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Original Production Cels of Maleficent As The Dragon & Prince Phillip From "Sleeping Beauty," 1959

Original Production Animation Cels of Maleficent As The Dragon and Prince Phillip From "Sleeping Beauty," 1959
Original Production Animation Cels of Maleficent As The Dragon and Prince Phillip From "Sleeping Beauty," 1959

Original hand painted and hand inked production animation cels of Maleficent as the Dragon and Prince Phillip set on a lithographic background from "Sleeping Beauty," 1959, Walt Disney Studios; Size - Maleficent as Dragon 6 1/2" x 11 3/4", Prince Phillip 1 3/4 x 3", Image 10 x 16", Frame 30 x 34 3/4"; Framed with a black and gold wood frame, three suede acid free mats, and UV conservation clear Museum Perfect glass.

“Now you shall deal with me, o prince, and all the powers of HELL!”

―Maleficent before transforming into the Dragon

Initially Marc Davis, the animator for Maleficent, had wanted to use a black and red color scheme for the character however; Eyvind Earle, the background artist for the film, protested. Walt Disney had taken some criticism over his recent films for their lack of artistic achievement and so he had decided to put in charge an already accomplished Disney animation artist. Eyvind Earle had already been working at the Disney Animation Studios and was receiving acclaim for his artistic vision and technical skill and so he was chosen by Disney to supervise the styling, color, and backgrounds for "Sleeping Beauty." The film took six years to complete due to Earle's extreme attention to detail. Normal backgrounds for prior Disney films would take a day, however the Earle backgrounds could take up to ten days. In addition, Earle reworked not only the colors for Maleficent but the character design for Briar Rose so that she would work better with his pre-Renaissance Gothic vision for "Sleeping Beauty." "Sleeping Beauty," 1959 was the last of the Disney films that all the cels were both hand inked and hand painted, and many believe it to be one of the most beautiful and one of the greatest Disney films ever!

If you ask people to name their favorite Disney Villain, chances are you will one of three answers; The Evil Queen/Witch from "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," Cruella DeVil from "101 Dalmatians," or Maleficent from "Sleeping Beauty." Two of the three, Cruella and Maleficent, were created/drawn by the great animator Marc Davis. Davis was part of what has been dubbed Disney's Nine Old Men; the core group of animators, some becoming directors, that created the finest animated films ranging from "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs", 1937 to "The Rescuers", 1977.

The voice of Maleficent was performed by Eleanor Audley. She had worked for Disney prior by also being the voice for the cold and calculating Lady Tremaine (The Stepmother) in "Cinderella." If is known that Frank Thomas for Lady Tremaine and Marc Davis for Maleficent, incorporated facials features of Eleanor into both characters.

Wolfgang Reitherman (known as Woolie) began working for Walt Disney in 1934, and is credited in films from Pinocchio, 1940 (Monstro the Whale) to The Fox and the Hound, 1981 (co-producer). His masterful animation work includes the climatic dinosaur fight in Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring in Fantasia, the Headless Horseman chase in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow section in The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, the Crocodile in Peter Pan, and of course Maleficent as a dragon in Sleeping Beauty. An interesting side note is that all three of Reitherman's sons; Bruce, Richard, and Robert provided voices for Disney characters, Mowgli in The Jungle Book, Christopher Robin in the Winnie the Pooh films, and Wart in The Sword in the Stone.

The climatic ending of Sleeping Beauty is the transformation of The Mistress of all Evil - Maleficent into a massive black and purple Dragon capable of breathing green fire. Children were absolutely terrified of the Dragon, with her large teeth, powerful claws, and expansive wing span. The success of the Dragon is owed to Reitherman's remarkable drawing, draftsman, and animation skills.

Prince Phillip was animated by Milt Kahl and voiced Bill Shirley and Aurora was animated by Marc Davis (who was also lead animator for Maleficent) and voiced by Mary Costa. Both Bill and Mary would be live action models for Prince Phillip and Briar Rose/Princess Aurora for the animators, and their chemistry was magical on screen. In addition, their singing together was one of the many highlights of the film. As discussed by Andreas Deja, Milt Kahl did not like the job of animating Prince Phillip:

"Some of you might know that Milt absolutely despised working on the prince. During one of our get togethers I asked him, how he could do such a beautiful job on a character he loathes. To my best recollection he said: 'Well, the character needs to be in the picture, I didn't like the assignment, but you do the best you can.'"

The animation of Prince Phillip by Milt Kahl was radically different than prior Princes in other films. Phillip was an active character; speaking to his horse Sampson and Sampson understanding what he was saying. Phillip was also seen as a child at the start of the film, had to be animated in more than one outfit, was the first Prince to use weapons against a Villain; and had to speak, interact, and sing with his love interest Princess Aurora/Briar Rose.

Also from Andreas Deja:

"As I mentioned before, Milt Kahl really didn't enjoy animating Prince Phillip. A handsome dude with a limited range for acting just didn't appeal to him. Of course he still gave it all he'd got to put a descent performance on the screen. (In reference to viewing some of Kahl's rough drawings)... It looks to me that this scene was somewhat based on live action reference, but the translation into drawn animation is incredible. Just dealing with the horse turning direction would be a real challenge. Assistant artist Dave Suding, who worked on the film, told me once that one clean up drawing with the prince on his horse took one full day. That means a second of final clean up footage would require a whole month! Incredible."

This is one of the finest animation production setups that I have ever seen! A full figure Prince Phillip holding the Sword of Truth (created by the Good Fairy Fauna) together with a full Figure Maleficent as the Dragon; all on a wonderful lithographic background. The image spans a very large 10" x 16" and the piece would certainly be one of the highlights for any vintage animation collection!


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