes a mini theatre, a video screen and 100 assorted Mickeys as a captive audience. But most disturbing is David Mach's "Mickey Matchhead," where a Mickey visage made entirely of black and red matchsticks chomps on a stuffed Mickey Mouse for dinner.
"Once Upon a Time Walt Disney" continues until June 24.
The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts is at 1379 Ste Catherine St. W. (Metro Guy-Concordia). Hours are Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Wednesday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and weekends from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission costs $15 for adults, $7.50 for students and seniors, and free for children 12 and under. Reduced adult admission costs $7.50 Wednesday evenings from 5 p.m. to closing.
Guided tours are available in English on Thursdays and Fridays until June 8 at 2:30 and 6:30 p.m.



April film screenings include "Alice in Wonderland" on April 19 at 6 p.m., "Dumbo" on April 22 at 3:30 p.m. and "Bambi" on April 29 at 3:30 p.m. Call (514) 265-1600 or visit www.mmfa.qc.ca.

 

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