Saturday, June 22, 2013

Snow White at the Rockwell

When Walt Disney released the feature-length animated film "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" in 1937, it was a big risk, both artistically and financially. The seven-minute shorts had been doing well, but he wanted to develop the art form further in terms of realism, drama, and an involved storyline.

To celebrate the 75th anniversary of the release of the groundbreaking film, original artwork from Snow White is now on display at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

The watercolor painting above is by Gustaf Tenggren, who was hired fairly late in the production. He did some of the movie poster art, and irked the Disney artists by going "off-model" in the character designs.

The Disney-curated show says, "many live animals were brought to the studio for the artists to study. The tortoise actually stayed on after the end of the production with a 'Traffic Department' sign on his back, a jab at the studio's slow messenger service." 

The show includes about 200 pieces, including character models, cel set-ups, original watercolor backgrounds, storyboards, layouts, and marketing artwork. The cel set-ups unfortunately are on reproduction backgrounds, and the labeling isn't as clear as it should be about what is original. 

There are character studies by Fred Moore, watercolor backgrounds by Samuel Armstrong, and ensemble animation of the dwarfs by Bil Tytla. Since Disney asked artists not to sign their work, the artist is not known in many cases, so the generic tag "Disney Animation Artist" is used.

Among my favorite pieces in the show were Ken O'Connor's thumbnail layout sketches to plan the dramatic final confrontation of the dwarfs and the evil queen.

In this video (link to YouTube), Walt pitches each of the characters using maquettes.

The exhibition Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs: The Creation of a Classic will remain on view through October 27. Also at the Rockwell Museum right now is an entire room of Norman Rockwell's charcoal preliminaries, something you don't often get to see.


Magnus Rex said...

That's amazing! Thanks for sharing James!

K_tigress said...

My favorite techniques to draw characters and things by starting with shapes. Keeps the drawings nice, loose and easy to draw again if I have to for animation especially.

As for squirrels, they’re not as innocent as people portray them. Every year the little buggers eat all of my peaches and the ones that belong to my neighbors as well. They get the biggest and best ones at the very top of the tree and even before they have a chance to ripen as well. Oh how they taunt me so, as they sit right in front of me and eat a big ripe dripping and juicy peach. They have no respect for my kitty either who is an excellent hunter btw.

James Gurney said...

K Tigress: So true what you say about squirrels. I have a friend who hunts them with a red tail hawk, and the hawks need to wear chaps to protect their feet from being mauled by the squirrels.

Sam G said...

I would give my left arm to be able to go to the Norman Rockwell Museum. My Dad went and said you need to go over the museum for at least 3 days to take in all the art.