Disney’s “Dreams Come True” art exhibit in New Orleans

Dreams Come True – Art of the Classic Fairy Tales from the Walt Disney Studio” opened on November 15th at the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) and I had the pleasure of attending it that afternoon.

The entrance to the New Orleans Museum of Art’s “Dreams Come True” features these banners, and in true Disney fashion, a red carpet welcome for all those attending.

Walt Disney once said, “The fairy tale of film — created with the magic of animation — is the modern equivalent of the great parables of the Middle Ages.” The Dreams Come True exhibit shows how Disney has taken those classic fairy tales, added to them, and created animated stories which entertain as well as touch our hearts. Disney’s John Lasseter wrote about the exhibition, “Never once do you think that the characters and places are just drawings and paintings. What’s even more amazing to contemplate is that for every background or animation cel that is photographed and seen in the final film, there are dozens of pieces of art the audience never sees that are vital to the creation of the film: visual development artwork, story sketches, character designs, layouts, animation drawings, paintings, and more.”

In this multimedia exhibition you’ll find these usually hidden elements from Disney’s film-making process: maquettes, production cells, backgrounds, pencil sketches, and other original artwork from over seventy-five years of legendary Disney animated films, along with film clips and some rare collectibles the films inspired.

This is my sticker from the Disney art exhibit at the New Orleans Museum of Art. Mickey Mouse shirt available for an additional charge, at Disneyland.

Start your tour with an eight-minute video presentation about the importance and tradition of storytelling in Disney films. The presentation screens continuously in the Stern Auditorium inside NOMA.

From there you enter a series of rooms, arranged chronologically by the year of each film’s release date, with each room highlighting how Disney combines storytelling, composition, creativity and artistic talents to bring these fairy tales to life. The original fairy tales are summarized so that you can see for yourself how Disney transformed them.

Beginning with Silly Symphony shorts and other Disney productions like Three Little Pigs and Mickey and the Beanstalk, you learn Disney’s secrets of production through all the steps in the animation process.

Walt Disney Studios
Conceptual art from Disney’s ‘Snow White,’ part of the exclusive Disney-themed ‘Dreams Come True’ exhibit coming to the New Orleans Museum of Art in November 2009.

As you travel room by room inside the exhibition, you’ll encounter fairy tale-based full-length Disney motion pictures like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and finally Disney’s latest animated feature, The Princess and the Frog. All throughout the exhibition, you’ll find original pencil sketches, early production artwork, character maquettes, and research material Disney artists were inspired by in creating their ideas.

You’ll discover some secrets along the way as well, if you pay attention. For example, in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Lucille LaVerne provided the voice of the evil queen but when that character was transformed into the hag-like witch, Lucille altered her voice in the recording studio by taking out her false teeth! I also was pleased to discover that the beautiful bejeweled storybook that was actually constructed for the opening sequence of Sleeping Beauty has its original red pencil layout drawings on display at the museum.

Walt Disney Studios
Sleeping Beauty, 1959 Marc Davis, 1913-2000 Maleficent and Diablo Visual development: gouache and maker on paper Walt Disney Animation Research Library Collection © Disney Enterprises, Inc. Part of Disney’s “Dreams Come True” exhibit at NOMA

Large HDTV screens show clips from the movies highlighted in each exhibit room. In that way you see the production process all the way from the original short fairy tale stories and legends, to how Disney animators expanded those tales to make the characters and their stories come to life, as shown on screen in the finished films.

Walt Disney Studios
Conceptual art from Disney’s New Orleans-set ‘The Princess and the Frog,’ part of the exclusive Disney-themed ‘Dreams Come True’ exhibit to the New Orleans Museum of Art.

The largest part of the exhibit features displays about Disney’s newest animated feature, The Princess and the Frog. You can compare photos of real-life New Orleans locales to the beautiful renditions of them that will appear in the movie. The local culture, food and music are very important in understanding New Orleans, and great care was taken to portray these realistically and yet entertainingly in The Princess and the Frog. An interactive display lets you hear many of the songs in the movie, including “Down in New Orleans,” “Almost There,” “Friends on the Other Side,” “When We’re Human,” “Gonna Take You There,” “Dig a Little Deeper,” and “Ma Belle Evangeline” performed by such musical greats as Dr. John, Terence Blanchard, and the Pinnacle Gospel Choir. The songs range from toe-tapping Dixieland jazz… to lively Cajun Zydeco… to church-shaking Gospel music… to down-home blues… to show-stopping productions featuring that distinctive New Orleans back beat rhythm. Disney even identifies which one is the “I Want” song, found in so many classic Disney feature animations.

While you aren’t brought directly into a gift shop at the end of the exhibition, the museum gift shop can be found nearby and it includes related Disney merchandise, from t-shirts and logo cups to the “Dreams Come True” book from Disney Editions. Although no photography of any kind is allowed inside the museum, this wonderful book includes pictures of many of the things on display in the exhibition, as well as long descriptions of them, along with a forward by John Lasseter.

The “Dreams Come True – Art of the Classic Fairy Tales from the Walt Disney Studio” is available inside the NOMA gift shop as well as online, while supplies last, from NOMA here.

Museum admission for Louisiana residents with valid photo I.D. is $8 for adults, $7.50 for Seniors (65 and up), $5 for children 3-17, and children under 3 are free. NOMA members are also admitted for free, but the optional Audio Tour device costs members $3 while it is included in the cost of admission to non-members. Consult NOMA via their noma.org website for other information, including group tour discounts. Free parking is available.

I recommend you experience this once-in-a-lifetime exhibition, which cannot be seen anywhere else in North America, at the New Orleans Museum of Art during its delightful run from now through March 15, 2010. The excellence of Dreams Come True is due to it being organized by the Walt Disney Animation Research Library and the New Orleans Museum of Art.

What do you think about this? Please leave a comment!


8 Responses to “Disney’s “Dreams Come True” art exhibit in New Orleans”

  1. 1 Chris Mitchell November 21, 2009 at 3:20 pm

    Hi Rich, I’m publishing a book about my experiences as a WDW Cast Member. Are you interested in covering it?


  2. 3 Helen November 29, 2009 at 7:42 pm

    nice site, just thought to let you know that your website looks rboken on Android Brow ser

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