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From Fragonard to Frozen—how Walt Disney looked to 18th-century French art

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Beauty and the Beast, 1991, Peter J. Hall, Concept art, gouache, marker and ink on paper Disney

Beauty and the Beast, 1991, Peter J. Hall, Concept art, gouache, marker and ink on paper Disney

Who knew that the artists behind some of the most famous Walt Disney animations looked to French 18th-century works of art for their source material? An intriguing new exhibition, Inspiring Walt Disney: The Animation of French Decorative Arts, comes to the Wallace Collection in London next year (6 April-16 October 2022) after a stint at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (10 December-6 March 2022). More than 120 examples of production work and works on paper from the Walt Disney Animation Research Library and the Walt Disney Archives will go on show alongside important examples of French decorative art. A particularly ingenious section is devoted to the imaginative architecture of fairy tales and the development of the castles in Cinderella (1950) and Beauty and the Beast (1991) which took inspiration from the Palace of Versailles and Loire Valley châteaux. The influence of Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s newly restored painting The Swing (around 1768) on Disney films such as Frozen (2013) and Tangled (2010) will be explored at the Wallace Collection. Its director, Xavier Bray, says: “We are fortunate to have one of the finest collections of 18th-century art works in the world and we are thrilled to be bringing it to life for new audiences, in a manner that the original geniuses of the French 18th century, Boulle, Meissonnier, Duplessis and Caffieri, envisaged 300 years ago.” Let it go, let it go….

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