Many big names can be found in the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art in Norman: van Gogh, Monet, Piglet.
Wait ... Piglet? The Winnie the Pooh character and his popped balloon are the focus of just one animation cel among 83 that constitute the venues latest exhibition, A Century of Magic: The Animation of the Walt Disney Studios, on display for six months. From 1937s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to 1999s Fantasia 2000, every one of the studios major animated films are represented, with the exception of 1991s Beauty and the Beast.
What business do frames from cartoon features have hanging on the walls of an art museum? A lot, according to Mark A. White, chief curator.
Disney animation has had an interesting relationship to art, specifically modern contemporary, for much of the 20th century, White said.
Added Ghislain dHumières, museum director, Disney has a huge influence on society: the behavior of children, the importance of music. When you look at the early [films], they were painted on glass, layer after layer. Its a real work of art. Its pure creativity.
It hasnt always been perceived that way. White said Snow Whites late-30s premiere ushered interest among artists and critics in Disney animation as a potential medium for development of contemporary art, especially distinct from European work.
The sort of promise Disney held for the future of American art that idea dissipated in the 1940s and 1950s, he said, noting a movement against popular culture that equated such works with kitsch.
Only in the 1960s when pop artists recognized their iconic value did the films lowbrow reputation reverse to its original prestige. In the 1980s, White said, Disney animation cels became very collectible, at astronomical prices.
25 years, Janis Scaramucci of Norman has been one such collector; this
exhibition comes culled from her private stock of hundreds. Narrowing
them down to the fraction on display was, White said, difficult.
it was possible to capture one iconic scene, that was an easy choice,
he said. In other instances, it came down to aesthetic criteria.
During that process, Certain cels created a nostalgia for me, White said, singling out 1953s Peter Pan and Pecos Bill from 1948s Melody Time. I
think for some viewers, that will be the sum total of the exhibit.
Were also hoping people will get a sense in the artistry that was
For dHumières, 1942s Bambi is a personal favorite: I think that was my first movie.
A Century of Magic holds
historic merit, partly because traditional hand-drawn animation is a
vanishing art, usurped by the computer animation of Pixar and its peers.
that bothers White. Its a shame, he said. For that kind of art form
to disappear is equivalent to painting disappearing.