You’ve wandered into the topsy-turvy world of Tulgey Wood, the blog of writer and historian Jim Fanning. Tulgey Wood celebrates artistry and creativity (and sometimes just plain madness): movies, animation, TV, books, comics—and of course Disney, lots and lots of true-blue, through-and-through Disney, including D23 and Disney twenty-three Magazine, and Sketches Magazine and the Walt Disney Collectors Society. Tulgey Wood is so fun, fascinating and full of frolicsome photos and facts, it’s scary. So wander through the wonder of it all, and enjoy.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Christmas Party At Yogi's

Having a Christmas party with Yogi Bear and his Hanna-Barbera friends is the appealing idea behind this masterful painting found on the cover of a 1961 coloring book. Those that celebrate the traditional 12 Days of Christmas (today is Day Three) know that a Christmas part need not take place in the days preceding December 25th. Holiday gifts can be given and parties can be thrown throughout the Christmas season that doesn't end until January 6th (the traditional "12th Day of Christmas").

Saturday, December 26, 2015

A Selective Gallery Of Odd Christmas Albums

There have been some odd Christmas albums issued over the years, to say the least. Here's a selection of them. Look—and listen—at your own risk. (although some of these are actually quite good.)

Friday, December 25, 2015

Festivities With Figaro (And Pinocchio. And Jiminy Cricket)

What feels more festive on Christmas Day that this merrily evocative artwork? Another Christmas creation by Disney artist Russell Schroder, this Pinocchio at Christmas (perhaps the tree is one of Pinocchio's distant relatives?) art was published as the cover of the Eyes & Ears newsletter (for Walt Disney World cast members) on December 22, 1978. (By no coincidence at all, Walt Disney's Pinocchio was re-released to theaters that holiday season.) 

Merry Christmas To All

This artwork from the cover of the December 22, 1960 issue of the Treasure Chest of Fun and Fact comic book brings to mind the 1951 carol, "Some Children See Him," composed by Wihla Hutson and Alfred Burt:

Some children see Him lily white,
the baby Jesus born this night.
Some children see Him lily white,
with tresses soft and fair....
Some children see Him almond-eyed,
this Savior whom we kneel beside.
some children see Him almond-eyed,
with skin of yellow hue.... 

Christmas blessings to all. 

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Welcome To A Christmas Wonderland

Though it may seem a little more mad than merry, this classic piece of art, from the December 25, 1986 issue of Eyes & Ears, the in-house publication for Walt Disney World is a delightful way to usher in Christmas Eve. The art was specially created by friend and Disney artist/historian Russell Schroeder and was published as the cover for both Eyes & Ears and the Studio newsletter, Disney Newsreel. In fact, according to Alice expert Matt Crandell (don't miss his Wonderland blog) his piece was originally published in the Newsreel in 1984.  Hope this elaborate (dig all the characters, including the elusive Dodo, arriving in the background with holiday gifts) and "wonder"ful art helps you go mad for Christmas.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

For Some Reason, Archie Is Not Taking This Photo With His Phone

I love comic strips that were published on December 25th...because sometimes they were not published. That means that some newspapers that carried certain strips did not produce an issue for Christmas Day, giving their employees the day off. And that means, therefore, that some readers never saw the 12/25 edition of their favorite strip. The current trend in publishing full runs of classic newspaper strips allows us to see it all, including the rare Christmas editions. This example is a lot of fun, getting the Archie gang (and an unnoticed) visitor together for a very appropriate December 25th gathering and greeting. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Remember Charlie Brown To Herald Square.

2015 is a big year for Peanuts. This year marks the 65th anniversary of the classic comic strip by Charles M. Schulz and the 50th anniversary of the Yuletide TV perennial A Charlie Brown Christmas, and 2015 also saw the release of The Peanuts Movie. No wonder then that this year Macy's chose A Charlie Brown Christmas as the theme for its famous windows at its flagship Herald Square store.  

Monday, December 7, 2015

Christmas Coming/Things Are Humming

Who better than Toyland's Toymaker, and his friends, the "Babes," to remind us that Christmas is coming? This installment of Walt Disney's Treasury of Classic Tales features Babes in Toyland (1961), drawn in a delightfully cartoony style by Disney artist Joe Hale. Babes in Toyland is always good for some holiday merriment so we're delighted to include it among the Christmas treats and treasures here at Tulgey Wood. 

