Generations of kids have grown up with Disney’s animated animals from Mickey’s sidekick Pluto, to Bambi, to Remy to Nemo and Dori and others, but the current exhibition at the Walt Disney Family Museum focuses solely on cats and dogs. Originating in Japan, where it has been traveling since 2021, the exhibition has arrived in the United States for the first time at the WDFM to coincide with Walt Disney Company’s 100th anniversary.
Walt Disney himself was a known animal lover and believed that, like people, animals also have personalities worthy of study, and he even set up an animation training program using live animals so his artists could better understand both human and animal anatomy. That training resulted in undeniable success in realistic animal movements that also reflected individuality and attitudes. (Who could possibly forget poor Bambi’s tears? Or the look of love between Lady and the Tramp?)
The exhibition features more than 300 archival reproduction concept sketches, paintings, drawings, posters, photographs, film sequences, and more that highlight the design and movement of both speaking and nonspeaking cat and dog characters along with their memorable personalities and quirks. “Serving both as best friends and heroes of the story, cats and dogs have played a key role in the success of certain Disney films,” says Kirsten Komoroske, executive director of the Walt Disney Family Museum.
Disney Cats and Dogs: Thu.–Sun., 10 a.m.–5:30 p.m. through Jan. 14, $30, Walt Disney Family Museum, the Presidio, 104 Montgomery St., 415-345-6800, wdfmuseum.org