Pawsibilities Unleashed: A Pet Portrait Exhibition

San Francisco, October 26, 2023—The Walt Disney Family Museum is pleased to announce Pawsibilities Unleashed: A Pet Portrait Exhibition. Presented concurrently with our special exhibition, Disney Cats & Dogs, this unique collection of artworks will feature portraits by local Bay Area and Disney-related artists, showcasing the profound impact animal companions have on their creative expression. Pawsibilities Unleashed will also showcase animal-related collectibles from Walt’s personal collection in addition to rare, non-English language posters from an array of classic, animal-centric Disney films. 

This original exhibition is co-curated by Tracie Timmer, Public Programs Manager, and Marina Villar Delgado, Director of Collection and Exhibitions, and will be on view in the museum’s Theater Gallery and Lower Lobby beginning Thursday, November 16, 2023, through March 2024, and will be free to the public. 

Pets bring entertainment, comfort, and companionship for so many of us, and for artists, they can also be a source of great inspiration. “With the success of Disney Cats and Dogs, we hoped to find more ways to bring the joy of pets to our museum guests,” says Timmer. “We also sought to highlight the talented Disney Legends and artists who have contributed to many beloved animal characters in Disney films over the years, including Pete Docter, Andreas Deja, John Musker, and many more, alongside local artists who have immortalized pets of all shapes and sizes with their distinctive creativity and vision. As you will discover in this exhibition, one common theme rings true in each of these unique artworks—they encapsulate the special bond that humans and animals share.” 

Walt Disney loved, respected, and appreciated animals from a very young age and found many ways to incorporate them into his films, television shows, and other projects throughout his lifetime. Even in the early days of the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio—known today as The Walt Disney Company—Walt would create roles for his Uncle Robert Disney’s German Shepherd, Peggy. Her live-action debut in the Alice Comedies in 1924 marked the first on-screen appearance of a Disney pet, and she quickly became an audience favorite. 

Walt once said, “Sometimes we recognize ourselves in animals. And that’s what makes them so interesting.” This sentiment rings true for the talented artists and their animal-inspired artworks featured in Pawsibilities Unleashed. Featured in the exhibition are works created by some of Walt Disney’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren: Chris Miller, Walter Miller, and Lily Miller. 

As a companion to this exhibition, Disney Cats & Dogs—now on view in the Diane Disney Miller Exhibition Hall— explores the evolution and innovation of Walt Disney Animation Studios’ animal-inspired animation and storytelling through the decades, and the massive undertaking involved in bringing their iconic cats and dogs to life on screen. From loveable main characters like Mickey Mouse’s best pal Pluto, Pongo and Perdita from One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961), and Duchess from The Aristocats (1970), to supporting sidekicks such as Lucifer from Cinderella (1950) and Percy from Pocahontas (1995), Walt’s love for animals and proclivity for starring cats and dogs in his films has led to their endearing portrayals and prominence in Disney’s animated and live-action films to this day. In addition to an extensive collection of over 300 archival reproduction concept sketches, paintings, model sheets, animation drawings, posters, photographs, digital artworks, and final film sequences, Disney Cats & Dogs also gives visitors an insight into Walt’s love of animals with archival photographs, quotes, and personal stories on display. 

Pawsibilities Unleashed and Disney Cats & Dogs are presented in conjunction with this year’s celebration of The Walt Disney Company’s 100th anniversary. 

Pawsibilities Unleashed: A Pet Portrait Exhibition will be on view in the museum’s Theater Gallery and Lower Lobby beginning Thursday, November 16, 2023 through March 2024, and is open free to the public.