Friday, December 4, 2015

A Snow White Flight

Disney arranged for a tie-in with United Airlines (then the Official Airline of Walt Disney World, now, alas, defunct) for the 1975 reissue of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The re-release was at Christmastime so the print ad was suitably Christmassy, as you can see from this page out of the Snow White pressbook.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Happy Holidays From Harvey

The characters from the Harvey line of comics celebrated more than Halloween. They also celebrated Christmas, as you can see from the examples here.  Even Hot Stuff gets in on the Yuletide act!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Where's Boston Charlie When You Need Him?

Over the years Walt Kelly drew a multitude of merry Christmas strips for his classic Pogo feature. the great cartoonist reveled in illustrating his lovable characters dancing and singing to Christmas carols. Sometimes, as is appropriate to Pogo, Kelly had his troupe of merrymakers mangle a familiar carol (you can see his most famous example here) but often, as in this example from Christmas 1964, a carol is is simply celebrated.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Enter Into His Gates With Thanksgiving

I've posted during several other Thanksgiving seasons on The Mouse and the Mayflower. The finest legacy of this classic Rankin-Bass TV special (first broadcast in 1968) is the wonderful songs by Maury Laws and Jules Bass. You can read a report on the only recording of these beautiful songs ever released —and it was a promotional recording, at that, never released to the public—by Greg Ehrbar as part of his not-to-be-missed weekly Animation Spin column at Cartoon Research. (The record was only released to employees of the Gas company, which as you can see below, was the sponsor of the premiere broadcast of the "delightful new musical tale" on NBC.) Two of the most The Mouse and the Mayflower beautiful songs are mashed up for the big climax, for in telling of that first Thanksgiving feast, the animated special showcases the lovely "November," leading into a reprise of the majestic "Mayflower," all richly sung by the always excellent Tennessee Ernie Ford. You can see and hear that part of the special hereThe special also incorporates Psalm 100, proclaimed by Tennessee Ernie Ford in his rich, expressive voice. Much has been made of the inclusion of a scripture reading in A Charlie Brown Christmas, and rightly so, but The Mouse and the Mayflower does it too. Here is what Ernie proclaims, a perfect "joyful noise unto the Lord" for Thanksgiving Day: Make ye a joyful noise unto the Lord. Come before his presence with singing. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving and into his courts with praise. Be thankful unto him and bless his name, for the Lord is good. His mercy is everlasting, and his truth endureth to all generations.  Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Going Bannas For Thanksgiving

How does a band of Jungle Book buddies celebrate a holiday associated with cooking and baking when they don't have "Man's red flower"? Simply celebrate with bananas, of course—even though Kaa and Shere Khan seem as if they might be considering Mowgli as the main course. This unusual Disney artwork comes from the cover of the Disney Studios in-house newsletter, Disney Newsreel, for November 26, 1982. No credit is given so the artist is unknown—but whoever created it, this unique take on Thanksgiving reminds us there's more than one way to celebrate even the most tradition-bound holiday. 


Friday, November 6, 2015

The FIRST Peanuts Movie

Today sees the release of The Peanuts Movie in theaters nationwide. This much-anticipated animated film is the first feature film starring Good Ol' Charlie Brown and his friends in 35 years, the last being Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (and Don't Come Back!) (1980). To celebrate the new Peanuts movie let's look back at the FIRST Peanuts movie, A Boy Named Charlie Brown (1969). The publicity material included the comic strip-like series of promotional drawings seen below, an arrangement quite appropriate for an animated film based on a comic strip. Only the top middle drawing is actually drawn by Charles M. Schulz, artist/writer of Peanuts, the world's most popular comic strip; all the rest are adapted from the film's animation. It's interesting to see in the captions words not normally associated with Peanuts, such as  "whimsical" and "frolic"—but it's fun how Snoopy is referred to as a 'super-beagle." 

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Today Is Time For Tricks And Treats

From the in-house Disney Newsreel newsletter, October 1980: Nothing says Happy Halloween than this charming art by veteran Willie Ito. Have a safe and spooky Halloween!

