Thursday, May 12, 2016

German Expressionism and Disney

Someone needs to write a book on this topic. German Expressionism in film peaked during the 1920.
The still above is from the 1926 film Faust, directed by F. M. Murnau. The similarity to Disney's Night on Bald Mountain is not coincidental. German films from that period were screened and analyzed at the studio. The nightmarish imagery in its stylized form with an emphasis on frightening looking shadows influenced early Disney films like Snow White, Pinocchio and Fantasia.
Studio artists like Kay Nielsen and others applied these visual principles to the Chernabog sequence.

Disney's most frightening, haunting animated film making. More on Bald Mountain here:


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Thank you for yet another wonderful post, Andreas. This artwork is breathtaking. Yes indeed, someone should assemble a pictorial book about the influence of German Expressionism in film, with a special chapter about the early Disney films. I especially love that shot in Dumbo when Timothy the Mouse runs through the ringmaster's tent and casts a shadow resembling Nosferatu.

  3. Hi Andreas,
    You should check out the silent Swedish movie Haxan. Lots of witch imagery that definitely influenced all the spirits that rise from their graves from NOBM. It's really interesting!

    Around 50 min is where it gets really cool!

  4. Ahhhh, these are gorgeous!

    I really appreciate this post recognizing the German Expressionist influence in early Disney. Learning about this artistic movement in German film during the teens and 1920s was my favorite part of my German culture classes in college. Studying those films led me to learning about one of the most breathtaking performers who ever lived: Conrad Veidt. Andreas, I remember you making an off-handed comment in an interview that if Jeremy Irons were to read the phone book, you'd want to animate it. I feel the same way about Veidt: if he were to perform the phone book, I'd want to watch that! Such a film treasure, he was. And unduly forgotten by most people, unfortunately.

  5. These are breathtaking!

    Man, Faust is a brilliant film (but just about everything Murnau did was a masterpiece). It's just as frightening as A Night on Bald Mountain, maybe more. And then there's the possibility that Snow White's Queen Grimhilde was inspired by this statue:

  6. Andreas, hello again. Yes, absolutely. I was just recommending Faust to a friend. Stunning, and influential to this day, IMO. Hope all's well in California.