There’s a chance – a slim one, but still a chance – that even the grumpiest miserable old bastard will have their heart softened by this show about the influence of European decorative arts on Disney.
Not me, though. No way. I walked in confident, resolute: a football lout, an extreme music fan, an expert in serious contemporary art. A tough guy, an intellectual. And I absolutely did not walk out feeling like a Disney princess.
Ok, I did a bit. But that’s not fair, because this show has some sneaky tricks up its voluminously puffy sleeves. Like the music; lush, emotive Disney strings soundtrack the whole thing. You’re looking at a pair of rotating Höchst porcelain dancers next to early Disney animations of them twirling, you hear the swooping chords, and suddenly you think ‘this is magical’ and ah shit, did I just do a twirl like I’m Cinderella?
Walt Disney and his gang loved European art, design and architecture. They found endless inspiration in continental porcelain, glitzy castles and gold-drenched clocks and candelabras. You can see it in clips of Belle and the Beast dancing in a ballroom based on Versailles famous hall of mirrors, or Eliza from Frozen bouncing in front of Fragonard’s ‘The Swing’, the real version of which hangs nearby, and sketches of Cogsworth that sit next to elaborate old clocks.
The rococo objects here are given new life by seeing how they inspired the animations of your youth, and the Disney works are given historical context. Combine all that with the god damn music and you might just find you’re somehow being swept along by it all.
Look, I still dislike the Rococo, I don’t care about old clocks, I absolutely can’t stand Disney, and I’m not sure this exhibition has all that much depth. But it has somehow shown me that, deep down, a very, very tiny part of me inexplicably wants to live in a fairytale castle and wear ball gowns.