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.

5 Things You Might Not Know About Ansel Adams

You probably know Ansel Adams—who was born on February 20, 1902—as the man who helped promote the National Park Service through his magnificent photographs. But there was a lot more to the shutterbug than his iconic, black-and-white vistas. Here are five lesser-known facts about the celebrated photographer.


Adams was a four-year-old tot when the 1906 San Francisco earthquake struck his hometown. Although the boy managed to escape injury during the quake itself, an aftershock threw him face-first into a garden wall, breaking his nose. According to a 1979 interview with TIME, Adams said that doctors told his parents that it would be best to fix the nose when the boy matured. He joked, "But of course I never did mature, so I still have the nose." The nose became Adams' most striking physical feature. His buddy Cedric Wright liked to refer to Adams' honker as his "earthquake nose.


Adams was an energetic, inattentive student, and that trait coupled with a possible case of dyslexia earned him the heave-ho from private schools. It was clear, however, that he was a sharp boy—when motivated.

When Adams was just 12 years old, he taught himself to play the piano and read music, and he quickly showed a great aptitude for it. For nearly a dozen years, Adams focused intensely on his piano training. He was still playful—he would end performances by jumping up and sitting on his piano—but he took his musical education seriously. Adams ultimately devoted over a decade to his study, but he eventually came to the realization that his hands simply weren't big enough for him to become a professional concert pianist. He decided to leave the keys for the camera after meeting photographer Paul Strand, much to his family's dismay.


If you've ever enjoyed Kings Canyon National Park in California, tip your cap to Adams. In the 1930s Adams took a series of photographs that eventually became the book Sierra Nevada: The John Muir Trail. When Adams sent a copy to Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes, the cabinet member showed it to Franklin Roosevelt. The photographs so delighted FDR that he wouldn't give the book back to Ickes. Adams sent Ickes a replacement copy, and FDR kept his with him in the White House.

After a few years, Ickes, Adams, and the Sierra Club successfully convinced Roosevelt to make Kings Canyon a national park in 1940. Roosevelt's designation specifically provided that the park be left totally undeveloped and roadless, so the only way FDR himself would ever experience it was through Adams' lenses.


While many of his contemporary fine art photographers shunned commercial assignments as crass or materialistic, Adams went out of his way to find paying gigs. If a company needed a camera for hire, Adams would generally show up, and as a result, he had some unlikely clients. According to The Ansel Adams Gallery, he snapped shots for everyone from IBM to AT&T to women's colleges to a dried fruit company. All of this commercial print work dismayed Adams's mentor Alfred Stieglitz and even worried Adams when he couldn't find time to work on his own projects. It did, however, keep the lights on.


Adams and legendary painter O'Keeffe were pals and occasional traveling buddies who found common ground despite their very different artistic approaches. They met through their mutual friend/mentor Stieglitz—who eventually became O'Keeffe's husband—and became friends who traveled throughout the Southwest together during the 1930s. O'Keeffe would paint while Adams took photographs.

These journeys together led to some of the artists' best-known work, like Adams' portrait of O'Keeffe and a wrangler named Orville Cox, and while both artists revered nature and the American Southwest, Adams considered O'Keeffe the master when it came to capturing the area. 

“The Southwest is O’Keeffe’s land,” he wrote. “No one else has extracted from it such a style and color, or has revealed the essential forms so beautifully as she has in her paintings.”

The two remained close throughout their lives. Adams would visit O'Keeffe's ranch, and the two wrote to each other until Adams' death in 1984.

Dan Bell
A Cartographer Is Mapping All of the UK’s National Parks, J.R.R. Tolkien-Style
Peak District National Park
Peak District National Park
Dan Bell

Cartographer Dan Bell makes national parks into fantasy lands. Bell, who lives near Lake District National Park in England, is currently on a mission to draw every national park in the UK in the style of the maps in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, reports.

The project began in September 2017, when Bell posted his own hand-drawn version of a Middle Earth map online. He received such a positive response that he decided to apply the fantasy style to real world locations. He has completed 11 out of the UK’s 15 parks so far. Once he finishes, he hopes to tackle the U.S. National Park system, too. (He already has Yellowstone National Park down.)

Bell has done various other maps in the same style, including ones for London and Game of Thrones’s Westeros, and he commissions, in case you have your own special locale that could use the Tolkien treatment. Check out a few of his park maps below.

A close-up of a map for Peak District National Park
Peak District National Park in central England
Dan Bell

A black-and-white illustration of Cairngorms National Park in the style of a 'Lord of the Rings' map.
Cairngorms National Park in Scotland
Dan Bell

A black-and-white illustration of Lake District National Park in the style of a 'Lord of the Rings' map.
Lake District National Park in England
Dan Bell

You can buy prints of the maps here.


All images by Dan Bell


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