Disney opened archive for Montreal exhibit

The Disney studios in California has shared its rarely-opened archive to help create Once Upon a Time, Walt Disney, coming to Montreal in March.

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts will be the only North American stop for the exhibit, which features an examination of Disney's artistic roots, and also highlights his long-term legacy to the art world.

The show, opening March 8 in Montreal after a run in Paris, connects the dots between Walt Disney, the founder of the company, and the German Expressionist cinema of the early 1900s, and surrealist and abstract painters of the 1930s.

By putting Disney drawings next to the original paintings and art styles, the exhibit teases out the deep artistic roots of the animation.

With more than 500 works, including 300 from the Disney archive, it also begins to show how artists such as Alain Jacquet, Robert Combas and Andy Warhol drew images from the art of Disney.

"Disney is a source of inspiration for modern artists," said chief curator Bruno Girveau at a press conference Tuesday in Toronto. 

Girveau said he was given unprecedented access to the vast Disney archive in California to build the show.

The archive, rarely opened or shared publicly, holds more than 70 million images.

A lover of Disney who remembers being taken to see The Jungle Book as a small child, Girveau said he reconnected with the Disney magic when his own children began watching the films on video.
By then Disney looked completely different to Girveau, who trained as an art historian and is head of collections at Ecole nationale supérieure des beaux-arts in Paris.

"I started to see there are a lot of artistic associations in the Disney films," he said, among them surreal images in films such as Fantasia and the original Bavarian castle that inspired Sleeping Beauty's castle.

There are some startling connections. Disney suggested the Wicked Queen in Snow White be a combination of Lady Macbeth and the Big Bad Wolf, but her face has the features of U.S. actress Joan Crawford.

The story of Salvador Dali's collaboration with Disney, resulting in a film called DestinoOnce Upon a Time that has not been shown before in North America, is included in the exhibit.

The exhibit covers the period of Walt Disney's greatest work, from about 1935 to his death in 1966.

More than 250,000 people saw the show at the Grand Palais in Paris where it stayed for four months beginning in September 2006.

Families also were drawn to the exhibit, Girveau said.

"There are a lot of levels of understanding to the exhibition. It's an exhibition for adults, but the fascination of the animation process appeals to children."

Once Upon a Time, Walt Disney runs from March 8 to June 24, 2007, at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.


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