Michael Doolan | World Within World

07.05.14 to 07.06.14


World within World


The widely popular Disney Studios’ feature films based on fairy tales such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1938), Pinocchio (1940) and Bambi (1942)[1] were responsible for ushering the traditional fairy tale into an all-new and romantic arena. This was mainly due to their highly stylised celluloid and saccharine “Disneyesque” narrative and visual style. Disney’s array of fairy tale characterisations have garnered mass popularity over the past eighty years, and continue to mark some of the most celebrated achievements of the Disney Studios’ to this day.


Intentionally re-rendered to maximise audience appeal with their rich, highly saturated, otherworld colouration and new found corpulence, Disney’s false utopia’s brimming with troupes of talking animals, stereotypical heroes and villains and opulently rendered, humanised environments looked more like plush toys when held alongside the classical tale’s earthier and more realistically described woodland ecologies. But it was not just the visual potential of the fairy tale that attracted Disney’s popularist tactics. Not unlike the Grimms decades before them, Disney also made significant changes to their storylines and held little regard for the original narratives when transforming these often-stark, episodic tales into theatrical scenarios to match the demands of the highly commercial Disney machine.


But these changes did little to affect the uniquely adaptable, world within world sensibilities of the fairy tale and arguably served to deliver an even wider audience, far exceeding their traditional counterparts’ popularity. The fairy tale’s endurance of transition proves to be one of the great metaphors of oral and written tradition. From its earliest beginnings, the fairy tale has been subjected to an ongoing form of evolution and renewal that is commonly described as a “heritage of adjustment”, leaving it to successfully reflect new variations of culture and creativity.


Through the de- and re- construction of Disney’s well known fairy tale images, characters and core motifs and their realisation in three dimensional form, World within World seeks to contribute to this long established “heritage of adjustment” by proposing new ways of both reading and decoding the fairy tale. The works’ are intended to be at once both familiar and foreign, inciting a sense of immediate understanding and recognition at first glance, while at the same time encouraging further engagement.

Michael Doolan, October 2015


Dr. Michael Doolan is the Coordinator of Contemporary Drawing and a Lecturer in the Sculpture Studio at Sydney College of the Arts, The University of Sydney.


[1] Walt Disney’s Bambi was adapted from the book titled, Bambi: A Life in the Woods by Austrian novelist Felix Salten (1923). Strictly speaking, Salten’s original tale falls under the narrative type known as the beast fable however; Disney’s more romantic and predictable cinematic adaptation includes many of the characteristics typical of the fairy tale genre.