Southland exhibit shows off work of late Disney animator

Animator Marc Davis earned plenty of respect as one of Walt Disney's "Nine Old Men." Davis created Thumper, Cinderella, Tinker Bell, and Cruella De Vil, among other famous characters. But Davis was trained as a fine artist. He spent his spare time painting subjects from bullfights and whaling to scenes from nature. His lines are sure, his draftsmanship flawless, and his colors are bold. Only now, nine years after his death, is he getting a museum show for this side of his work. KPCC's John Rabe met Marc Davis' widow, Alice, at the museum at Forest Lawn in Glendale.

Alice Davis: I think animation is the fine art of the United States. It's our own really true art.

John Rabe: Do you have some favorites among these?

Davis: I like the ones that he did for Moby Dick.

Rabe: Why did he paint about Moby Dick?

Davis: He read the book and was terribly impressed.

Rabe: He read the whole book?

Davis: Read the whole book.

Rabe: Wow. He's one of 10 or 20 (laughs) in the United States who got through it all!

Davis: He said it was difficult.

Rabe: There's a cubist whale plus ship that's really amazing.

Davis: Right. Well, he loved to do abstract. In fact, he used to complain about he'd never really had a true style for his fine art, and I said it's a way of showing off all the different styles you're capable of doing. So he stopped complaining.

Rabe: There are a number of paintings here about bullfighting. Why bullfighting?

Davis: He loved to draw animals. And he liked the religion of the bullfights.

Rabe: The religion?

Davis: The religion. It has the pomp and circumstance starting with all the parade. The bulls, if you've ever seen the size of those bulls (laughs), that will put you in a different stage too. We were fortunate to go to the bull ring in Madrid, and you were up three stories looking down at the bulls. You could never walk around them or anything. No one was ever allowed to walk around them. And so, you look down at these bulls, and they're the biggest things you ever saw in your life.

Rabe: These paintings now are finally on a museum wall, where they belong.

Davis: Yes. He always wanted to have an exhibit in a museum, but he never got one. So now he has one.

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