12 January 2015

Exquisite Aerial Sensation

Hyacinth Hippo is quite the celebrity around Walt Disney World. Over at Fantasia Garden she is prominently feature on the miniature golf course’s sign as well as their event pavilion in addition to being the subject of sculptures on holes of 12 and 13 of The Gardens Course. Apparently she has been booked for an extended stay with Fantasyland Storybook Circus and, being a ballerina who works with elephants, she logically packed her trunk.

Hyacinth first appeared in 1940’s Fantasia in the Dance of the Hours section of the film. Here she leads a troupe of hippopotamus and elephant ballerinas. From her divan she sleepily oversees the elephant ballerinas’ dance that includes creating their own bubbles for ambiance. She is jolted into action when Ben Ali Gator, and the dozen other alligators that he brings with him, swoop into the scene. At first a pas de duex between only Hyacinth and Ben, soon all the hippos and gators are involved, with the latter not having much luck in their romantic pursuits of the light on their toes hippopotamuses.

Recognized by her golden yellow ballet slippers and frilly pink tutu, Hyacinth was actually modelled after Tatiana Riabouchinska of the Ballet Russe. However, animators in the studio relied heavily on the modeling of the dancer Marjorie Belcher, whom had also been the live action model for Snow White. Though they divorced in 1940, she was also the wife of Disney animator Art Babbitt, who worked on The Three Little Pigs, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Fantasia, and is credited as the creator of Goofy.

Fantasia was not the only time Hyacinth graced the silver screen, however. She once again shined, if briefly, in a scene from the 1988 film, Who Framed Roger Rabbit. She appears towards the beginning of the film on the lot of Maroon Cartoons, and sends another member of the studio’s staff sky-high. According to studio head, R.K. Maroon, Hyacinth, Dumbo, and a host of other Disney stalwarts are on loan to him from Walt Disney.

In total, Hyacinth Hippo’s screen time only equals around 10 minutes, but she is always a beloved and well-recognized member of the Disney cartoon ensemble. Storybook Circus is a treasure trove to those seeking to dig a little deeper into the animated history of Disney and find new characters to know and love!

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