Henry David Thoreau wrote that “the world is but a canvas to the imagination.” Walt Disney’s “world” happened to be European decorative art and design. The high pitched roofs and pointed arches of Gothic revival architecture. The stained glass and flying buttresses of medieval times. The whimsical, over-the-top flourishes of Rococo. Supported by a stellar animation studio, Walt Disney brought his unique vision to bear on Cinderella (1950) and Sleeping Beauty (1959). His studio carried that vision forward into Beauty and the Beast (1991). Timed to Beauty and the Beast’s 30th anniversary, the Met presents a new exhibition that explores the inspiration behind these 20th-century classics. Forty decorative objects from the 18th-century—Boulle clocks! Sevres porcelain!—feature alongside 150 production artworks and works on paper. Selected film footage helps set the scene. —J.V.
Inspiring Walt Disney: The Animation of French Decorative Arts was featured in the December 11, 2021 issue of Air Mail. Read on