Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Sleeping Beauty Story Meeting

The artists attending the meeting from left to right are sequence director Eric Larson, story artist Joe Rinaldi, production designer Don DaGradi and directing animator Marc Davis.
The storyboards behind Eric are part of the "Boy meets Girl" sequence, which he directed.
Everything went into this section, the most elaborate backgrounds, multiplane shots with animation from Milt Kahl, Marc Davis and John Lounsbery. All this turned out to be very expensive, and when the sequence went far over budget, Walt Disney was not too happy about it. I am sure he had a word or two with Eric.
Next time you watch the film, keep in mind that Eric did his best to make this an outstanding sequence, but he caught some flak nevertheless.

The boards being discussed show the Three Fairies in the jewel box. If you remember they are trying to figure out how to deal with Maleficent's curse.
Marc Davis brought some of his character designs of Maleficent and the raven to the meeting. They are on the floor along with DaGradi's compositional studies.

What a great captured moment in Disney history!
I might read too much into it, but Eric Larson looks a bit distraught while Marc Davis' expression seems sympathetic toward him: It's gonna be ok, Eric.
Click twice on the image, and you are in the room with these guys.

Here are copies of Marc's sketches. He depicted Maleficent's colors in black and red, a concept he saw in a book on medieval art. Marc told me years ago that he felt strongly about those colors, but background and color stylist Eyvind Earle had other ideas and settled for black with purple.
Sometimes teamwork isn't easy.

Extraordinary sinister poses for the raven. What beautiful shapes!

Marc also did design work for various crowd scenes, in vibrant colors. 
The crowds in the final film are more of a backdrop and show less personality.
If these are supposed to be caricatures of studio personal, then the guy in the middle back is a dead ringer for a very old Milt Kahl! And maybe...just maybe the character on the left is a self portrait.


  1. you are maybe just maybe insulting marc davis!! lol just kidding ;)
    great info thanks for sharing!!:)

  2. What a great photo - I WANT that record player!!!

  3. Wow! Marc Davis was truly a Rennaisance man. Was this meeting at the same time they were working on Lady and the Tramp? Also, which character do you think is the most difficult in design terms of the ones Mr. Davis created? Great post.

    1. Since Eric Larson animated Peg in Lady & Tramp, the photo had to be taken after he was done with that assignment, when Beauty was in production.
      To your second question, I think Cruella is such a personal design
      that it would have been very difficult for anybody else to animate her. But Marc animated all of her scenes, so she is completely consistent.

    2. Thank you so much for the answer. You are totally right, it's so personal it can be really hard to follow the design, but all the designs Mr. Davis made were wonderful and really difficult. He was a genius. I always was confused about the times on production for Lady and Sleeping Beauty, because I watched in a documentary something about the sequence 8 (the boy meets girl scene, right?), and they said they were having problems with the story so Mr. Disney thought about the animals, and I found a photograph of Milt Kahl with Oreb's squirrel model sheets while he was drawing Lady. Thanks again for answering my questions!

  4. A wonderful post. That photograph is a gem It's obviously staged (all of the art is placed for presentation.) i wonder if it was shot for the Bob Thomas book. The wonders of the internet allow us to see closer/more clearly than a printed photograph would have allowed.

    Then after giving us the photo, you showcase the actual art in the photo. What an amazing post, thank you.

  5. Man, those Raven drawings are incredible!!

  6. What fun it would have been to sit in on one of the storyboard meetings!

  7. I swear I've seen Maleficent with red in some merchandise (maybe wasn't official) I like it here, but purple is better. But the drawings are just to die for, I wish real life was at stylist as Sleeping Beauty was.

  8. There's not many of us around who experienced fifties Disney. I'm lucky to have been there. It was an amazing studio and it's honestly difficult to describe. The studio today is absolutely nothing like the Disney I knew back then.

  9. Andreas,

    Did Marc Davis have Maleficent age during the film? The early scene she looks younger. It's subtle but later she seems older and exhausted from the search.

    1. I agree with you, there are subtle differences. I doubt that Marc drew her differently on purpose, but it fits nicely with the story line.

  10. Love the idea that those are studio charicatures! The guy on the right is an uncanny Eyvind Earle if we're speculating. Plus the woman on the left looks like Mary Blair