Some of you might be aware that World Ballet Day took place last week, so as a late celebration I’ve decided to give today’s Masterpiece Monday a little ballet spin to it. Though Fantasia has never exactly been my favourite Disney film, I really appreciate the fact that both the “Nutcracker Suite” segment and the “Dance of the Hours” segment are so strongly routed in the culture of classical ballet. Today’s particular piece of concept art comes from the famous “Dance of the Hours” segment and it’s of the ostrich ballerina featured in the animal ballet. As she’s one of the more obscure Disney characters, many people are probably not aware that the ostrich prima ballerina actually has a name, but she does. She is officially called Mademoiselle Upanova (say it out loud and you’ll get the joke). Today I’m going to give her her due by discussing this beautiful concept painting done by an unknown Disney studio artist in pastels.
One aspect of this concept art I really love is how it’s actually an extremely subtle parody of classical ballet in itself. There’s probably something about this piece of art that seems familiar to some readers, right? That’s because it was actually based off of a famous painting by Degas, “Dancer Taking a Bow”. The pose, the use of pastels, the soft colours are all meant to parody Degas’s painting. Degas was actually one of Walt Disney’s favourite artists, he was also incredibly famous for his paintings of dancers. So it makes sense that the Disney studio artists would look toward Degas for inspiration. It also plays into the themes of the “Dance of the Hours” segment which in itself is a brilliant parody of classical ballet with it’s graceful but absurd animal ballerinas. Look at Mademoiselle Upanova with her big feet and long ungainly legs and compare her to the dancer in Degas’s painting, and you’ll realise the satire in the animated segment of the film is captured brilliantly in just this one concept painting.
She may not be the ballerina of Degas’s painting, but I hope you enjoyed this brief look at Mademoiselle Upanova and the beautiful pastel concept painting done of her during the production of Fantasia. Someday in the future I expect to do a larger article on the surprising amount of influence classical ballet had on the artists that worked on Fantasia, including a look at the real professional ballerinas that helped create this ostrich prima ballerina.