'American Masters: Tyrus'
(Tyrus Wong / DVD / NR / 2018 / PBS)
Overview:Tyrus is an award-winning documentary film about the inspiring life, art, and enduring impact of Chinese-American artist and Disney Legend, Tyrus Wong.
DVD Verdict: Tyrus Wong (October 25, 1910 – December 30, 2016) was a Chinese-born American artist. He was a painter, muralist, lithographer, designer and kite maker. As a film production illustrator, Wong worked for Disney and Warner Brothers, including as the lead artist on Disney's 1942 film Bambi.
'American Masters: Tyrus' tells the unlikely story of pioneering Guangzhou-born, American artist Tyrus Wong, who overcame a life of poverty and racism to become a celebrated painter (who once exhibited with Picasso and Matisse), Hollywood sketch artist, and "Disney Legend" for his groundbreaking work on the classic animated film Bambi.
Previously unseen art and interviews with Wong, movie clips and archival footage illustrate how his unique style - melding Chinese calligraphic and landscape influences with contemporary Western art - is found in everything from Disney animation and live-action Hollywood studio films (Rebel Without a Cause, The Wild Bunch, April in Paris) to Hallmark Christmas cards, hand-painted California dinnerware, Depression-era WPA paintings, kites, and fine art.
We soon discover that the very first solo exhibition of Wong's artwork, “Mid-Century Mandarin: The Clay Canvasses of Tyrus Wong,” curated by Bill Stern, was organized by the Museum of California Design. It focused on his paintings on dinnerware for Winfield China of Pasadena, California, in the 1940s and 50s, and was presented at CAFAM in Los Angeles, July 14 through October 31, 2004.
Furthermore, in 2007, Wong was one of three illustrators featured in The Art of the Motion Picture Illustrator: William B. Major, Harold Michelson and Tyrus Wong, an exhibit in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences's Grand Lobby Gallery in Beverly Hills.
In closing, and what I love best about this new documentary, is that it finally corrects a historical wrong by spotlighting this seminal, but heretofore under-credited figure who passed away in 2016 at the age of 106. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.77:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.