Thoughts on the work of Tyrus Wong, Disney artist

Chinese-American painter, visual development artist, and illustrator, Tyrus Wong created a novel visual style for Disney’s stunning animated feature film, Bambi. The contribution of his unique artistic vision led directly to the success of the film, and helped expand the perception of animation as an art form. His watercolors and pastels combine an impressionistic vision of nature with traditional Chinese landscape painting and compositional techniques. I believe Wong’s artwork style is effective when applied to feature film background painting because it elicits the sensation of being in a specific environment (in this case the forest setting of Bambi) without forcing a detailed realism. This approach works well because it reflects, to some degree, an accurate representation of our own visual experience – as we scan our environment some areas are always out-of-focus due to depth-of-field and peripheral vision constraints. If detail is minimized, and the volumes reduced to an abstraction of light and shadow, the artist can achieve a look of ambiguity and mystery that is so attractive to the human mind.

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