Friday, October 30, 2015

An "Iron Giant" Steps (Make That Flies) In

In this marvelous piece of Halloween publicity art from 1966, one of my favorite Hanna-Barbera characters, Frankenstein Jr., reminds us all to be safe trick-or-treaters.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Halloween is Peanuts Time

Anyone who has spent enough time in Tulgey Wood during October knows (if they didn't know before) that Peanuts (featuring "Good Ol' Charlie Brown") is an important part of Halloween. The comic strip celebrated the frightfully festive fun of Halloween every year, one way or another—or did it?  The Peanuts comic strip began on October 1, 1950—yes, Peanuts is celebrating 65 years this year—but that first month did not present the strip's first Halloween-themed installment.  Those first strips from October 1950 were drawn up by artist/writer Charles M. Schulz as "sample" strips designed to sell the feature so they were all of a generic, non-seasonal nature.  Did it feature a Great Pumpkin-themed story? Of course not. Linus, the primary (and only) proponent of the Greart Pumpkin had yet not even been "born." He was introduced in the strip as a baby on September 19, 1952 (though he was first mentioned on July 14). The first Halloween-themed Peanuts strip from October 31, 1951 (the strip's first full year) is pictured below. This classic comic starring Charlie Brown and Snoopy is part of the Countdown to Halloween 2015

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Archie Andrews, Monster Kid

Thanks to the enormous popularity of the Universal Monster movies that started airing on local TV stations in 1957, the classic monsters became a big part o pop culture, serving as less than frightful fodder for parody in movies, TV and comics. This February 1962 issue of Archie #125 features Frankenstein's creature front and center with the titular teen. It's all part of the October fun in the Countdown to Halloween 2015.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Mask Madness

On this cover from the  Halloween 2002 Disney Catalog, Mickey is unmasked as the Beast while a series of other Disney characters are wearing masks of, well, other Disney characters. Enjoy this classic, clever and only-in-October-offbeat Disney artwork as we continue our Countdown to Halloween 2015.  


Saturday, October 10, 2015

Donald Thinks Halloween ComicFest 2015 Is A Scream

Since we're celebrating the Countdown to Halloween 2015 here at Tulgey Wood let's also take a spooky second to also celebrate Halloween Comic-Fest 2015. This year, make sure you stop by your local participating comic book shop on October 31 and pick up some free comic book goodness just for Halloween. Described as "a celebration of comics, comic shops, and pop-culture in October,"  the fourth annual Halloween ComicFest offers free Halloween and horror-themed comics and mini-comics. This year, there are 21 specially published titles— thirteen full-sized comics and eight mini-comics—available to choose from, including Donald Duck’s Halloween Scream! #1 (shown below). And this year, why not give out  comic books instead of candy as treats for trick-or-treaters? Halloween ComicFest 2015 offers Mini-Comic Polypacks, a pack of 25 copies for fans to purchase and pass out on Halloween— a great way to give out an entertaining story to kids that will last longer than any Halloween candy. These fun treats are a lot healthier for mind, body—and teeth! So plan on sinking your teeth, vampire or otherwise, Halloween ComicFest this year. 

Friday, October 9, 2015

Morty And Ferdie Knockin' At The Door

In this charming cover from the Fall 1989 issue of Mickey Mouse Magazine Minnie welcomes three trick-or-treaters at her door. And in the best tradition of costumed revelers (especially when they are licensed characters) the sheet must be lifted to reveal exactly which candy collector is hidden beneath.  It's Mickey of course—bu standing by his side there's also Morty and Ferdie. It's always a treat to see Mickey's nephews for the trick is that these two supporting characters in the Mouse's posse. This post is just another step in the Countdown to Halloween 2015

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Chronicling Casper

Over on his excellent Cartoon Research blog, animation historian Jerry Beck is currently chronically the little-known history of the Paramount Cartoon Studios, the animation production entity that followed Fleischer. There's a lot more to the story than Casper the Friendly Ghost but since this is the Countdown to Halloween 2015, it seemed appropriate to shine the spotlight on the spirited little spirit. Jerry is featuring all kinds of ultra-rare production and promotional material such as the ad here announcing Casper's triumphant network premiere on ABC in 1959. Check out Jerry Beck's incredible in-depth story chronicling this little-explored area of animation history. It's an ongoing must-read—and with Casper aboard it's perfect for Halloweentime.  

