Within two years of being hired by Disney in 1951, artist and greeting card designer Eyvind Earle became the supervising color stylist and inspirational sketch artist for Disney's ambitious Sleeping Beauty. Earle was 37.
Earle said “the whole project fit me like a glove." Walt supported Earle’s vision despite some opposition from the old time animators. But there were compromises in that vision. The obsessive detailing and muted color of the final backgrounds are less stylized than Earle’s original stunning concept paintings.
For the film's visual style, Earle created an opulent medieval tapestry based on the paintings of Durer, Van Eyck, Brueghel, and fifteenth-century French illuminated manuscripts. “All my foregrounds were tapestry designs of decorative weeds and flowers and grasses,” wrote Earle in his autobiography, Horizon Bound on a Bicycle
“And since it is obvious that the gothic tale and detail evolved from the Arabic influence acquired during the Crusades, I found it perfectly permissible to use all the wonderful patterns and details found in Persian miniatures. And since Persian miniatures had a lot in common with Chinese and Japanese art, I felt it was OK for me to inject quite a bit of Japanese art, especially in the closeups of leaves and overhanging branches.”
Layout artist Ken Anderson said: “He captured everybody’s imagination. And showed a possibility of a very medieval and fairytale-like treatment that Walt had never seen the like of.”
Earle's original concept paintings have a significantly important status in the overall history of animation art. Their painterliness and sheer innovation make them stand apart as masterpieces of the animation art form.
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