Sunday, September 18, 2016

Sleeping Beauty/Behind the Scenes

Another time travel post to the 1950s to explore what's going on at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California. A cameraman with the help of an assistant is photographing painted cels of Fauna and Merryweather, two of the Three Fairies from Disney's wide screen spectacle Sleeping Beauty. I wonder what these guys might be thinking: What phenomenal art...I hope I didn't leave any fingerprints on the cels...or, what's for lunch?

A fun story sketch by Bill Peet, who boarded the "Boy meets Girl" sequence for director Eric Larson.
I don't think Peet enjoyed working on such story material. He preferred exploring contrasting, character rich situations.

A dynamic story sketch featuring the entrance of Maleficent. The character's design is still at an early stage, based on Marc Davis' preliminary research.

Frank Thomas is discussing a scene with Ollie Johnston. Ollie is in the middle of animating the Three Fairies' reaction to Maleficent's sudden appearance at the castle.

You can see Ollie's animation drawings up close in this previous post:

Early designs concepts for the Fairies looked like this. You have to start with something!

Marc Davis and John Lounsbery teamed up for scenes involving Aurora in the forest interacting with the animals. This is still a younger looking princess. The animation was kept, but re-drawn to represent a more mature looking woman.

Maleficent as a dragon climbs up a rock to fight Prince Phillip. Great drawing, possibly by animator Eric Cleworth.

A few Eyvind Earle's concept sketches, so powerful and cinematic!

Earle alienated some of the animators who felt that his production backgrounds were way too detailed, and took away from the animation. Most of us just love them for being different and so extravagant. As I mentioned before, in the end your eye will always go to what is moving on the screen...the characters.
When Earle saw the finished film after his departure from the studio he was "displeased" to find out that several of his background paintings had been airbrushed over, in order to soften the look.
Not an easy thing to realize for an artist with such integrity.

Some images Heritage Auctions.


  1. Still the most beautiful animated film ever, in my opinion.

    1. Nothing to do with this blog but...haven't seen that Dream League picture of Alice in a long, long time, Magic Emperor. Brings back memories.

  2. wow! these photos at disney studios are priceless.

  3. One of my local theaters is currently having a 70mm film festival, which included two screenings of the only circulating 70mm print of Sleeping Beauty. Quite a treat to get to see it on the big screen again.

    1. seeing 70mm films clearly is basically the whole reason I'm looking forward to 4K home video. I wanna see the texture of the paint and paper!

  4. Andreas, You wouldn't know by any chance which painting (or artist for that matter) exactly Marc was referring to when creating Maleficent. The only information I was only able to find is that he drew from Czechoslovakian religious paintings and used "the red and black drapery in the back that looked like flames that I thought would be great to use.

  5. Eyvind Earle continues to be an inspiration to me. Such an amazing eye for detail. I love his work on this film!!! Thanks for the post!

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  7. Agree with your comment about Peet. He can work with character like no other. I have all his books in my classroom library and my students ( some born as recently as 2008) love reading them. Amazing how timeless the work of Disney animators has proven to be.

  8. That was the best DVD of the 50th anniversary of Sleeping Beauty i lern all about the middle ages of the mythologie like dragon or other creatures and the culture of royal family and the people were thay live back then in the 14th century at school, I was 15 years old in 2008 but now I'm 23 so the art of Sleeping Beauty is fantastic and fantasy and I love it.