The Fine Art of Marc Davis

On Thursday, May 7, I attended the opening of the Forest Lawn Museum’s wonderful new show of personal artwork by the great Marc Davis, one of Walt Disney’s famed Nine Old Men. 

 

This is the cover of the program book for "The Fine Art of Marc Davis" exhibit.

This is the cover of the program book for "The Fine Art of Marc Davis" exhibit featuring Marc's 1952 oil painting "Captain Ahab's Nightmare".

 

Located high on a hill within the Forest Lawn Memorial Park (a cemetery for those of you not familiar with Los Angeles) in Glendale, California, the museum often hosts the most amazing rotating art exhibits of work by local artists. It is probably one of the best “secrets” of the LA art community having featured exhibits by animator John Pomeroy, pop artist David Willardson, a wonderful Tiki exhibit with traditional carvings from the islands as well as work done for Disney’s Tiki room and the very current artist Josh Agle better known as Shag, and even recently an exhibit of work done by and for blind folks. And it’s always free.

 

"Dressed To Kill" painted in oil in 1950 by Marc Davis

The striking "Dressed To Kill" painted in oil in 1950 by Marc Davis

 

If you are not familiar with Marc Davis’ name, you certainly are familiar with his work. As an animator at Disney, he was responsible for such characters as Flower from Bambi, Alice from Alice In Wonderland, Briar Rose and Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty, Tinker Bell from Peter Pan, and even Cruella De Vil from 101 Dalmatians. And if you’ve ever visited Disneyland, you’ve seen the results of Marc’s design work in The Enchanted Tiki Room, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Haunted Mansion, It’s a Small World, and The Jungle Cruise to name a few.

 

Marc Davis' "Queequeg Pursuing Moby Dick" painted in oil in 1956, and was my personal favorite of the show.

Marc Davis' "Queequeg Pursuing Moby Dick" painted in oil in 1956, and was my personal favorite of the show.

 

I had the pleasure of chatting with Marc several times before his passing back in 2000. I worked for Disney Feature Animation at the time, and Marc, together with his wife and fellow Disney Legend herself, Alice, would come give talks to us at lunchtime. Marc loved to talk, and often would go off on an unplanned rabbit trail which we rarely minded as every story he had to tell was so riveting.

 

The art in this current exhibit is Marc’s personal work that has hung in the home he shared with Alice for many years. Made up of almost 100 pieces, the work represented is from the 1930s all the way through the 1980s. His amazing sense of design, style, color and boldness is evident in a variety of subject matter, many of which were influenced by his world travels. Pencil, oils, gouache, watercolor – you name it, there was probably a hint of every medium present in this show – even wireframe sculpture!

 

Chad Frye, Disney animator Andreas Deja, and retired Disney animation artist Carl Bell who can tell stories of days at the studio when Walt was still around.

Chad Frye, Disney animator Andreas Deja, and retired Disney animation artist Carl Bell who can tell stories of days at the studio when Walt was still around.

 

The opening of a show is always fun. Good art, a little food, live music, and lots of friends and colleagues were in attendance. One might have seen illustrator William Stout, Roger Gould from Pixar, Disney animators Andreas Deja and Pres Romanillos, Mulan co-director Tony Bancroft, Frank Thomas’ (another of the Nine Old Men) son Ted, Disney guru Bill Matthews, animation folk Tom & Pat Sito, Bob Kurtz, ASIFA-Hollywood President Antran Manoogian, voice of Wendy (Peter Pan) and Alice Kathryn Beaumont, the legendary 99-year-old Tyrus Wong (Bambi conceptual artist), and even folks from Studio Ghibli in Japan.

 

Artist William Stout taking in Marc Davis' 1947 oil painting "Blood and Sand".

Artist William Stout taking in Marc Davis' 1947 oil painting "Blood and Sand".

 

Animation colleagues Pres Romanillos, Bill Matthews, and Tony Bancroft.

Animation colleagues Pres Romanillos, Bill Matthews, and Tony Bancroft.

 

Marc Davis' original painting of a tree he did in the short film made for the "Disneyland" television program called "4 Artists Paint 1 Tree".

Marc Davis' original painting of a tree he did in the short film made for the "Disneyland" television program called "4 Artists Paint 1 Tree".

 

A photo taken of the "4 Artists" with their version of the same tree taken in 1958. From L to R, Josh Meador, Marc Davis, Eyvind Earle, and Walt Peregoy.

A photo of the "4 Artists" with their version of the same tree taken in 1958. From L to R, Josh Meador, Marc Davis, Eyvind Earle, and Walt Peregoy.

 

Chad Frye with the legendary Tyrus Wong who had worked on "Bambi" back in the day, and had an amazing career later with designing cards.

Chad Frye with the legendary 99-year-old Tyrus Wong who had worked on "Bambi" back in the day, and had an amazing career later with designing cards.

 

Some folks checking out another of Marc Davis' paintings.

Some folks checking out another of Marc Davis' paintings.

 

Some women taking a look at a Marc Davis painting of some women. Profound, I know.

Some women taking a look at a Marc Davis painting of some women. Profound, I know.

 

If you will be in the Los Angeles area between May 8 and July 26 of 2009, make this a must-stop on your list of things to-do! Please check out the details of this show at the Forest Lawn Museum’s website!  And if you would like to know more about Marc Davis and the other eight of the legendary Nine Old Men, I highly recommend John Canemaker’s book published in 2001 titled Walt Disney’s Nine Old Men & the Art of Animation.

 

Chad Frye with Lella Smith (director of Disney's Animation Research Library), her husband Jim, and Marc's widow Disney Legend Alice Davis (she created the costumes for "It's a Small World" and "Pirates of the Caribbean" among other things).

Chad Frye with Lella Smith (director of Disney's Animation Research Library), her husband Jim, and Marc's widow Disney Legend Alice Davis (she created the costumes for "It's a Small World" and "Pirates of the Caribbean" among other things).

One Response to “The Fine Art of Marc Davis”

  1. suzanne h. says:

    Hey Chad….what an awesome time! Glad you had the chance to go. :)