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

A Bewitching (Obviously) Photo

October is Halloween month and it's frightfully fitting that October is also Bedknobs and Broomsticks month. The Disney super-spectaclar premiered on October 7, 1971, so it's also beyond appropriate that the Oscar-wining musical fantasy is showcased here in Tulgey Wood to help us Countdown to Halloween 2015. One of the many interesting facets of the film's history is a still commonly used to promote or illuminate Bedknobs and Broomsticks is the one seen below on the cover book adaptation.  This photo has been run so often—because it so perfectly portrays the film's main characters and the key element of the animation—that it's become one of the most oft-seen Disney photos. It's even in my book, published yesterday by DK. Wait, what? You say you didn't know about this book? It's entitled The Disney Book and you can read more about it here.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Archie Andrews Knows Halloween

Thankfully, we can always rely on Archie Comics for good ol' fashioned Halloween fun. This year, the monstrous month brings four devilishly delicious double digests, you dig? All the covers are in the fun tradition of Archie and his Riverdale pals 'n' gals but the last one below (World of Archie) is the best of the bunch, drawn as it is by Archie vet Dan Parent. The other covers are by Fernando Ruiz (both Archie Jumbo Comics and Betty and Veronica Halloween Annual) and another by Dan Parent (Archie's Funhouse). Just looking at these contemporary comics makes you feel all Halloweeny, don't they? Perfect for the Countdown to Halloween 2015.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Warble With Witch Hazel

The Countdown to Halloween 2015 continues. Walt Disney's classic cartoon Trick or Treat (1952) features one of the most delightful—frightfully so—Halloween songs heard in animation or anywhere else  Though this demonic ditty is usually attributed to veteran Disney composer Paul J. Smith (probably because he composed the short's musical score), the song's sheet music tells a different story. The words and music for the cartoon's title tune was actually written by Mack David, Al Hoffman and Jerry Livingston, the team that composed the songs for Cinderella (1950). The tunesmith trio were presumably working on the animated feature at the same time the animated short was in production.  (Marc Davis told me the animators affectionally dubbed the songwriters "Manny, Moe and Jack.") Here's the sheet music for this spook-night tune (which as you can see I pilfered from Full title: "Trick or Treat (For Halloween)." 

Trick Or Treat With The Peanuts Gang For UNICEF

October is all about Halloween but it's also Peanuts month. The spectcuarly popular comic strip starring Charlie Brown and Snoopy debuted on October 1, 1950. By coincidence, the Trick or Treat for UNICEF campaign began that same year—and this year, the Peanuts gang are the spokes-characters, tying in with The Peanuts Movie to be released in November (and it's this imminent release of this big-budgeted film that's responsible for many, many tie-ins right now). The cover for the collection box is below. The art is interesting in that it seems some effort has been made to make sure Charlie Brown (costumed as a pirate) and Lucy (dressed as a princess) seem contemporary. It also looks as if Linus (costumed as a Harry Potter-like wizard?) has finally skipped waiting for the Great Pumpkin in favor of "tricks-or-treats." Individuals and groups can participate in this fun Halloween-themed fundraiser for UNICEF, so you can join in with Snoopy and his friends. Details can be found here. This post is part of the Countdown to Halloween 2015...check back throughout October for more frightening frolics.  

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Yummy Bruity Fresh 'N Spooky

The ghoulish gala continues with those Halloween perennials the Big G Cereal Monster. This time around those tasty creatures scare up some fun on a comic-book like sequential story from the back of the 2013 Monster Cereal boxes. That was a vintage year for these General Mills ghoulies for 2013 saw the return of  Frute Brute and Yummy Mummy, rejoining that terrifying (actually, terrified) trio Count Chocula, Franken Berry and Boo Berry for one gloriously ghastly Halloween. This post is part of the Count (Chocula?) Countdown to Halloween 2015 blogathon. Be like the cool kids—check back here all this October for more tricky treats. 

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Tinker Bell Is Cinderella

Halloween is so much fun that, on this irresistible cover from a 2003 issue of The Disney Catalog,  a gaggle of Disney gals got together for some spooky fun.  In fact, it seems that these particular female friends are into Disney cos play cuz they are costumed as other female Disney characters. And not just any characters, but Disney Princesses. From Minnie Mouse dressed as Snow White to Marie (yes, a kitten is wearing a Halloween costume) as Princess Aurora, these gals know how to royally dress up to get some sweet trick-or-treat swag. This charming catalog cover is part of the Countdown to Halloween 2015 blogathon. If you are blogging on cool Halloween stuff this October you can join in the blogathon too. Click here for everything you need to know.


