Drawings of Tiana, Disney’s first African-American princess, are a highlight of “Dreams Come True: Art of the Classic Fairy Tales from the Walt Disney Studio,” an exhibit of 600 sketches and animation stills from select films dating back more than seven decades. The show opens Sunday (Nov. 15) at the New Orleans Museum of Art in City Park.

The bright-eyed, wasp-waisted young woman will be especially dear to New Orleanians, because the aspiring restaurateur comes, not from some far-off kingdom, but from the 9th Ward. “The Princess and the Frog” is a re-imagining of the Grimm’s fairy tale about love and amphibian transformation, set in 1920s New Orleans. Disney executives chose the Crescent City backdrop for the film in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Lella Smith, the creative director of Disney’s Animation Research Library, who selected the art for the exhibit, led a lively preview tour of the show as it was being hung last week. Smith explained that the Animation Library is the repository for a staggering 60 million Disney artworks (By contrast, NOMA’s entire collection is about 35,000 objects). Old-style frame-by-frame animation requires 24 drawings per second of film, Smith said. That means a 70-minute movie requires as many as a million story sketches, character drawings, cells and backgrounds. Works from “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” (1937), “Cinderella” (1950), “Sleeping Beauty” (1959), “The Little Mermaid” (1989) and “Beauty and the Beast” (1991), as well as “The Princess and the Frog,” are sprinkled through the museum galleries like fine-art fairy dust.
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.

The animation library is closed to the public, Smith said, so the only time fans get to see original Disney artworks is when the studio allows periodic museum exhibits. It was clear, as Smith lovingly described drawing after drawing, that she welcomes the opportunity to show off the precious collection.

Strolling through the extensive exhibit, Smith called particular attention to the repeatedly revised pencil characterizations of the seven dwarves. “Disney knew the dwarves would carry the movie,” she said.


WHAT: An extensive exhibit of drawings, background paintings and animation cells from Disney princess movies, with video clips and a self-guided audio tour featuring the voice of actor John Goodman, a character in the new ‘The Princess and the Frog’ movie.

WHEN: The exhibit opens Sunday, through March 14. Museum hours are Wednesday, noon to 8; Thursday-Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

WHERE: The New Orleans Museum of Art, City Park, 504.658.4100.www.noma.org

ADMISSION: Louisiana residents: adults, $8; seniors, $7.50; children 3 to 17, $5; children under 3, free. Out-of-state visitors: adults, $16; seniors, $15; children 3 to 17, $10; children younger than 3, free.

Source: Nola.com