N is for Kay Nielsen













Danish illustrator Kay (“Kigh”) Nielsen began his career at a time when colorful art could be reproduced successfully in books. He illustrated East of the Sun and West of the Moon, some of Perrault and Grimm and his fellow Dane, Hans Christian Andersen. Riding the wave of technology, he designed the “Ave Maria” and “Night on Bald Mountain” segments of Fantasia.

Dismissed by Disney before the film was released, Nielsen was barely able to make ends meet. His work fell out of favor and, after his death in 1957, it was offered to museums in America and Denmark, but none were interested.


These days Kay Nielsen’s art is prized in editions such as these:


Nielsen’s Fairy Tale Illustrations in Full Color (Dover Fine Art, History of Art). Dover Publications; Green Edition, 2006. (Paperback)

East of the Sun and West of the Moon: Old Tales from the North, illustrated by Kay Nielsen. Calla Editions, 2008.

Larkin, David (editor), Kay Nielsen. Peacock Press/Bantam, 1975.

I’m curious to know why Nielsen was dismissed by Walt Disney in 1941. I’ve never seen an explanation.                  Anybody know?

4 responses

    • Thanks so much for this wonderful article, Sue! Terri Windling’s article is clear and rich! I’ve updated my post above to reflect some information she gave which I believe is more likely than what I had thought–though it took me to 102 words instead of my promised 100! I guess there is something to be said for truth! (Hmmm… I could delete “Hans Christian” and just leave “Andersen.” Nah!

  1. No, I don’t know…but I wonder if he knew my uncle…(?!) My Uncle Bob was an animator with Disney, and he worked on Fantasia, too. (I was told that he drew the flying horses in the Pastoral Symphony segment, but I’ve never found documentation for that…). When Uncle Bob would come visit when I was a little girl, he’d always draw me pictures/cartoons…wish I still had one… Thanks for stimulating memories of Uncle Bob with your post today! 😉

    • Aw! Love it! (And your Uncle Bob may have known the *real* story of Nielsen’s departure.)