Friday, October 2, 2015

Best Of All, We Wait For Halloween

What better subject for a Halloween countdown than a calendar—especially when it's festooned with seasonal art? The Golden Magazine for Boys and Girls was always a source of art that was, one might say, pure gold. This October 1964 calendar page is no exception with art by Golden favorite Richard Scarry, springing off the rage for space travel and exploration during that era. The clever black cat is wasting no time with an old-fashioned broom, zooming past the old-fashioned owl through the October sky. This priceless vintage art is part of the Countdown to Halloween 2015 blogathon. Come back all through October for more fun Halloweena-ana.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Donald And Kin Kick Off The Countdown To Halloween 2015

Welcome to the Countdown to Halloween 2015 blogathon! To regular visitors—we're always glad to see you knocking on our door, even if you don't have a costume. To new visitors—I hope you find Tulgey Wood to be full of delicious treats, just a few deliciously spooky tricks, and only the best kind of candy! To kick things off here's a classic Halloween cover from Walt Disney Comics Digest, Issue 4, October 1968. Drawn by veteran Duck artist Tony Strobl, Donald and his quacky kin pop out of a carved-up pumpkin to usher in October. Huey, Dewey and Louie are the only Duck family members who seem to be evidencing any Halloween-worthy behavior: one nephew has a slingshot, representing, I guess, spook night mischief; one is popping out in a scary manner; and the other is putting on cat mask. (Coincidentally--or is it?--I selected a cat mask as the Countdown to Halloween blogathon badge for 2015.) I hope this Disney pumpkin adds a touch of spice to October 1st for you—and also inspires you to come back every day this month as Tulgey Wood participates for the fourth consecutive year in this spooky-season blogathon.  Be sure and check out other participating blogs —over 200 as of this writing, including Tulgey Wood—who are "crypt keepers" in this year blogathon.These are the wickedly decorated houses giving out the best treats this year. And as you are having all kinds of Halloween fun all month, visiting the varied "crypt keepers" is also a great way to discover new blogs you will enjoy visiting all year long. Each year I have found new favorites through Countdown to Halloween—a number of them have been added to the blogroll at the right. And be sure and stop by throughout the month right through October 31st itself as we Countdown to Halloween here at Tulgey Wood.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Countdown To The Countdown Is Almost Over

Tomorrow is the first day of October...and here in Tulgey Wood, that means the Countdown to Halloween 2015 is about to begin. Right here among the usual madness, days are shorter, shadows are darker, and everywhere will be ghosts, ghouls and goodies of the trick-or-treat kind. It's all part of the annual blogathon that this year so far has over 200 blogs tricking and/or treating as part of the fun. Be sure and check out the many and varied blogs that are working hard carving pumpkins and baking ghost-shaped cookies for your Halloweening pleasure. (As usual, please be aware that some of these blogs sometimes use less-than-family-friendly language and content, dealing as they do with the truly "horrific" side of Halloween, so blog-browser discretion is advised, especially if one happens to be on the sensitive side.) As for this here little ol' blog, all through October, right up through the 31st itself, I hope to have some fun visuals and interesting info for you along the way, along with a few spooky surprises. Come back tomorrow for the start of the 2015 Countdown to Halloween blogathon. It will be a Halloween hoot!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Wondrous To See: The Widescreen Splendor of Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty

This is my contribution to the Classic Movie History Project Blogathon. The Silent Era (1890-1929) is hosted by Fritzi at Movies Silently, the Golden Age (1930-1952) is hosted by Aurora at Once Upon a Screen, and Swinging into Modern Times (1953-1975) is hosted by Ruth at Silver Screenings.  Be sure and click on the images for a larger—and wider—view. 

From the time I started making motion pictures I dreamed of bringing Sleeping Beauty to life through the medium of animation,” said Walt Disney. "But its scope defied us until recent years when our creative talent and technical advances made its production possible. Sleeping Beauty is the most beautiful and exacting picture we have ever made—and without doubt our costliest. It has been a definite challenge but thanks to our talented staff of artists and technicians, it has been met.”  Walt’s “beautiful and exacting picture” is truly an animated epic that could have only been made during the 1950s, its production coinciding with the widescreen era—for the astounding artistry of Sleeping Beauty (1959) is brilliantly staged on the sizeable cinematic canvas of Technirama, the “technical advance” that enabled the Disney artisans able to convey the artistic “scope” of this most elaborate of all of Walt’s animated films.

