The work of late Disney animator and Imagineer, Marc Davis, is now gracing the halls of The Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco, California. As a longtime artist, imagineer, and one of Walt’s “Nine Old Men,” his creativity was essential in the design and development of many of the original attractions at Disneyland Park, including it’s a small world, Pirates of the Caribbean, Jungle Cruise and the Haunted Mansion.
A major characteristic of Marc’s work was the ability to insert humor into nearly every one of his projects. “He was a jack of all trades,” said wife, Alice Davis, when we spoke to her about this new exhibition. “He had every kind of education and met every kind of person, and that’s where his humor came from. Old kids, to old ladies, everyone can enjoy Marc’s work.”
The once-stale Jungle River Cruise was given the “Marc Davis treatment,” and several humorous show scenes such as the Gorilla Camp and Lost Safari were added. Marc was also responsible for the infamous Haunted Mansion stretching gallery portraits, and the character concepts for the Enchanted Tiki Room. “He’s my Renaissance Man,” Walt Disney once said of Marc. “Marc can do story, he can do character, he can animate, he can design shows for me. All I have to do is tell him what I want and it’s there.”
The exhibit at the Walt Disney Family Museum highlights Davis’ female characters, all of which were exceptionally challenging to design and animate. “Working with Tinker Bell was the most difficult because she couldn’t talk,” said Alice. “You had to rely on the animation to help audiences understand what she was saying and thinking. It was very difficult for him.”
Among the collections of Davis’s original pencil animation drawings, conceptual artwork, paintings, and photographs, are a special collection of handmade cards that he created for wife, Alice, each year for holidays and birthdays. “And in typical Marc fashion,” Alice noted, “Each postcard always included our dogs.”
Leading Ladies and Femmes Fatales: The Art of Marc Davis is on view in The Walt Disney Family Museum’s Theater Gallery from April 30 to November 3, 2014, and straight from Alice herself, “When you walk in the gallery, it’ll knock your socks off.”
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