‘Snow White': O.C. artist lashes together Disney forests, dark folklore

March 12, 2012 | 2:02 p.m.
snowwhite1 Snow White: O.C. artist lashes together Disney forests, dark folklore

An image from Camille Rose Garcia's "Snow White" (Harper Image)

Snow White, the “fairest of them all,” will be back in the popular imagination in a big way this year with two live-action Hollywood films — although, really, with bedtime-story bookshelves and  the persistent popularity of Disney’s animated princess, the character never really left. For Orange County illustrator Camille Rose Garcia, whose illustrated edition of “Snow White” was just published in February, a variety of the character’s different versions all came together in the Magic Mirror of her own artwork.

snow white1 Snow White: O.C. artist lashes together Disney forests, dark folkloreGarcia, when deciding on her tone and text, looked back to the Brothers Grimm’s 1812 version of the story but, having grown up near and in Disneyland, she also couldn’t resist the tug of the classic 1937 animated feature film. “I did look to Disney’s animated ‘Snow White’ as the watercolor backgrounds were especially beautiful,” Garcia said. “I wanted to reference Walt Disney’s style but bring in the creepy Germanic folk-tale element.”

The latter explains why, in this version, the Evil Queen devours  Snow White’s lung and liver in one passage — or, more precisely, she believes the organs that she’s snacking on belong to Snow White. Garcia’s dark-tinged retelling of the classic is in the spotlight with an exhibit at the Michael Kohn Gallery in Beverly Hills that runs through April 14. On Thursday, Garcia will be at the gallery for a 6-8 p.m. signing event and in the weeks to come she’ll be on a book tour with stops already announced for San Francisco, Seattle and Portland, Ore.

Garcia’s style is rooted in the cartoons of  “Betty Boop” and other cartoons such as Max Fleischer. Just add in more heavy black eyeliner and exaggerated eyelashes that would have made even Tammy Faye Baker roll her eyes. “They are an extension of the character’s personalities, Garcia said. “They become like a set of hands reaching out to grab things.”

In her 2009 bestseller, “Alice in Wonderland,” Garcia drew upon John Tenniel’s famed illustrations of the rabbit-hole adventure, but the 40 illustrations for “Snow White” are pure Garcia originals.  The biggest challenge? The little men. The dwarves were a knotty puzzle to solve. “They were the hardest characters to design; they were grumpy old men but I still wanted them to be cute,” said Garcia, who added that she found inspiration in certain works  by Edward Gorey, former Disney artist Kay Nielsen, Dr. Seuss and Fantagraphics artists Dame Darcy and Al Columbia.

The character of Snow White seems to be an especially flexible fairy tale for contemporary storytellers.  A winking version of the centuries old fairy tale arrives in “Mirror Mirror” (starring Lily Collins, Julia Roberts, Armie Hammer and Sean Bean) on March 30. Then, June 1, it’s “Snow White and the Huntsman” (starring Charlize Theron, Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth,  Ian McShane and Bob Hoskins), which tells the tale with the clanging battlefields of a fantasy epic. There’s more magic ahead — next year Hollywood delivers silver-screen versions of “Jack the Giant Killer” and “Hansel & Gretel, Witch Hunters”

– Liesl Bradner

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