The first mainstream widescreen process (1952’s Cinerama, with its complicated three-projection system and huge curved screen, was never adapted by more than a few specialty houses) was CinemaScope, introduced in 1953. Walt Disney was among the first of Hollywood’s heavyweights to sign up. He produced Lady and the Tramp (1955) in the anamorphic process and during its production, announced in 1954 that the animated feature to follow Lady, Sleeping Beauty, would also be filmed in CinemaScope.

1955 is more or less considered the beginning of a grand age of roadshow theatrical releases. A roadshow presentation offered a widescreen feature attraction—often an epic or at least a drama filmed as a spectacle—shown exclusively in a specially selected theater on a reserved seat, hard-ticket basis, almost as a prestigious play would be presented in a legitimate theatre.  During this period, roadshow movies included Oklahoma! (1955); Around the World in 80 Days, The Ten Commandments and Giant (all 1956); and Raintree County (1957).  Given its popularity and prestige, Walt Disney wanted to create a production that would allow him to enter this form of theatrical presentation. Of course, the subject would have to be something special, and Sleeping Beauty, with its rich sword-and-sorcery setting of castles and princesses, fairy-tale forests and valiant princes, offered a worthy project.

In fact, Walt Disney envisioned this, his sixteenth animated feature as the ultimate in the art of animation, a magnificent production that would surpass everything he had produced before. The widescreen presentation would allow the great showman to showcase his special brand of onscreen art, a motion-picture art form no other studio was able to present as a roadshow attraction. Inspired by the intricate artistry of the Unicorn Tapestries (c. 1500) at the Cloisters in New York City, Walt envisioned Sleeping Beauty as a “moving illustration;” the imaginative impresario challenged the more than three hundred artists and technicians who worked on this film to make each widescreen frame an independent work of art. ­  Artist Eyvind Earle had painted some impressionistic pre-production art. In Earle’s stylizations Walt found the “visual perfection” he was seeking. Walt assigned the artist as the film’s production designer and stylist, directing the rest of his animation team to produce all the artwork in the stylized, angular, graphic visualization determined by Earle. The iconoclastic artists took a modernist approach to the gothic elements he adapted from tapestries and medieval landscapes, filtered through a mid-century design prism.  

Meanwhile, innovations were being made in widescreen processes that would out “scope” CinemaScope. Developed by the Technicolor company—Disney had a long association with the color process as he was one of the first in Hollywood to believe and then extensively and creatively use the full-color technology—the Technirama process utilized a film area twice that of CinemaScope, resulting in a sharper, less grainy image. As the promotional brochure, The Sweeping Wonder of Super Technirama 70, put it, “The startling clarity and depth of the Super Technirama 70 image on the giant screen marks a major step forward in motion picture presentation.”

That acclaimed clarity and depth was to have a significant impact on the artwork of this widescreen animated feature. In studying pre-Renaissance art and architecture as well as Persian miniatures and intricate Japanese prints, with their enormous attention to every detail, Eyvind Earle noted that everything was sharply delineated. “So it is with Sleeping Beauty,” noted Eyvind. “Everything from the foreground to the far distance is in focus. That gives you more depth on the screen. And I think it’s especially important in Technirama. With the wide screen, seldom do you have a close-up that fills the whole screen. When the close-up fills only part of the screen, your eye should be able to take in the landscape as well.” To create the magnificent panoramas for this widescreen spectacle, Earle painted dozens of backgrounds, some of them fifteen feet long.

Once Walt decided on Technirama for Sleeping Beauty, he and his artisans crafted the film specifically for its widescreen presentation.  “All of our artwork, backgrounds, paintings, had to be larger and more detailed. In fact, Technirama 70 made every one of our production problems new, different, and bigger. That’s why it took us six years and six million dollars to make Sleeping Beauty. But to us it was worth it.”

To take full advantage of the expansive Technirama screen, Walt amped up the widescreen splendor by incorporating two elements in that were by now roadshow mainstays but had not really been part of his feature-length cartoons before. The first was spectacle. Roadshow epics such as Ben-Hur—released the same year as Sleeping Beauty and one of the most successful and honored motion pictures of all time—almost automatically included scenes of thousands soldiers, citizens, charioteers and revelers. For the first time, a Disney animated feature included sweeping scenes stocked with rejoicing subjects in the “Hail to the Princess Aurora” and courtyards full of palace dwellers during “The Sleeping Beauty Song” sequence.   The second new element was action-adventure, as seen in Prince Phillip’s escape from Maleficent’s Forbidden Mountain fortress and of course the young royal’s climatic battle with the fire-breathing dragon.

In Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life, master animators Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston wrote, “The end result was a gorgeous tapestry of colors and pleasing shapes…. The pageantry of the Middle Ages was captured with a magnificence that never will be duplicated again in this form. …We have not made a comparable feature with so much beauty in both appearance and color and such consistent treatment from start to finish—which was just what Walt wanted for the picture.”  Even the ornate live-action storybook at the beginning of the film was designed to fit the enormous widescreen dimensions of Technirama, measures 20’’ x 23 3/4”.  Hand-tolled on gold-plated copper and with 255 semi-preciosus stones, the oversized storybook took over a year of work to design and build.    

The publicity for the sparkling new film emphasized the spectacular widescreen visuals. Walt showcased the artistry of Sleeping Beauty on an episode of his Walt Disney Presents television show, “The Peter Tchaikovsky Story.” But not wanting to shortchange the widescreen splendor of his animated spectacle, the savvy showman presented “A television first,” as announcer at the opening of the episode put it.  “For the first time anywhere you'll see climatic scenes from Walt Disney's magnificent new motion picture production of Sleeping Beauty! And for the first time on television you'll thrill to the Magic Mural Screen!”   In this January 30, 1959 installment, Walt essentially invented letterboxing; with his usual showman’s flair, he presented some fairly extensive clips in widescreen, allowing his television audience to see most of the rectangular picture instead of cropping the left and right side to fit on a square TV screen as was traditionally done. “Imagine,” said Walt,” “your living room is a theatre and your television set is a theater’s widescreen.”  The ever-innovative impresario then presented the “Magic Mural Screen”—a widescreen image within a movie screen, complete with audience members along the bottom “watching” the show and a compliment of curtains along the top, taking the place of the much-disliked “black bars” of what, decades later, became traditional letterboxing, with great showmanship.

Released on January 29, 1959, Sleeping Beauty debuted at the Wilshire Theatre in Beverly Hills, California; in February, it opened in seventeen more exclusive venues, including the Criterion in New York City, followed by eighteen more in March and several more exclusive engagements throughout the year.   Assigned regional exclusivity, these specially selected theaters movie houses were equipped to show Walt’s animated epic in all its widescreen splendor and full, six-channel stereophonic sound. Trumpeted the Sleeping Beauty television commercial: “It fills the gigantic screen with exciting new wonders. It surrounds you with wonderful music. So big, so wonderful, that to enjoy it most, you and your family must see it in the one theatre in your area equipped to show it in Technirama 70 and in stereophonic sound. Watch for Sleeping Beauty!”

Sleeping Beauty is known as being a financial failure, but it wasn’t so much as unpopular as it was expensive. It would take an enormously popular film to bring in profits against those hefty production costs. And then there was its limited availability: Walt may have wanted a roadshow attraction but Disney audiences used to Walt’s films playing in neighborhood theaters and eager to see his latest animated fairy tale may have ended up simply skipping it rather than driving miles to “the one theatre in your area.” And Disney was criticized for the higher admission prices charged.

In recent times, the film’s sumptuous visuals, especially when seen in its original widescreen presentation, has captured the imagination of Disney aficionados, especially those who value mid-century design, and cinematic showmanship; it’s now considered the second most popular film released in 1959, after Ben-Hur.  Interestingly, when the film was issued as Platinum Edition Blu-ray by Walt Disney Home Entertainment in 2008—a Blu-ray edition for which I wrote the two onscreen “Fun Facts” tracks and the three trivia games— Sleeping Beauty was shown, according to Disney publicity at an aspect-ratio of 2.55:1 for the first time, revealing even more artwork at the top/bottom and sides of the picture than ever seen before, thanks to a meticulous frame-by-frame clean-up, culled from the original nitrate negative and requiring years to complete. With this classic of Technirama cinematic storytelling now as close as your Blu-ray player and your widescreen television set, just about anyone can easily screen the widescreen splendor of Sleeping Beauty just “as Walt Disney visualized its perfect presentation.”