A cartoon’s classical roots?
Tyrus Wong, the artist behind the look and feel of the Disney cartoon movie Bambi (1942), died last month at age 106. Wong’s life began with the iconic immigrant struggle of the 1900s: due to others’ racial prejudices, he was long overlooked as a studio artist, but in time he rose to become an acknowledged master. He had successful careers at Disney and Warner Bros.
Just like these pages from a landscape album, Wong’s ideas for Bambi were inspired by Chinese painting from the Song dynasty (960–1279). Song paintings feature detailed elements, such as a gnarled tree, surrounded by landscapes rendered in a few loose, but carefully placed brushstrokes. Wong helped Disney solve the visual challenges of Bambi—depicting animals in a backdrop of nature. Wong simplified the backgrounds to create impressionistic washes of color and line, allowing the characters to pop. — Juline Chevalier, Head of Interpretation, Jan. 9, 2016
Above, right: Tyrus Wong, photo by Sara Jane Boyers, The New York Times. Above, left: One of Tyrus Wong’s sketches for the visual development of Bambi. Tyrus Wong family; Disney 2017.