To begin, there was a short (8 minute) film produced for this event, that introduced audiences to the exhibit and some background into for WDAS (Walt Disney Animation Studios).
Right from the get go, I was slightly disappointed. I was kind of expecting something that could have been in WDW (Walt Disney World) or at least something produced by WDAS or Disney Imagineers. But the video seemed to be produced by the NOMA and I was left without that wonderful Disney feel.
I waited, rather impatiently, in a line for the audio guide listening devices. They ran out, just in time for me to have to wait. After an entirely too long three-minute wait, I got into the line at the exhibit entrance and started talking to the women behind me. We discussed our favorite movies and then they thought of the great idea that instead of holding the device to our heads, we should put headphones in. This was a great idea, and I will forever check listening devices for a headphone jack. It kept my arm from being awkwardly placed up near my head.
So head phones in my ears, I listened to John Goodman (who voiced the Marti Gras king in Princess and the Frog) introduce the exhibit and explained how to work the device. Then I entered the first room, the Silly Symphonies room. This room had some great artwork from Three Little Pigs and Ugly Duckling. There were some great cells (ones that could be salvaged from the washings when it was common practice to reuse the cells). There was also an interesting display case showing many of the books Walt had brought home with him from a trip Europe (they were open to several fairy tale pages that seemed to act as one of the many spring boards that influenced Walt to create the Silly Symphonies and his feature length animated tales.
In the rear of the this room was a wall with cells and info from Mickey and the Beanstalk, which was out of order, as Beanstalk was not produced in 1947 and was included in a package film entitled Fun and Fancy Free. It was interesting to learn that Beanstalk was supposed to be a feature length animated movie, but due to the war, it was drastically cut down.
The next room was dedicated to the movie Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. This room opened with a quick intro to how cartoons were made at the time; and the many different concept drawings for Snow White (one of the most interesting was seeing her in a Betty Boop style). This room had some interesting cells and original art. It also showed the massive amount of marketing and merchandizing that came with White.
This room also included a few stills and concepts from deleted scenes. John Goodman continued to narrate additional information through the listening device. The device would continue to provide more behind the scenes info that wasn’t always included on the wall plaques.
Then we jumped a couple decades into Cinderella. Again, there was some great concept art, most notably from Mary Blair (who’s art can be seen all around the world in the “it’s a small world” ride, and the dolls are completely based off Blair’s style). The room included a great shadow box that illustrated the multi-pane camera and explained how the cinematographer would manipulate the plates to create depth and movement in a rather stagnant picture.
Jump again to Sleeping Beauty. If I could I would have spent much more time in the room enjoying the art. Eywind Earle, art director on Beauty, created such a distinct style for this animation, and created such rich drawings. One display showed original cells that Earle had painted; in different phases, he would paint each cell more than 5 times, adding many different layers and textures. This new style of animation, in my opinion, led to a revolution of WDAS animation.
As the Beauty room was closing, there were some fabulous concept pieces for Maleficent. While staying there, listening to John Goodman talk about Maleficent, I heard the melody of “Part of Your World” and got a little “vaclemped.” (This song means a lot to me (check out my post about Musical Theatre for why this song means so much to me http://futureworld84.blogspot.com/2009/09/gotta-sing-sing-why-musical-theatre-is.html).) I refrained from running into the next room and finished learning about Beauty. < The Little Mermaid room began as they all did, with a comparison of the Disney version to the original tale. Then I followed along the wall that housed many pieces of concept art and finished cells from the movie. In the center of the room was a display for models that the animators used to help draw all the details. This room was somewhat small compared the several movies that came before. (Although it might have just been that I was devouring this room so it seemed to go much faster).
Next was another small room for Beauty and the Beast. Some of the best art in the whole exhibit was on display here, in the form of the stained glass cells from the intro of the movie. This room was a disappointment though- through no fault of NOMA- by this point in WDAS’ history, they were no longer painting cells by hand, but on computers, and many of the “cells” were “prints” instead, and I felt a little cheated, as if I could have just looked at these images on the computer.
Finally was the giant four room space for Princess and the Frog. After standing and reading for about three hours I was getting a bit fatigued and let John Goodman do a lot of the talking. What made this room so much different was that instead of discussing the movie as a whole, this wing was broken up into characters and settings. Worst of all, this time, even the concept art was digital!
The final room had some books about the art of Disney and a teaser poster for the then called Rapunzul (Now called Tangled). Outside of the exhibit, there was a short timeline of WDAS.
I wish something like this was included in the exhibit proper as a connection between each room, to show the growth of animation between the big princess movies.
In the other direction, was the gift shop, where I met with some more disappointment. Many of the books that were on display were no longer on sale. I was also hoping for from prints by Blair or Earle, but there weren’t any prints at all! I purchased the exhibit book and had another book (Hippo in a Tutu: Dancing Disney Animation) and a poster shipped to me.
Over all, I really enjoyed the beginning of the exhibit and loved looking at some of the art in the second third of the exhibit. I could have done with less Frog but since it was in New Orleans, this is understandable. I’m happy I made the trek down to New Orleans to check this out. This was a exquisite exhibit, and I can only hope that after it travels down under for a while, it makes its way a bit more local to the east coast of the US.