Stylistically, Disney's Sleeping Beauty was a grand departure from an established artistic methodology. This was not an easy transition and one that required a great deal of work for the Disney design staff.
How would you compare this film released in 1959 (Many years in the making,
this production initially began in 1952) with the films that proceeded it, such as
Cinderella, (1950), Alice In Wonderland, (1951), Peter Pan, (1953), or the last
Lady And The Tramp, (1955) released a full four years earlier?
Can you recognize the stylistic influences?
To understand these influences, be sure and see the 15 minute film clip about the making of this film, a trailer in the Home Video version.
From Disney Archives ". . .Based upon the Charles Perrault version of "Sleeping Beauty," the film had an overall stylistic look conceived by artist Eyvind Earle, today known for his paintings and Christmas card designs. With a budget that exceeded $6 million in 1959, this was Walt Disney's most lavish and expensive animated feature to date. Though not an initial box-office success, the film has proven to be a unique asset, with popular reissues in 1970, 1979, and 1986, and a release on home video also in 1986."
But why did Disney change his style for this film, and why did it take so long?
Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty according to Frank Pilhofer "... During the 1950's, many critics were praising the UPA studios for their stylistic experimentation, while accusing Disney animation of being too "old fashioned". In response, Walt Disney planned his masterpiece, a film that would merge modern design sensibilities with state-of-the-art wide-screen and stereophonic sound technology. . .The influence of Sleeping Beauty can be found in the design of many recent animated features, like The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and The Swan Princess."
. . .In his quest for quality, Disney allowed his top artists: Marc Davis, John Lounsbery, Milt Kahl, Eric Cleworth, Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston and John Sibley, extra time to pencil test and refine their scenes until they were absolutely perfect. Sleeping Beauty was the last animated feature to receive Walt's full attention, but since his time was also required in Anaheim for the building of Disneyland, he was often away from the studio for weeks at a time. To keep busy, animators who were waiting for approvals often did their own inbetweening and preliminary clean-up on their scenes. These delays and Disney's unrelenting attention to detail ended up driving the budget up to an unheard-of amount of six million dollars. Combined with the cost overruns of Disneyland, the film drove the studio very close to bankruptcy, but the effort and sacrifice was worthwhile. . ."
I find this film the most cold stylistically, compared with other Disney styles I find this one personally least appealing, yet I appreciate the courage Walt Disney had in investing in change. The Fox and The Hound brought a style that I personally enjoy, with my other visual favorites Peter Pan and Pinocchio.