Monday, November 9, 2009

The Walt Disney Family Museum

The Walt Disney Family Museum: Seal does not take credit for the above image, it is the concept illustration from the official webpage. And for the record, Seal is not paid to endorse the museum, she just really liked it.
  • Architect: Page & Tumbull, San Francisco
  • Interior & Exhibit Design: Rockwell Group, New York;
  • A/V Production: Batwin+Robin, New York;
  • Tarrigo, Inc., Glendale, CA
Last Saturday, Seal went to The Walt Disney Family Museum in The Presidio of San Francisco, which just opened about a month ago. It was a very inspiring and fun adventure. Although Seal doesn't agree with the corporate conglomerate of what Disney is today, she still has a soft spot for Walt Disney's artistic vision. After all, he revolutionized and influenced many of the ways we do animation today. Seal admires Walt Disney's pioneering and resilient spirit. His old feature length animations (Sleeping Beauty, Bambi, Pinnochio, etc) and experimental films influenced Seal's decision to go into animation. Although Seal is now more into the production design, concept art, and illustration aspect of film and animation, the museum is made for all artists and humanists alike- not just animators. Walt Disney was a renaissance man- a producer, director, screenwriter, voice actor, animator, entrepreneur, philantropist, he did everything, and best of all, he was a big kid at heart.

The Museum, located in The Presidio, has 10 show rooms full of original and reproductions of photos, sketches, thumbnails, layouts, concepts, illustrations, and textual descriptions behind Walt's visions. Some of Seal's favorite rooms are when she got to see up close, some of the layout drawings and illustrations for Pinnochio, Snow White, Bambi, and Alice in Wonderland. The painted backgrounds looked like they were done in watercolor and some in gouache. Some of the small thumbnail concept illustrations were no bigger that the palm of a hand. They were quick, expressive, and effective. Some of the concept illustrations for Fantasia were done in oil pastel, a medium that Seal wants to try next. The final painted backgrounds for Bambi were done with oils on glass. Unfortunately, because of WWII and depleting resources, those beautifully painted glass backgrounds were scraped off to be re-used for the next animation. I believe we currently only have one remaining shot of the original oil painted background from Bambi in archive today.

One disappointment was that Seal was hoping to see more background paintings by Eyvind Earle and was really sad when they didn't have his book in the museum store. . .

Besides flat illustrations, there were also many video clips of Walt Disney acting out the scenes to his animation, he really understood storytelling and was a genius in conveying emotional impact. Seal believes that artists are secretly actors/storytellers too. Probably most surprising of all for Seal is that it had not been a smooth ride for Walt. He had encountered many obstacles in realizing his vision. Many people doubted him, doubted whether anyone would have wanted to pay to see an hour long cartoon. At one point, his popular animation series and animation staff was bought out by a middleman behind his back. It was during the train ride home after this crushing meeting, that he came up with Mickey Mouse, he said something along the lines of "this mouse represents my freedom." I am sure that Walt would be crying in his grave if he saw the corporate Disney of today.

As an artist, Seal admires Walt Disney's enduring struggle to do something no one has ever done before. To experiment, to really taste life, and bring it to the people - this, in essence, is what she got out of the museum.

If you are interested, you can find out more info at their offical webpage. The museum is located on 104 Montgomery Street, The Presidio, SF 94129. Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for students with ID. It's a good idea to purchase tickets ahead of time online, they are timed and have an expiration date. Seal arrived late in the afternoon, and so only had 2 hours to look at 10 showrooms and still didn't get through the depth of it all, she is going back soon and is going to bring Monkey along.

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