Gustaf Tenggren's World

Gustaf Tenggren
awarded member of
Society of Illustrators'
Hall of Fame 1917

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Art director at Disney's Studios

In early 1936, Disney set up a regular drafting office in New York in search of artists and animators, Gustaf Tenggren accepted the offer, and he and Mollie moved to Los Angeles. Gustaf was instantly thrown into the work of designing backgrounds for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Snow White herself, The Evil Queen, the Witch, and the Dwarfs were already set up by Joe Grant and Albert Hurter, and Gustaf had to concentrate on the forest exteriors and the interiors of the dwarfs' cottage. Additionally, he painted movie posters, advertising material and book illustrations connected to the movie.

During his time at the Disney Studio his work was used for at least seven films, of which four received Academy Awards, among them, The Old Mill.

But his greatest contibution was the design of the backgrounds and the overall look of Pinocchio, where  he introduced perspectively complex backgrounds to enhance the illusion of depth. The sceneries fit his style perfectly; they were the very same he had used for many of the books he had illustrated already, for example Grimm's Fairy Tales.

The last movie he worked on was Bambi. Tenggren was painting forest exteriors for the film, but his detailed and intricate artwork fitted the movie badly and he chose to leave the studio in 1939. Later Tenggren claimed that his time at the Disney Studio was all work for no appreciation at all. Ironically, though, the just over two-and-a-half years he spent at Disney placed his name in the canon of Disney-associated artists, and as a result gave his career a tremendous push over the years to come.

Storyboard sketch for The Old Mill

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, illustration 1938
Inspirational painting for Pinocchio, 1937
Poster for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, 1937