Marilyn Manson's collaboration with world renown artist Gottfried Helnwein can be viewed in the same way: a combination of low art (rock music) with high art (painting)
Disney and Dada
Blending Art and Music:
With the The Golden Age of Grotesque, Manson has attempted something not seen since Disney's unusual masterwork, Fantasia. Fantasia, the collaboration between Walt Disney and Leopold Stokowski, was Disney's first attempt to combine low art (his animation) with high art (classical music).
Manson's collaboration with world renown artist Gottfried Helnwein can be viewed in the same way: a combination of low art (rock music) with high art (painting). Manson was well aware of this, as he mentioned to NY Rock, "We grew up with the idea that entertainment is some lesser form of art, less valuable, less sincere, less worthy of our attention. I don't agree with it at all."
From one cultural icon to another, Marilyn Manson has much in common with the creator of Mickey Mouse, and I don't mean just in being "the leader of the club." But the childlike content of Disney's work has long been an influence to Manson, in more ways than one. Like Manson, Disney also flirted with Dadaism for a brief period, in collaboration with Salvador Dali. And like Disney, Manson met a great deal of skepticism by attempting to combine low art (rock music) with high art (painting).
A large variety of those influences are defined here-
Marilyn Manson as Walt Disney:
Manson, as a businessman, is quite similar in style to Walt Disney, both putting an extremely large amount of effort into their work. Manson, over the years, has taken a role in every aspect of the recording process, from the writing of the lyrics to the actual production of the album itself. The early days of Disney's career was dictated in the same way. Disney was in control of all pieces of his productions, and nothing was accomplished without his consideration.
Disney tended to drive himself very hard, and expect the same amount of commitment from those around him. As harsh as it sounds, Manson's business practices have functioned in a very similar way.. Those who could not pull their weight were left behind. And despite the hard work of those around him, much the credit naturally goes to Manson. But as the vocalist of a band, this can be forgiven more easily than it was with Disney as head of an animation studio.
Marilyn Manson as Mickey Mouse:
Mickey Mouse was a central cultural icon of the time period that Manson focuses on throughout The Golden Age of Grotesque, and therefore, it seems fitting for Manson to incorporate the character into his work. In examining both Mickey and Manson as characters, we see a few important similarities.
According to Disney workers, Mickey "is not a mouse, but a person." He is an entity on his own accord. The first voice of Mickey Mouse was Disney, in Steamboat Willie. In a similar fashion one can go as far to say that the first voice of Manson as a character was Brian Warner. The character of Marilyn Manson has become more real than the creator!
Ted Sears, head of Disney's story department in 1935, wrote of Mickey Mouse, "he is not a clown... he is neither silly nor dumb. His comedy depends entirely upon the situation he is placed in... [Humor] depends largely upon Mickey's expression, position, attitude, state of mind, etc." Think about that description by placing Marilyn Manson into the Tainted Love video. While Manson is often considered a serious spokesperson for various lines of thought, he can easily become a parody of himself. Perhaps it is in that childish parody that Manson was inspired to reinvent himself temporarily as the one-dimensional mouse. The more one reaches into reality, the more Mickey Mouse becomes an abstraction.
In my opinion, however, Manson is more fascinated by the context surrounding the character than the character itself. As Manson sings in Ka-boom Ka-boom, "I'm the leader of the club, and I've shrugged off my mouse ears." This is the limit of his metaphor.
But does it really Smell like Children?
While Manson uses visual representations of Mickey Mouse on The Golden Age of Grotesque, he has long been considered a Peter Pan figure. According to Manson, his 2002 art exhibition was "me as a modern-day Peter Pan, not wanting to grow up." Many of the paintings focused on redefining or recapturing that childhood innocence. But as seen in his paintings of Mickey Mouse, especially Faunadestia, Manson frequently plays with what American society deems pure. Upon first glance, this would be a contradiction. But while Disney today appeals directly to children, during their own Golden Age, Disney appealed to adults with just as much fervor. On the same level, Manson's childish rhymes beget adult themes. Manson's use of Disney creates the illusion of childhood innocence, without actually being innocent.
