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January 20, 2016

Mel Shaw: An Animator on Horseback

The Mel Shaw: An Animator on Horseback exhibit has ended. Please visit The Walt Disney Museum for current exhibitions.

The Mel Shaw: An Animator on Horseback exhibition is the first-ever retrospective of the life and work of Disney legend Mel Shaw (1914-2012), an artist and storyteller whose skills were in demand by the icons of Hollywood, from Orson Welles to Walt Disney. Shaw's own life story as an artist, creative entrepreneur and master horseman is as romantic and adventuresome as the animated stories he helped bring to life.

Born in Brooklyn in 1914 as Melvin Schwartzman, Shaw developed artisitic skills early - he was selected for the Art Students League at age 10 and was a national soap-carving contest winner at age 12. After a family move to California, he ran away at age 14 to Utah to try his hand as a cowboy, but returned to Los Angeles to work in the film industry and soon to study at the Otis Art Institute. From there, his animating, storytelling and directing talents blossomed at work with the Harman-Ising Studios and project work on Orson Welles' unfinished The Little Prince. He joined Walt Disney Studios in 1937 after connecting with Walt over a mutual interest in polo and horses, and worked as an artist on such features as Fantasia (1940), Dumbo (1941) and Bambi (1942). During World War II, Shaw worked as a combat photographer and cartoonist for The Stars and Stripes, before launching Allen-Shaw Productions to produce figurines, toys and books for Walt Disney Studios, amongst others. He returned to the Studios after 30 years, and contributed to films such as The Rescuers (1977) and The Great Mouse Detective (1986). Throughout, he kept a passion for horses and became an accomplished equestrian artist across painting, scupture and drawings. Shaw was inducted as a Disney Legend in 2004 and passed away in 2012.

This retrospective at The Walt Disney Museum features more than 120 of Shaw's works, including caricature sketches, storyboards and conceptual artwork from some of the most influential films of the 20th century, stretching from Fantasia (1940) to The Lion King (1994). The exhibition also includes scupltures, oil paintings, ceramics, iconic toys and artifacts documenting Shaw's redesign of the character we now all recognize as Howdy Doody. Many of the objects on display will be on view for the first time, and the exhibition is guest-curated by Academy Award-nominated producer Don Hahn.

The exhibit is included with general admission. Tickets can be purchased onsite or online at The Walt Disney Family Museum.

About the Curator

Don Hahn is the producer of The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast, the first animated fim nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Picture category. Hahn is Executive Producer of the acclaimed Disney nature films Earth, Oceans, African Cats, and Chimpanzee, and Disney's Maleficent. His other credits include The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Atlantis, Fantasia/2000, and The Emperor's New Groove. His books on animation, art, and creativity include "Brain Storm," the art series "Drawn to Life," and "Before Ever After: The Lost Lectures of Disney's Animation Studio." Hahn holds two honorary doctorate degrees, and serves on the Board of Directors of PBS SoCal and on the Advisory Committee of The Walt Disney Family Museum.

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