Fine art illustrations created by Tyrus Wong during the production of BAMBI (1942) will be highlighted along with dozens of other films from the late 1940s through early 1990s in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' new exhibition, "The Art of the Motion Picture Illustrator: William B. Major, Harold Michelson and Tyrus Wong," opening on Sept. 28, in the Academy's Grand Lobby Gallery in Beverly Hills. Admission is free.
Featuring more than 110 color and black-and-white storyboards, sketches and watercolor renderings, the exhibition will honor an essential but rarely publicized member of the moviemaking team: the illustrator.
As the tools available to motion picture artists continue to change, particularly with the widespread use of computer programs, the impressive skills of Major, Michelson and Wong define an era when the film industry prized art school training and an ability to paint and draw quickly at the highest professional levels.
Motion picture artists sketched and painted numerous scenes for each film, drew hundreds of pages of storyboards, and illustrated key sets: they enabled production designers to convey their ideas to directors, facilitated set construction, and helped directors and cinematographers alike visualize their most important shots.
Major and Wong attended Otis Art Institute, while Michelson studied at the Art Students League and Pratt Institute in New York. Wong worked for three years at Disney, where his distinctive watercolor style shaped the entire look of BAMBI. He then went to Warner Bros., where he illustrated for three decades. He continues his personal artistic pursuits to this day.
"The Art of the Motion Picture Illustrator" will be on display through Dec. 16. The Academy's galleries, located at 8949 Wilshire Blvd. in Beverly Hills, are open Tuesdays through Fridays, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and weekends, noon to 6:00 p.m. The Academy will be closed during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend -- Thursday, Nov. 22, through Sunday, Nov. 25. For more information call (310) 247-3600.