|The Diane Disney Miller Hall at the museum with original "Pinocchio" posters on display.|
For me, the Disney studio's pinnacle was "Pinocchio". From its soaring, wistful opening music to exploring the darkest places a fairy tale can go and back again, it delivers entertainment via animated design and acting polished to the nth degree. Even the credits are beautifully presented. Imagine working with this group-for more than half of them, it would be their first time supervising:
Now a new exhibit at the Walt Disney Family Museum makes it possible for a visitor to immerse themselves in the process of creating this magnificent film. Curated by the Academy Award-winning animator/historian/writer/professor John Canemaker, it's a beautifully presented, comprehensive journey through the making of an animated feature at Disney's in the late 1930s. In other words, for an animation student, fan or professional, it's bliss.
To my knowledge there's never been as much original material from one of the original five productions on view before. Featuring materials from the Disney Museum's holdings, the Walt Disney Studio Archives, and many, many private sources, it's likely only an artist with the reputation, awareness and taste of Canemaker could have pulled it all off. The exhibit fills the two floors of the Diane Disney Miller Hall at the museum, starting on the second floor with Collodi's original book, and channeling the visitor through production design to story, animation, effects and camera.
Film critics, animation professionals, students and afficionados generally agree that the first five feature films released by the Walt Disney Studio achieved a standard they never surpassed. Where opinons diverge is which was the greatest, "best", most satisfying or artistically successful: "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs", Pinocchio", "Fantasia", "Dumbo" or "Bambi"? Just looking at the list makes comparisons and rankings seem beside the point. It's stupefying to consider what one place of business managed to produce within a span of seven-odd years, expanding and refining the art of animated film at a pace never equaled since.
All this is represented by a collection of over 300 treasures, including Ward Kimball's continuity script, original paintings by Tenggren, drawings by Hurter, many story sketches and layout drawings, animation roughs-both the originals under glass and reproduced on tables as thick sheafs of animation that can be flipped by guests. An area designed as Gepetto's workshop would be features original plaster maquettes of many of the characters made in Joe Grant's "model department"-including two different sculptures of Monstro the whale, Stromboli's caravan, and "real-sized", working marionettes of Pinocchio and one of the Dutch puppets from Stromboli's show(these are particularly-and typically-detailed and beautiful).
In the animation area, you can pick up a phone to hear Frank Thomas describing how to handle animating Pinocchio-copied from a disc recording made by Frank, probably for the benefit of those animators and assistants who weren't invited to the live lecture he gave on the subject. In another room, a model has been made of the multiplane camera setup, showing visitors how the cameramen photographed the still-eyepopping pan/truck-ins in the film and gave it it's sense of depth. Just incredibly cool.
|Walt pitching "Pinocchio".|
|From the Instagram account of the WDFM.|
|Courtesy The WDFM Instagram account.|
There's so much there to see-not only a tribute to a beautiful film, but a perfect audio/visual primer to the work of animation production. We can't drop in at Hyperion in 1938 and see what Ward and Milt and Woolie are up to as they break for lunch, alas-but this is as close as we can hope to get. I bang a drum for the Disney Museum every so often-really, far too many people, myself included, put off getting up to San Francisco to visit. By all means make the trip before January 9th and see what John Canemaker and the creative and welcoming Museum folks have wrought. You're going to love it.
|John Canemaker, curator. Photograph from his website.|
"Wish Upon A Star: The Art Of Pinocchio" runs through January 9th, 2017.
Museum hours are 10am–6pm. Last entry 4:45pm.
Open daily except Tuesdays, January 1, Thanksgiving Day, and December 25.