Weekend 378.1 (East of the Sun, West of the Moon: Old Tales from the North

Color studies for the Waltz of the Flowers. The study was done by Sylvia Holland.

“Sylvia was a jack-of-all-trades who could tackle any assignment with ease. During her time at Disney, she handled story direction, story research, script writing, art direction, scene timing, and more. Her artistic style ranged from the realistic to the ethereal and from the cartoony story ideas to majestic designs.”

On January 7th [377.0] I posted some concept art from Kay Nielsen. The piece was for a proposed Studio version of The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen.

The project was cancelled but the Studio used the concept art as inspiration for the movie more than forty years later. Here’s Didier Ghey in The Hidden Art of Disney’s Musical Years:

“Close to thirty-years later, directors John Musker and Ron Clements convinced Disney management to green-light an animated version of The Little Mermaid (1989). At that point, recalled Musker, ‘[Story artist Vance Gerry] brought to our attention the legendary illustrator Kay Nielsen and the drawings he did [in 1941] for a proposed animated version if Andersen’s fairy tale that were gathering dust in the Archives. Without Vance, we would have never known those fantastic drawing existed, drawings which helped inspire the handling of the storm sequence among other things.'”

The second DVD of the special edition of The Little Mermaid reveals the influence Kay’s concept art had on the future masterpiece. It’s a nice tribute to Nielsen, who joined the Studio in 1939 (an ominous year oft-referenced at Limestone), and who was beset by adversity during his short stints at the Studio (and in the United States). It’s also worth mentioning that he worked on my favorite sequences of FantasiaAve Maria and Night on Bald Mountain. Coincidentally, Fantasia remains one of my favorite movies [364.1].

Whenever I read a book (or article) on Disney I always cross reference Neal Gabler’s excellent and definitive tome on Walt, and while there was no reference to Kay, there was to Hans Christian Andersen in a very poignant passage. Here, on the occasion of Walt’s passing, is Gabler:

“It was here, guarded by a hedge of orange olivias and red azaleas, and hidden behind a holly tree and behind a white statue of Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Mermaid gazing contemplatively at invisible water, that Walt Disney seemed to have fulfilled his family’s destiny. He had escaped. And it was here that he fulfilled his own destiny, too, for which he had striven so mightily and restlessly all his life. He has passed beyond the afflictions of this world. Walt Disney had a last attained perfection.”

Scan and quote is from The Hidden Art of Disney’s Musical Years by Didier Ghey.

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