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Eyvind Earle Original Concept Painting of Prince Phillip and Samson from "Sleeping Beauty," 1959

Eyvind Earle Original Concept Painting of Prince Phillip and Samson from "Sleeping Beauty," 1959
Eyvind Earle Original Concept Painting of Prince Phillip and Samson from "Sleeping Beauty," 1959

Eyvind Earle original concept painting of Prince Phillip and Samson from "Sleeping Beauty," 1959, Walt Disney Studios; Gouache on board; Signed Eyvind Earle lower right; Size - Concept Painting: 6 x 15"; Unframed.

"I wanted stylized, simplified Gothic. Straight, tall, perpendicular lines like Gothic cathedrals... I used one-point perspective. I rearranged the bushes and trees in geometrical patterns. I made a medieval tapestry out of the surface wherever possible. All my foregrounds were tapestry designs of decorative weeds and flowers and grasses. And since it is obvious that the Gothic style and detail evolved from the Arabic influence acquired during the Crusades, I found it perfectly permissible to use all the wonderful patterns and details found in Persian miniatures. And since Persian miniatures had a lot in common with Chinese and Japanese art, I felt is was OK for me to inject quite a bit of Japanese art, especially in the close-up of leaves and overhanging branches."

- Eyvind Earle describing working on "Sleeping Beauty"

"Sleeping Beauty" is a Walt Disney animated full length feature film and was based on "The Sleeping Beauty" by Charles Perrault and "Little Briar Rose" by The Brothers Grimm. The film was the sixteenth in the Walt Disney Animated Classics series, and it was released to theaters on January 29, 1959 by Buena Vista Distribution. This was to be the last Disney adaptation of a fairy tale for many years, both because of its initial mixed critical reception, and because of it's under performance at the box office. The Walt Disney studio did not return to the fairy tale genre until 30 years later, with the release of "The Little Mermaid" in 1989.

"Sleeping Beauty" was directed by Les Clark, Eric Larson, and Wolfgang Reitherman, under the supervision of Clyde Geronimi. The story was written by Joe Rinaldi, Winston Hibler, Bill Peet, Ted Sears, Ralph Wright, and Milt Banta. The film's musical score and songs, featuring the Graunke Symphony Orchestra, was under the direction of George Bruns. Arrangements and/or adaptations were derived from numbers from the 1890 "Sleeping Beauty Ballet" by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. In addition, Igor Stravinsky's music compositions were also adapted into the film. "Sleeping Beauty" was the first animated film to be photographed in the Super Technirama 70 widescreen process, as well as the second full-length animated feature film to be filmed in anamorphic widescreen; following "Lady and the Tramp" four years earlier. In select first-run engagements, the film was presented in Super Technirama 70 and 6-channel stereophonic sound.

When Walt Disney began to plot out the scenes for "Sleeping Beauty" he told sequence director Eric Larson, "What we want out of this is a moving illustration. I don't care how long it takes." Disney had begun to take critism for his recent films being flat and devoid of artistic design. Walt Disney made a descion to return to the illustrative and lush design of his early films such as "Snow White" and "Pinocchio." "For years and years I have been hiring artists like Mary Blair to design the styling of a feature, and by the time the picture is finished, there is hardly a trace of the original styling left. This time Eyvind Earle is styling "Sleeping Beauty," and that's the way it's going to be!" said Walt Disney during a meeting.

Eyvind Earle (1916-2000) was an American artist, author, and illustrator and he was hired by the Disney Studio in 1951 as an assistant background painter. He worked on several production including "For Whom the Bulls Toil," "Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom," "Peter Pan," "Working for Peanuts," "Pigs is Pigs," "Paul Bunyan," and "Lady and the Tramp." However he most noted for providing the complete art direction including, styling, backgrounds, and colors for "Sleeping Beauty."

Earle was thrilled with the "Sleeping Beauty" assignment and a key influence for the film was the early 1413 illuminated manuscript "Tres Riches Heures de Jean, Duc de Berri," and illustrative devotional volume that included Psalms, prayers and a calendar of Church feasts. It was from this book that Earle developed his color pallet; the rich lapis lazuli blue of the knight's banners, the yellow-green of Maleficent's flames, and the shell pink and paler blue of Aurora's gown. Another inspiration were the modern painters of the early 20th century such as Matisse, Cezanne, Klee, Modigliani, and Picasso. The "Sleeping Beauty" characters and backgrounds were to be painted flat, with bold colors and highly stylized. The result was absolutely stunning and the film garnered praise from both the world public and highbrow art critics, who had rarely acknowledged even the existence of animation as an art form.

When "Sleeping Beauty" was released to the public in 1959, it was heralded as six years in the making. However, work actually began in 1951, and so it took eight years to complete, with Earle painting all the key backgrounds. Earle also created painting progression boards which provided a visual storyboard of how he would, for example paint a bush. Although he was given painting assistants, he would go on to either paint or touch up every single background in the film. While a normal background for a Disney feature film may take a day to paint, an Earle key background for "Sleeping Beauty" could take up to ten days.

This is a wonderful original concept painting of Prince Phillip on his horse Samson, surrounded by the ruins of Maleficent's Castle, by Walt Disney artist Eyvind Earle. "Sleeping Beauty" is widely regarding as the most beautiful of the Walt Disney vintage full length feature film and a large share of this praise goes to Eyvind Earle. This hand painted and hand signed artwork would be a great addition to any animation art collection!


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