When Walt Disney’s “Bambi” opened in 1942, critics praised its spare, haunting visual style, vastly different from anything Disney had done before. But what they did not know was that the film’s striking appearance had been created by a Chinese immigrant artist, who took as his inspiration the landscape paintings of the Song dynasty. The extent of his contribution to “Bambi,” which remains a high-water mark for film animation, would not be widely known for decades.
These are the opening lines in The New York Times‘ obituary for Tyrus Wong (黃齊耀 / 黄齐耀), who died on 30 December 2016, at the age of 106. Read the obituary here.
For more information about Tyrus Wong’s artwork for Bambi, there’s a good introductory piece by Joann Stevens, in the Smithsonian Magazine:
and there’s a more detailed appreciation of Tyrus Wong’s artwork for Bambi, by Hans Bacher here (including the quote and images below)
… the solution came accidentally from a young chinese/american artist, Tyrus Wong, who had just started as an inbetweener in the studio, but had his own ideas of a possible look of Bambi. he showed his pastel sketches he had done after work to disney art director Tom Codrick, who immediately realised that he held pure gold in his hands. With his Chinese cultural background Tyrus had done poetic interpretations of the forest world. He did not show you all the leaves and trees, he made you feel them. When you look at his hundreds of beautifully soft painted scenes you smell the moisture in the deep forest…
And here are a few more weblinks that I enjoyed:
- Happy 100th, Tyrus Wong – on Cartoon Brew (see the links at the end too)
- Tyrus – documentary film (written and directed by Pamela Tom, 2015)
- Remembering Tyrus Wong – by the Walt Disney Family Museum, 2016
- Water to Paper, Paint to Sky: The Art of Tyrus Wong, exhibition at the Walt Disney Family Museum, 2013-2014