Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Sleeping Beauty Awakens
On January 29, 1959, Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty was released. The most expensive (six million dollars) animated film ever made up until that time, Sleeping Beauty was a roadshow release—the film was exclusively showcased in one theater in each metropolitan area, with guests buying tickets for reserved seating showings, much as a stage spectacular might be. Walt wanted his 16th animated feature to be the ultimate in animation and to be so strikingly beautiful that each frame could stand on its own as "beautiful picture." Much of the film’s striking styling came from production designer Eyvind Earle, who designed the film in what the artist termed “stylized, simplified Gothic,” which actually ended up becoming extremely intricate, at least in the backgrounds. Because of its intricate design (it took at least a week to paint each of the elaborate backgrounds) Sleeping Beauty was in production for six years. When Disneyland opened in 1955 its signature fairy-tale castle was dubbed Sleeping Beauty Castle, in honor of the soon-to-be-released (or so it was hoped) animated feature, but Sleeping Beauty would not be released for close to four years. The Sleeping Beauty Castle walk-through attraction (designed by Eyvind Earle) was officially dedicated on April 29, 1957, two years before the film would be in theaters. A handsome program (seen at left) featuring Earle's conceptual art for the attraction's dioramas was issued in conjunction with the castle attraction and to also promote the forthcoming feature. Today it’s a collectors item, a work of art refecting the unique style of one of Walt Disney’s most unique animated films.