Drenched in nostalgia, ACMI’s ‘Disney: The Magic of Animation’ exhibition is worth a trip for the summer holidays 

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Drenched in nostalgia, ACMI’s ‘Disney: The Magic of Animation’ exhibition is worth a trip for the summer holidays 

Photo by Phoebe Powell
Photographed by Phoebe Powell

“Animation can explain whatever the mind of a man can conceive” – Walt Disney.

The magic of Disney is an experience known and loved by all ages. Whether it’s the songs, the stories, the characters, or animations that you loved most, sitting in front of the television watching your favourite childhood characters come to life over and over was – and still is – a magical part of life, the circle of life if you will.

Reliving memories with your family and taking a break from reality is all part of Disney’s everlasting magical appeal, no matter your age.  

Enjoyed by generations, this year shaped up to be quite the magical time for Disney fans with the Australian-premiere exhibition, Disney: The Magic of Animation.

Keep up with the latest in regional art and local events via our website.

Taking over the glorious ACMI, Disney: The Magic of Animation has established quite a reputation across the world, regarded for providing a rare, untapped snapshot into nearly 100 magical years of Disney. And it certainly is magical.

For the young, the young at heart, film buffs and even those that simply need a little magic in their lives, the exhibition is all about shining a light on the mind-blowing creative genius of Disney’s animated universe.

Here, you get to delve into a world of art and technology developed by the talented artists and production teams of some of the best Disney animated films and stories. When you think about how (seemingly) effortless these movies brought to life our most beloved animated characters, you’ll be amazing at all the work that goes into the films – as well as the impressive progression of technology along the way.

The exhibition features more than 500 exceptional art pieces from the 1920s through to the present day, including original drawings, paintings, sketches and concept art specially selected by the Walt Disney Animation Research Library.

Arranged chronologically, artworks on display range from the timeless classics like Steamboat Willie (1928), Fantasia (1940), Bambi (1942), The Jungle Book (1967) and The Little Mermaid (1989), right through to more recent blockbusters such as Moana (2016), Frozen 2 (2019) and the studio’s latest critically-acclaimed release Raya and the Last Dragon (2021).

Walking through the exhibit – which is presented on vibrant and colourful thematic walls – scenes from significant individual films are broken down and accompanying text panels allow you to discover how Disney Animation developed its numerous animation techniques, from the simplest hand-drawn lines to the most elaborate computer-assisted creations.

To begin, you’ll find the zoetrope (pre-film animation device that produces the illusion of motion by displaying a sequence of drawings showing progressive phases of that motion), 1920s shorts, the creation of iconic characters like Mickey and Minnie Mouse, and an original multiplane camera which was used in the production of the film Pinocchio, as well as images of the animators and their workspaces at Walt Disney Studios.

Further into the exhibit, you’ll come across incredibly emotive story sketches of Dumbo, the sketchbook of Moana and Maui’s characters development, witness the point where Disney dived into digital technology and indulge in iconic clips from various films.

Across the single floor, the exhibition presents an incredibly eye-opening look at Disney’s outstanding innovation over the years.

Among the personal highlights (there were many) was the colour room experience, where you could dive deeper into the importance of colour in animation by being immersed in the colour of a scene from The Lion King (the OG) and Pocahontas. Surrounded by colour and movement, it was a truly beautiful and intoxicating experience, leaving you with a greater appreciation for colour choices in animations.

There’s also a lot of interesting little nuggets of information surrounding each film’s development. For example, for the seven dwarfs in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the passionate Walt Disney stood in front of animators weekly to physically demonstrate the characterisation and voices of each dwarf, giving the animators a prime source of inspiration. Lady and The Tramp took 15 years to come together following its original inception – and Walt Disney was sceptical of that iconic spaghetti eating sequence to the point where he almost cut it. 300 artists worked for six years on Sleeping Beauty. Cruella de Vil’s car was a model that they filmed and converted to a cartoon. And that renowned stampede scene in The Lion King that lasts roughly two and a half minutes took around eighteen months to create.

There’s a lot to take in – so allow a couple of hours if you’re the type that likes to indulge in each word, every image and all the extra models and interactive aspects along the way.

While there were a few glaring omissions which I would have loved to see included (Aladdin, Winnie The Pooh, and Hercules sadly didn’t make the cut), wandering through this eye-opening exhibit was a beautiful reminder of the magic of Disney, how they came to be, and the ever-enduring influence these iconic animations have had over the past 100 years.

The critically-acclaimed exhibition was due to end in October but lucky for you, has been extended until January 23. So, round up the kids, your partner or your mum, and prepare to re-experience the films you know and love in a whole new way.

Tickets for the extended season of Disney: The Magic of Animation are on sale now. To book visit acmi.net.au. Child tickets are $17, concession tickets are $22.50 and adult tickets are $26.

The museum will also extend its opening hours with the exhibition remaining open until 9.30pm on the final three nights of the season, from 20-22 January.