Written by Jacqui Palumbo, CNN
Each year, over one million people visit Neuschwanstein, a 19th-century castle in the Bavarian alps, famous for its Romanesque Revival style and Gothic details, including vertical limestone towers and turrets topped with deep blue pointed roofs.
Once home to a famously introverted Bavarian monarch known as “the fairytale king,” the idyllic architecture — designed more so for aesthetics rather than defense capabilities — would eventually inspire both castles from Disney’s animated films “Cinderella” and “Sleeping Beauty.”
The Romanesque Revival design of Neuschwanstein served as the basis for two Disney castles. Credit: Sean Gallup/Getty Images
Neuschwanstein also partly inspired Disney’s theme parks and logo — the latter arguably becoming the company’s most recognizable visual symbol aside from Mickey Mouse’s ears — and a new exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York shows that influences of European architecture and art don’t stop there. “Inspiring Walt Disney” showcases an array of decorative arts from centuries past that find resonance with some of the most famous animated settings fever produced, including tapestries, furniture, Boulle clocks and Sèvres porcelain. The show pairs these objects with production art and works on paper by Disney’s studio artists.
“Inspiring Walt Disney” features an array of objects including Sèvres porcelain pieces. Credit: Courtesy of the Huntington Art Museum, San Marino, California
The exhibition includes gilt-bronze candlesticks, Meissen porcelain teapots and elaborate wall clocks that may remind visitors of the supporting characters in 1991’s “Beauty and the Beast,” who are turned into enchanted household objects and help guide Belle’s way. Also on display is the Lindau Gospels, a 9th-century gem-encrusted tome, that informed the bejeweled “Sleeping Beauty” storybook in the 1959’s film’s opening sequence.
The exhibition draws direct comparisons between European decorative arts and the famous animated characters and settings of Disney films. Credit: The Metropolitan Museum of Art/Walt Disney Animation Research Library
The exhibition’s curator, Wolf Burchard, says for many Americans, Disney films were their first encounter with visual media inspired by European culture and history.
“I think it’s fair to say that ‘Sleeping Beauty,’ for instance, was for many children, the first lens through which they looked at medieval Europe, or ‘Cinderella’ and 19th-century Europe or ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and 18th-century Europe, and France in particular.”
The exhibition chronicles the travels abroad of the company’s founder Walt Disney — trips that would later influence some of the studio’s earliest films. The rural Missouri-raised animator first traveled to France during World War I as a teenager with the Red Cross Ambulance Corps, but never saw any fighting. He stayed in France after the war for nine months with the Red Cross, posting in Paris across from the Louvre, near the gardens of Versailles, and in an alpine setting at Vosges Mountains.
The visual direction of “Sleeping Beauty” drew heavily on medieval works of art, including a direct reference to the 9th-century …….