Disney celebrates 100 years by paying homage to Virgil Abloh

Disney celebrates 100 years by paying homage to Virgil Abloh

by Juliette Eleuterio
8min

It’s been 100 years since Disney has been filling our childhood hearts with magic through way of animated films, shows and shorts. From the OG princess Snow White to the iconic Mickey Mouse figure, Disney has no shortage of iconic figures, some of which are being celebrated this year for its special anniversary.

Disney has created a global Create 100 campaign that taps artists like Billie Eilish, Tommy Hilfiger, Nigo, Christian Louboutin, Pierpaolo Piccioli and more to tell their own stories about their own personal connection to Disney’s universe. 100 items and art works made by 100 different artists will be sold through an auction throughout the year to raise funds for the Make-A-Wish® foundation.

One artist in particular that was honoured was the late Virgil Abloh. The first of many artworks to be unveiled was “The Structural Sorcerer ‘, a design created by ALASKA ALASKA and contributed by Virgil Abloh Securities, the corporation established by Virgil’s wife Shannon after his death. The structure was inspired directly by a Mickey Mouse drawing made by Abloh himself for CHAOS Magazine for the figure’s 90th birthday in 2018.

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The sculpture was unveiled last week at the Royal Academy of the Arts, where the recipients of the Virgil Abloh Scholarship were recently announced in an effort to support talented Black artists. At the unveiling, COO of Virgil Abloh Securities and close friend Athiththan “Athi” Selvendra spoke about the importance of giving back, uplifting the community, and sharing knowledge and resources, something Abloh was known for.

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One artist who shared the sentiment was Favour Jonathan, a multidisciplinary artist who was chosen by Virgil Abloh Securities to explore her creativity for Disney’s Create 100. For the occasion, Jonathan took inspiration from the iconic 2009 film The Princess and the Frog, rendering Dr. Facilier into a metal sculptor. We caught up with the artist to talk about her approach to this project, the importance of Virgil’s legacy and the power of Disney.

Hey Favour! How’s it going? Can you quickly introduce yourself to our readers?
Hello, my name is Favour Jonathan, I’m a multidisciplinary artist based in London, I’m one of the next generation creatives involved in Disney’s Create 100 initiative.

Your practice is very much grounded in sculpture and metal, though your artistic outlets and medium span across disciplines. How did you first get into this? 

I am an artist that uses material to speak on various subject matters. In the last few years, I have been working with metal to tell stories of Black British history and the strength of individuals that should be honoured in history. I first started using metal to speak about the strength of women in society, the material speaks of their strength and the changes they have made in British history.

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You were championed by Virgil Abloh Securities for Create 100. How did you react when you found out about that?

Being selected by Virgil Abloh Securities was such an amazing moment. It felt empowering to know there are people on the lookout for me and people who believe in the importance of the work I am doing. It really motivated me to keep going, when crafting my Create 100 piece.  

Virgil Abloh has been a huge influence, not only in fashion but in arts and culture across the board. How do you see him and his work influencing you and your work?

Virgil was very special to the world, he believed in giving back and sharing with everyone no matter their backgrounds. He wanted us all to win and was there to support so many where he could. I work a lot with young people, helping them with portfolios or doing workshops during summer school at Central Saint Martins. I believe that it is important to plant these seeds of encouragement and give them advice where needed as they are the leaders of tomorrow.

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For Disney’s 100 years of storytelling, you have created a sculptor titled “THE DOCTOR” inspired by Dr. Facilier in The Princess and The Frog. Why did you choose the reference that film and that character in particular?

I chose Disney’s Princess and the Frog because it is one of my favourite Disney animated films. Apart from the songs being affirmations for me growing up such as, “I’m almost there’’ or “dig a little deeper’’ – Princess Tiana is a hard-working Black woman who believed in her dream and did all she could to make her dreams come true. It was such an important animation to me, which is why I decided to recreate Doctor Facilier because of the craftsmanship that Disney put into creating this character. When the Doctor first appears on screen, he captures the audience. He was a businessman and every move he made on screen was somewhat beautiful and enchanting. I loved him, he’s definitely my favourite Disney villain

The sculpture is an abstract rendition of the character made out of metal. Tell me a little bit about the creative process behind it. How long did it take you from ideation to creation? Was the idea clear from the beginning or is the final sculpture a result of a lot of experimentation?

The sculpture took me roughly a day to make but I had to go through a lot of sketches before I could start creating to capture my favourite version. The three things I wanted to ensure were prominent and that make him instantly recognisable are his hat, cane and cards. It was also important to me to be able to capture his movement and the way he enchants the audience by way of the metal rods bent and curved in my sculpture.

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Education is clearly very important for you, having worked with various programs and charities, including in 2022 when you joined Sky Art to help create an all-access free school and community program aimed to help young children tap into their creativity. Why is this something close to your heart?

I didn’t have a lot growing up and no one really believed in me. They always thought I was a daydreamer who was dyslexic and didn’t do well in academia. I knew what I indeed was when I was younger and I believe if I can be there for young creatives as I grow in my career, then they will have the support I didn’t have to follow their dreams and maybe change the way we see creativity in the world.

Disney has obviously been a huge influence in most of our childhoods. How do you think Disney has the power to educate while entertaining children?
Disney has been a part of millions of children’s lives, it was our childhood. The stories and shows give a fantasy world where anything is possible and we’re so inspired by these that some of us grow up wanting to create our own stories and movies. We learnt so much from Disney.

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We’ve talked about Virgil’s legacy and Disney’s ongoing legacy that has spanned over 100 years. With your work, what do you wish your legacy to stand for?

With the various types of work I do, I hope people see that it is possible to expand their creativity and dream beyond what the world tells you is possible. No matter where you come from.

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