Exhibition Review: Dreams Come True – The Art of Disney’s Classic Fairy Tales

James Field writes for Bleeding Cool:

The doors of Walt Disney’s animation archives are prised open in Melbourne, Australia, with the sumptuous exhibition Dreams Come True. Taking a magnifying glass to Disney’s 80 year expanse of work, the display looks in-depth at how traditional fairytales have been transformed for modern audiences, into the Mouse House’s signature animated features.

With its first stop already taken place back in 2009/2010 in New Orleans to celebrate the release of The Princess and The Frog, Melbourne’s ACMI (Australian Centre for the Moving Image) is the current residence for this touring showcase. And an impressive showcase it is.

On entry, the gallery begins with the tale of Walt Disney himself, and how he developed the Walt Disney company in its early days. From here, the main focal points are identified: Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, The Princess and the Frog, and finally the most recent entry to the Disney collection, Tangled.

The exhibition caters for older Disney (and animation) purists, as well as introducing the art to new and younger audiences. Scattered amongst the original pieces of artwork are interesting behind-the-scenes snippits that allow us to delve into the production process of these landmark films. The bright bold colours of Disney’s artworks are complemented by the easily distinguishable sections of the gallery – painted red for Snow White, blue for Cinderella etc.

With a natural interest in the animation process, I was not only pleased to the the original concept and sketch work, but also learnt more about some of the more intricate techniques used – colour choice, layering, screen formatting for example. In addition, it gave props to some of the pioneering artists that are not usually namechecked, when dominated by Disney’s name – including Retta Scott, the first female animation artist, who first served on Bambi and later the shelved Disney reimagining of The Wind In The Willows (the completed footage re-used as part of The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad.

While I haven’t yet seen Tangled, it was interesting to see the artwork behind the well documented shift from out-right waterpaint inspired concept work, to the CGI finished product. The gallery itself serves a purpose to promote the film, I suppose – being the studio’s 50th classic feature ‘n all.

While the glutton in me would have perhaps liked to see a few more non-fairytale films opened up for all to see (such as the gorgeous cityscapes of The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, the borderline psychadelic visuals of Alice In Wonderland, the character animation of The Jungle Book… the list goes on) – the exhibition paints a detailed and thoroughly engaging picture of how Walt Disney Studios has, and continues, to bring classic tales to life.

The Dreams Come True exhibition is at Melbourne’s ACMI until 26th April 2011 and with a bit of luck it will be hitting the UK soon.