During the depression, for instance, the audience of cartoons was made up of as many adults as there were children. While still appealing to children, they also touched on adult themes, such as sexuality, homosexuality, and politics. Many of those cartoons clearly took up pro-labor and pro-working class stances, especially during beginnings of World War II. One of my favorites, Der Fuehrer's Face, presented a spoof of Hitler by making Donald Duck an assembly line worker in Naziland. In fact, many cartoons made by Disney were actually spread across Latin America as anti-Nazi propaganda. Manson may have chosen to use the Disney character on The Golden Age of Grotesque in order to counter the current attack that he was a supporter Nazi Germany.
With the The Golden Age of Grotesque, Manson has attempted something not seen since Disney's unusual masterwork, Fantasia. Fantasia, the collaboration between Walt Disney and Leopold Stokowski, was Disney's first attempt to combine low art (his animation) with high art (classical music). Manson's collaboration with world renown artist Gottfried Helnwein can be viewed in the same way: a combination of low art (rock music) with high art (painting). Manson was well aware of this, as he mentioned to NY Rock, "We grew up with the idea that entertainment is some lesser form of art, less valuable, less sincere, less worthy of our attention. I don't agree with it at all."
Unfortunately, attempting to combine these two mediums has never resulted in much success. One of the major problems with Fantasia was actually out of Disney's control. The outbreak of World War II cut off the highly profitable European market at a time when he badly needed the revenue. Europe has long been more accepting of high art and low art combinations. One readily notices this through the debut of the single mOBSCENE at number five on the European charts. But in America, Disney's feature was not critically received at all. Those who were fans of classical music thought the film was blasphemy, reducing the status of the high art. Those who enjoyed Disney animation thought that it was too high brow for them. Interscope execs likely had these two fears in mind when Manson came to them with the plans for The Golden Age of Grotesque. By striving to create something high art, Manson would alienate those who were fans of his music. By being a rock musician with his reputation, he would not be able to capture the new high art oriented audience. Therefore, the album would be an immediate commercial flop. By even attempting such a combination, Manson was treading a very fine line, pretty much asking for failure.
But the earliest reviews of The Golden Age of Grotesque suggest that he has done the impossible. With the ready European market, Manson has a head start. As far as the American audience is concerned, the music can also hold its own.
Disney and Dada:
Unbeknownst to the general public, Disney flirted with Dadaism in the same way as Manson does with The Golden Age of Grotesque, mainly by collaborating with another artist. In 1946, Disney collaborated with Salvador Dali to do a film called Destino. (the phrase translates to "destiny" in Spanish) While Dali was a surrealist by 1928, Disney wanted to use many of the images associated with Dadaism, including the celebration of ugliness over beauty.
Just like with Fantasia, Disney wished to bridge into high art. With Destino, Disney was interested in collaborating with well known artists, much like Manson with Helnwein. Dali was interested in making his pictures move.
Unfortunately, the film never made. Many of the original paintings have since been raided from the Disney vault. Very little evidence of the collaboration actually remains, except for a few concept drawings and a rare 15 second color film reel. The small clip shows two bizarre figures, humanoid heads deformed by "persuasive and triumphant madness" upon the backs of tortoises. As they converge, the space between them takes on the shape of a bell that turns into a ballerina. The dancer's head abruptly becomes a baseball that disappears into the bleak, mountainous Catalonian landscape. One can see the influence of Destino in later Disney films, such as Alice in Wonderland (which of course, was a large influence on Manson during the scoring process for Resident Evil). There is talk, however, that Roy E. Disney may attempt to complete the film.
For more information on Disney, check out:
Smoodin, Eric. Disney Discourse: Producing the Magic Kingdom. New York: Routledge. 1994.
Maltin, Leonard. Of Mice and Magic: A history of American Animated Cartoons. New York: Plume. 1987.
01. August 2003 omega19x.tripod.com