The Met Brings a Touch of Disney Magic to its Galleries in New Exhibition

Towers from famed Disney princess castles? No, 18th-century vases by French sculptor Etienne-Maurice Falconet. 
Towers from famed Disney princess castles? No, 18th-century vases by French sculptor Etienne-Maurice Falconet. 

See pop culture in a whole new light at a brand new exhibition at The Met. New York City's largest art museum turns its critical eye toward an unusual subject, honoring the iconic work of Walt Disney in a first-of-its-kind installation titled Inspiring Walt Disney: The Animation of French Decorative Arts. The exhibit provides a stunning juxtaposition of the old and new, merging treasures from the museum's collection with a trove of works from the Disney brand as well as the Disney family collection.

Read on for more details on the exhibit and find more kid-friendly installations in our Guide to Museums in NYC.

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The show, which opens today, is a symphony of the old and new, and an all-ages pleaser with enough recognizable characters and a touch of princess sparkle to draw in curious kids, all displayed alongside selected works from The Met's French and European art collection, which seemingly come to life as a soundtrack of Disney tunes fills the galleries.


Tracing the Disney brand from its earliest animated works up through the production of Beauty and the Beast, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, the exhibition focuses large swaths of real estate on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty, too. Lesser-known animated shorts from the studio's early days illustrate the evolution of the brand.

Inspiring Walt Disney displays Disney promo posters on the walls of The Met
Promotional posters find their way to the walls of The Met as part of the exhibition.

The Disney treasures on display are vast—more than 150 in all—including everything from Walt Disney's collection of miniature dollhouse furniture to home videos from his family visits to France, plus tons of sketches and recognizable props from the fairytale collection of princess stories it highlights.

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Cinderella sketches hung on a wall in Walt Disney exhibit at The Met
All 24 sketches in this series add up to just a single second of animation pulled from Cinderella's transformation scene. Photo by Paul Lachenauer/courtesy of The Met

A wall paneled with 24 sketches of Cinderella's transformation to party-ready belle of the ball illustrates the precision, discipline, and artistic talent necessary to pull together a feature-length film, highlighting the fact that all together, those sketches produce just a single second of animation.

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Porcelain and painting illustrating Beauty and the Beast's Be Our Guest Scene on view at Inspiring Walt Disney
With fine porcelain and an opulent painting, you're transported to the dinner scene in Beauty and the Beast. Photo by Paul Lachenauer/courtesy of The Met

While you'll see tapestries hung on walls alongside screenshots of Sleeping Beauty that feel like they were drawn straight from the fibers, the most striking example of the exhibition's title is undoubtedly the galleries devoted the Beauty and the Beast. The movie's well-known "Be Our Guest" musical number is highlighted in a collection of 18th-century porcelain. The film's stars seemingly leap of display pedestals and to life thanks to a well-orchestrated lay out of candelabras, teapots, and grandfather clocks situated next to character sketches of Cogsworth, Lumiere, and Mrs. Potts.

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Inspiring Walt Disney draws parallels between decorative fine arts and the pop culture characters Walt Disney has made famous, like the beloved Mrs. Potts.​

In a final feast for the eyes, you'll see an early sketch of Disneyland, plus a look at the architecture that's inspired the princess castles of both movie and theme park fame.

Inspiring Walt Disney: The Animation of French Decorative Arts is on display through Sunday, March 6, 2022. The exhibition is included in regular museum admission. Timed-entry tickets are recommended and visitors ages 12+ must be vaccinated for entry; beginning Tuesday, December 14 those ages 5+ must show proof of one dose of a COVID vaccine.

Unless noted, all photos by author

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