As the boat sailed from China to America, Wong memorized the minutiae of another boy’s life.
In 1919, the Chinese Exclusion Act allowed only high-status immigrants into the U.S. So 9-year-old Wong became a “paper son,” taking on the identity of a merchant’s son. Luckily, Wong passed the grueling immigration interview. After art school, bored by the tedium of “in-betweener” work at Disney Studios, Wong saw his chance to prove himself when Walt Disney announced his next movie, Bambi. Drawing on Felix Salten’s novel, his own personal experiences, and his training in both Eastern and Western artistic styles, Wong created lush, impressionistic landscapes inspiring the look of the entire movie. Unfortunately, Wong’s work was largely unrecognized; however, he never stopped making art, exploring many media. Digital illustrations emphasize precise details and shape repetition, creating a geometric counterpoint to organic washes of color and loose, impressionistic backgrounds inspired by Wong’s work on Bambi. The brief narrative moves swiftly, lingering on just two key moments: Wong’s immigration and the making of Bambi. The author’s note provides more information about the Chinese Exclusion Act, the proliferation of paper sons and daughters, and additional details about and photos of Wong. Unfortunately, neither text nor backmatter share contextual information about the reasons for immigration, benefits and sacrifices of immigration, or the racial prejudice Wong faced both personally and professionally.
A visually engaging introduction to a little-known yet influential American artist (Picture book/biography. 7-12)