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Friday, December 24, 2021 

The French fairy tale influences of Walt Disney

The Federalist took a tour of an exhibition at the NY Metropolitan Museum of Art presenting a lot of the art developments of Walt Disney, which he drew mostly from French fairy tales:
Visiting “Inspiring Walt Disney: The Animation of French Decorative Arts,” which opened recently at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is like enjoying a fine bottle of champagne to mark the slowly but steadily improving state of the museum world. It’s hard to think back now and recall that, at the beginning of this year, there were no exhibitions for a peripatetic art critic to see; now, there are far too many to fit into his schedule.

Fortunately, The Met’s latest installation is worth everyone seeing and enjoying, not so much because it’s enlightening (which it is), but for the sheer pleasure of it. Walt Disney (1901-1966) needs no introduction, but his connection to fine French art and design probably does. The 17-year-old Walt managed to leave Chicago and get over to France to serve with the Red Cross, just as World War I was ending.

Although he did not get to see any action himself, as his older brothers did, he did get to see some of the grand houses set in the French countryside, as well as visit museum collections, and this became but the first of many subsequent trips to Europe. Knowing this background provides an interesting insight into what came later, for there is something very French in both feel and appearance in many of the Disney versions of classic European fairy tales.

With refreshingly blunt honesty, one of the earliest walls of text in the exhibition asks the very important question, “It’s Disney, but is it art?” For those who are at least somewhat familiar with “Fantasia” (1940), that question might be easier to answer, but the great strength of this show is to take the more familiar characters, objects, and locations from childhood memory, and juxtapose them alongside the types of things that spurred the imagination of Disney and his team to create these films.
Rest assured, it's art alright. Something today's PC crowd are unlikely to agree upon, unfortunately. And while this exhibition is surely worth paying a visit to museums to see, with the way New York is deteriorating in quality, it sadly may not last long, seeing how the city circa Manhattan has been removing statues of historical figures out of wokeness, and the Disney studio's practically been going out of their way to censor or restrict access to some of the classic cartoons out of hysterical concerns about racism, even as their more recent products are little better.

It's certainly impressive the Met's put on this exhibition for Disney's historical influences, but who knows how long such displays will last in an era where political correctness has taken hold? That's the sad realization in the long run, that one day, you may not see much like this any longer in a city that's collapsing under the weight of bad liberal policies. And that's a terrible shame. Walt Disney wasn't perfect, but he did have his redeeming qualities, exactly why future generations should see his work and judge for themselves. Sadly, reality suggests that could all one day be lost.

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