17 Feb - 2020

At MUDEC, from March 19 to September 13, the exhibition “Disney. The art of telling timeless stories”, curated by Walt Disney Animation Research Library and Federico Fiecconi

Telling timeless stories succeeding in enchanting the audience is considered a real art, but behind the typical immediacy of the perfect artistic result lies – as often happens in the art world – a creative research work that lasts years, generally unknown to those who listen to these stories. “Disney. The art of telling timeless stories”, at MUDEC in Milan from 19 March to 13 September 2020, is the exhibition that tells the public about this creative process. Once upon a time there was Walt Disney, a pioneer in the art of animation. His innovative creative approach to storytelling has created some of the most beautiful and famous films of the 20th century, including Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio and Fantasy. The exhibition features valuable original works from the Disney Archives of these immortal feature films and other famous films from Walt Disney Animation Studios, including Hercules, and The Little Mermaid. From Robin Hood to The Sword in the Rock to the Three Little Pigs, from Pinocchio to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, to the more recent Frozen 2 – The Secret of Arendelle now in theaters, created by a new generation of artists and filmmakers still deeply inspired by Walt Disney’s legacy.

The exhibition, promoted by the Municipality of Milano-Cultura and produced by 24 ORE Cultura-Gruppo 24 ORE, curated by the Walt Disney Animation Research Library, with the collaboration of Federico Fiecconi, historian and critic of comics and animation cinema, offers a triple-reading path.

The exhibition tells the visitor the masterpieces of Walt Disney, bringing the stories – which we are all used to know in the Disney version – back to the ancient matrixes of epic tradition: they are the myths, medieval legends and folklore, fairy tales and fables that have been the archetypal narrative heritage of the different cultures of the world for centuries, a real melting pot between different continents. These are also the thematic sections of the exhibition, in which the most famous stories from which the Disney films were taken and are presented in a narrative key through the exhibition of preparatory sketches of creative research, focused on the exploration of characters, settings and narrative plots.

The great innovative effort of Disney’s artists was in fact – and still is today – to bring these stories to the cinema using different artistic tools, from hand drawing – the founding element of the work in the Studios – to digital animation, to capture the essence of ancient fairy tales and revitalize them, updating their universal value. Animation is in fact an artistic medium that allows to represent the different narrations with immediacy. From the very beginning, Walt Disney and his team worked on these themes, giving human aspects and feelings to the animals and objects of fairy tales, fairies and dwarves of fairy tales, with such a naturalness and verisimilitude that they quickly reached a planetary success.

While the symbolic value of the stories over the decades has remained intact, it is the production techniques that have evolved. This is the second key to the exhibition’s journey, which tells the public how a masterpiece of animation, the ‘behind the scenes’ of some of the greatest animated films of all time by Disney, was born, entering the heart of the studio and the artistic process. It takes months and years of work by an entire team coordinated by a director to produce an animated film: a slow, continuous and very meticulous creative process that from an initial idea builds an entire film through thousands of images, which gradually come to life.

In the exhibition the visitor can retrace the entire creative process behind the scenes of a Disney story. It starts with an idea, a story concept and develops a narrative plot. The characters are then created. Every single character that will animate the story is ‘visualized’ by the Disney creatives and, even before our hero (or villain, or helper) has the face and features we are used to recognize in the film, we imagine his eyes, hair, clothes and the most iconic movements, thus obtaining sheets and sheets of preparatory sketches and three-dimensional maquettes in which the character slowly comes to life. The work of the team is supervised by an artistic director. With the same creative process and under his guidance the settings are defined. Various artistic techniques are used (graphite drawing, colored pencils and pastels, charcoal, watercolors, tempera, acrylics, collages): computer graphics, which today assists in the study and realization of the scenes of a film, is only the evolution of those traditional techniques, and mainly concerns the subsequent processes of animation and coloring, now realized through digital processes. By transforming hundreds of thousands of images one after the other into frames, the film is created. The music, often entrusted to great composers, accompanies and completes the sequences and characters.

The third key to the exhibition allows a personal and experimental interpretation of the great and creative art of storytelling. The visitor is encouraged to become a storyteller himself and will be able to walk through the rooms of the exhibition not only as a passive spectator of content, but as a leading actor. The aim is in fact to build his own storytelling, which will be composed in a small booklet to take home with him. Through interactive workstations and a setting that evokes the scenarios of the great masterpieces of Disney animation, it will be the same visit that will provide the tools of the trade of every great storyteller. Room after room, everyone will be able to experience the fundamental structural elements to give life to any narrative – setting, characters, narrative plot – until you feel the emotion of identifying with the work of an animation artist through the same techniques of Disney Studios.

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