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New Yorks Whitney Museum, customarily the home of the American avant-garde, devoted itself throughout the summer of 1981 to articulate rodents and children of all ages. In the exhibition ‘Disney Animations and Animators, the curators John Hanhardt and Greg Ford showcased the work of Disney studio artists from the 20s, when the Mouse was in his infancy, to 1942, when something like assembly line technology was responsible for a deceptively spontaneous tide of shorts and features.

This was the first large-scale occasion on which the public could judge how the work of individual artists, separately displayed and identified, locked into the Disney-dominated studio/ factory system, and how a Disney character developed, from preliminary sketches, through animation roughs and cleanedup drawings to the glowing camera-ready inked-and-painted celluloid. Many drawings were grouped in sequence, demonstrating the techniques for approximating movement—‘stretch and squash, ‘overlapping actions and other subtleties of perspective and weight—from the studios early ‘rubber hose style to the fluid credibility of the late 30s. Drawing sequences were sometimes next to video units displaying slow-motion pencil tests and the final cinematic results. The latter, in remarkably accurate colour and sharp definition, proved that Disneys imagery is as effective in todays video as in 30s Technicolor.


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