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The Walt Disney Family Museum
The Walt Disney Family Museum

'Wish Upon a Star: The Art of Pinocchio' Opens at the Disney Family Museum

The Walt Disney Family Museum
The Walt Disney Family Museum

Fresh off the success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in the late 1930s, Walt Disney knew he needed to deliver something even more spectacular for his sophomore animated feature. How he got there—the trials and tribulations, the character and story development, the innovative new techniques and more—is the basis for Wish Upon a Star: The Art of Pinocchio, an exhibit that opens today at the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco.

Curated by Academy Award-winning animator John Canemaker, the exhibit features more than 300 objects that provide a glimpse into how much effort it took—and how challenging it was—to bring the story to life.

"Walt halted production on the film in June 1938 for about six months to fix problems with the story, which was adapted from a rambling newspaper serial that started in 1881 and ran for three years and 36 chapters," Canemaker tells mental_floss. That included problems with the main character, who, in the original serial, was depicted as "a cruel, selfish brat, a wooden puppet with little audience appeal." Not exactly Disney material.

So how did animators arrive at the friendly little marionette people have known and loved for decades? That's part of what visitors to the exhibit will learn when they view early storyboards and character designs for Pinocchio and his pals. "By making him more sympathetic, Disney profoundly affected the story and the audience’s perceptions, and made Pinocchio a star," Canemaker says.

The Walt Disney Family Museum

The exhibit also shows the evolution of techniques and effects that began with Snow White. "The special effects animation is amazing, both hand-drawn and mechanical, specifically the use of the multiplane camera, which lent a three-dimensional quality to scenes," Canemaker explains. "The device was used much more extensively in Pinocchio than in Snow White. The stunning tracking shot of Pinocchio’s village waking up and kids going to school is one of the greatest multiplane camera scenes in animation history—and one of the most expensive!"

The Walt Disney Family Museum

From comparing flipbooks of the animators's drawings to the finished products, to listening to the Oscar-winning score and viewing documentary clips from the original creators, Canemaker selected objects to make Wish Upon a Star immersive and interactive.

"What surprised me personally as a curator was how much original artwork survives from this 76-year-old film," Canemaker says. "We have over 300 artworks in the exhibit—drawings, cels, backgrounds, animator’s drawings, storyboards, concept sketches, layout drawings, photographs. And wait until you step into a section called Geppetto’s Workshop with its 3D character maquettes that were used for reference by the animators. Wonderful stuff!"

The Walt Disney Family Museum

Though the movie may be more than 75 years old, it still resonates with audiences, and that, Canemaker says, is no coincidence. “There has never been anything like it before, or since. It hits all the buttons: adventure, warmth, spectacle, and emotional storytelling. It is a fascinating world that envelops you from the get-go, when a tiny cricket dressed in a tuxedo sits atop a large book singing about making wishes come true.”

The exhibit will be featured at the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco from May 18, 2016 through January 9, 2017.

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Watch a Chain of Dominos Climb a Flight of Stairs
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Dominos are made to fall down—it's what they do. But in the hands of 19-year-old professional domino artist Lily Hevesh, known as Hevesh5 on YouTube, the tiny plastic tiles can be arranged to fall up a flight of stairs in spectacular fashion.

The video spotted by Thrillist shows the chain reaction being set off at the top a staircase. The momentum travels to the bottom of the stairs and is then carried back up through a Rube Goldberg machine of balls, cups, dominos, and other toys spanning the steps. The contraption leads back up to the platform where it began, only to end with a basketball bouncing down the steps and toppling a wall of dominos below.

The domino art seems to flow effortlessly, but it took more than a few shots to get it right. The footage below shows the 32nd attempt at having all the elements come together in one, unbroken take. (You can catch the blooper at the end of an uncooperative basketball ruining a near-perfect run.)

Hevesh’s domino chains that don't appear to defy gravity are no less impressive. Check out this ambitious rainbow domino spiral that took her 25 hours to construct.

[h/t Thrillist]

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A Secret Room Full of Michelangelo's Sketches Will Soon Open in Florence
Claudio Giovannini/AFP/Getty Images
Claudio Giovannini/AFP/Getty Images

Parents all over the world have chastised their children for drawing on the walls. But when you're Michelangelo, you've got some leeway. According to The Local, the Medici Chapels, part of the Bargello museum in Florence, Italy, has announced that it plans to open a largely unseen room full of the artist's sketches to the public by 2020.

Roughly 40 years ago, curators of the chapels at the Basilica di San Lorenzo had a very Dan Brown moment when they discovered a trap door in a wardrobe leading to an underground room that appeared to have works from Michelangelo covering its walls. The tiny retreat is thought to be a place where the artist hid out in 1530 after upsetting the Medicis—his patrons—by joining a revolt against their control of Florence. While in self-imposed exile for several months, he apparently spent his time drawing on whatever surfaces were available.

A drawing by Michelangelo under the Medici Chapels in Florence
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Museum officials previously believed the room and the charcoal drawings were too fragile to risk visitors, but have since had a change of heart, leading to their plan to renovate the building and create new attractions. While not all of the work is thought to be attributable to the famed artist, there's enough of it in the subterranean chamber—including drawings of Jesus and even recreations of portions of the Sistine Chapel—to make a trip worthwhile.

[h/t The Local]

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