Friday, January 4, 2008
Earle's Sleeping Beauty & Big Reptiles
My offhanded post on Sleeping Beauty has provoked some appreciative comment by readers who admire the film, so I thought I would add some additional images and comment. The production designer on the film was Eyvind Earle, an illustrator, background guy and colorist at Disney. The style of the film combines a flat modernist approach with an illuminated sensibility, gothic vocabularies and some creepy George Grosz-like surfaces on the castle stone. Very rich, very beautiful at its best, as below. From a happy interlude early in the film. I love this stuff.
Brooding landscapes capture the wintry sleep of the kingdom when required.
The process materials are fascinating, too.
The Disney tradition of rotoscoping the human characters, dating back to Snow White, shows up in these still reference photographs, which capture gesture and attitude for reference purposes. Certain sequences were rotoscoped (or traced from live-action film frames to drawing pad; the precursor to motion-capture technology) for this film.
The reference is translated with a generous sort of specificity:
The film is based on the Brothers Grimm tale "Briar Rose," which is both simpler and more complex than the Disney retelling. The latter must (as usual, according to the house style) establish an emotional connection with children by creating clear moral contrasts.
The royals know what's what. Good fairies are always welcome. But ghastly, nasty Maleficient does not get an invitation to the big baby shower. Sensibly enough, you'd think, since evil persons are known to munch on the innocent. Of course Maleficient shows up anyway and pitches a fit.
Blessings bracket M's curse, launching the action. Aurora (Dawn) gets renamed Briar Rose, an alias, and popped in the Witness Protection Program in the woods, where she dances with animals, a seeming requirement for fairy tale women in Walt's world.
Helene Stanley (aka Davey Crockett's wife) provided the live action Aurora.
And the animated version. Later, bad things happen. Aurora is detected, tricked, and settles in for a big nap. The kingdom slumbers. The good fairies freak out.
Subsequently Prince Phillip (a once and future squeeze) hacks his way through the underbrush to get to A.
Phillip does a turn as St. George versus Maleficient as a big lizard. As in all sensible tales, giant reptiles lose. (See Captain Kirk below, demonstrating the same concept, using home-made gunpowder instead of a sword to battle a gatorish hominid called a Gorn.) At any rate, things end well for Phillip and Aurora.
Images: Eyvind Earle, production design, Sleeping Beauty, Walt Disney Studios, 1959; Reference photographs, uncredited, Sleeping Beauty; Production still, Episode 18, "The Arena," Star Trek. Aired January 19, 1967.