Documentary explores Chinese-born Tyrus Wong’s break into Hollywood
2017-09-14 15:14:00

A new documentary film in the "American Masters" series by PBS features Tyrus Wong, a Chinese-American artist whose work broke barriers at a time when US laws actively discriminated against Chinese immigrants.

Primarily a landscape painter, Wong is best known for creating the aesthetic style for the Disney animated film, Bambi. Influenced by the landscape paintings of ancient China's Song Dynasty, the film’s unique style is a reflection of the Eastern elements Wong brought to the creative direction.

Bambi was released in 1942. /Disney Photo

Long unrecognized for his work, film director Pamela Tom first discovered Wong's talent after watching Bambi with her daughter, recalling, "At the end of the film, I discovered that there was this artist of Chinese descent who was responsible for creating the look of the film and his name was Tyrus Wong. My first thought was 'What? Wait a minute, there was a Chinese artist working in the 1930s in Hollywood at Disney?'"

Wong immigrated to the United States in the 1920s, a time when the Chinese-Exclusion Act of 1882 was the rule of law. Enacted to specifically prevent Chinese immigrants from entering the country, the Act reflected the deep resentment and discrimination against Chinese-Americans.


Photo via CGTN America

Wong went on hundreds of movies as a live action artist, including "Sands of Iwo Jima", “Gypsy” and "Rebel Without a Cause". Even with his success, came incredible challenges. Racism, for one, was still overt in Hollywood and animation in particular was very much an old boys club. On his very first day at film small studio, Tyrus Wong’s boss announced "You’re a chink!"

But the resilient and focused Wong didn’t let racism or anything else stop him from paving the way as a courageous pioneer. Not only did he excel in fine art and film art, he also designed beautiful greeting cards for Hallmark as well dinnerware with Chinese motifs.

After a lifetime of pursuing his passion as an artist, Tyrus Wong passed away in December of 2016, at the age of 106.

Source:CGTN Editor:Hiram