It was a “Disney summer” in New York. The new Walt Disney feature-length cartoon, THE FOX AND THE HOUND, opened; there was a preponderance of Disney art in “The Moving Image” animation exhibit at the Cooper-Hewitt Museum (June 16-August 16); but most (and best) of all, there was the massive exhibition, “Disney Animations and Animators”, at the Whitney Museum of American Art (June 24-September 6).
“I feel like I died and went to heaven,” a goggle-eyed young animation buff was heard to say as he stood surveying the 1500 drawings, cels, storyboards, backgrounds, slide shows and video demonstration tapes spread throughout the second floor of the Whitney. In addition, the Museum screened generous daily helpings of Disney films—many rarely seen Mickey Mouse and Silly Symphony shorts and the first Five features— to demonstrate the amazing creative development of the Disney style and the studio’s sophisticated experimentation with character animation and narrative.
Entering the dark, movie-theatrelike exhibition space, the viewer confronted the literal beginning of Disney experiments. Drawings by Ub Iwerks, Walt Disney’s earliest collaborator, attempted to expand the spatial dynamics of animation by breaking out of single level staging. Sequential drawings of a skull (from SKELETON DANCE - 1929) and a circular-designed spider (from HELL’S BELLS -1929) zoom toward the viewer dramatically from a far distance to extreme close up.