The release of The Little Mermaid on November 17th, 1989 marked the beginning of the Disney Renaissance, and although the animators didn’t know it at the time, they had started Disney down a 10 year run of some of the best animation the world has ever known. When we stumble upon Disney inspired tattoos, like that of artist Shell Valentine’s, we get a bit nostalgic for those Disney golden days of yore. We long to relive the very first time we saw The Lion King in theatres, and how it gave us the mantra we still live by today, “Hakuna Matata.” We want nothing more than to swing with Tarzan in the jungle, or watch Ariel sign the contract that turned her beautiful fin into a pair of legs, and scream, “Girl, what the hell are you doing? You’re a mermaid, and you’re giving that all up for some guy you just met whose most redeeming quality is his perfectly coiffed hair? Look at your life. Look at your choices.” Valentine’s work incites all of this and more with her absolutely perfect renditions of beloved Disney characters.
Using a traditional style with a slightly more updated color palette, Valentine perfectly recreates some of the most beloved and iconic Disney characters out there. In fact, the sense of wonder we feel by gazing at them for the first time rivals the feeling we had when initially watching their cinematic counterparts.
Our favorite though, might be her illustration of Nala and Simba seeing each other for the first time in years. Aside from absolutely perfect technique (hello, can we talk about the insane use of color in Nala’s nose), the beautiful moment of recognition that we’ve all seen countless times is still 100% expressed in Valentine’s tattoo version. Arguably one of the sweetest moments in Disney history, Valentine’s version of their reunitement is perfect, two long lost friends recognizing each other after all these years, and that total feeling of bliss that finally, the missing piece of their life has returned.
It’s always mind blowing when artists manage to pack emotion between the hard outlines and beautifully vibrant color, but time and time again Valentine proves that it’s just another day in the life.