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Monday, July 11, 2011

Eyvind Earle & Sleeping Beauty

Last night I went to a friends house for the best film night I've had in a long time - a disney marathon. Laz & Kaishia kept me laughing all night, my tummy hurt this morning from it all. While my favourite disney film always has and always will be the jungle book, I watched Sleeping Beauty for the first time since I was about 7, (yes I am still scared of Maleficent) and while we all agreed that we were too tired/the story was too boring to enjoy it fully, the visual side of the film was fantastic.

I did some googling, and the man behind the amazing settings and backgrounds was Eyvind Earle, an artist famous not only for his silk screen and Serigraphs, but also (as I know him) for his pioneering work as a backgrounds artist for Disney. According to the fount of all knowledge - wikipedia, Earle is widely accredited with giving Sleeping Beauty the magical and modern feel that it has throughout.

In 1951 Earle joined Disney as a full time assistant background painter. A year and a bit later, with the production of Toot, Whistle, Plunk & Boom under his belt, Earle's distinctive artistic style was noticed, and he was given the responsibility of the backgrounds for Sleeping Beauty.

Production of the animated effects and background scenes of Sleeping Beauty began in 1953, and it wasn't until 1959 that the film was released. The Disney studios had already made two films based on fairy tales by the early 1950s, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (1937) and Cinderella (1950). To make Sleeping Beauty stand out from its predecessors, Disney wanted to rid themselves of the typical rounded, cute Disney image. It was because of this, and Earle's (unexpected) commercial success with Toot, Whistle, Plunk & Boom earlier that year that he was chosen as the colour stylist and chief background illustrator. His intricate yet fuss-free style of illustration, with focus on bold colour and form made his work for Sleeping Beauty an instant hit. My favourite scenes are the darker, spookier ones, where Earle instils a sense of menace with sharp forms and bold, but still disney-friendly colours.


In HD, (Wayne as ever had the film on Blu-ray), the film is serrrriously beautiful. I'd watch it again just to pause it and take pictures, it's that lovely to look at. I'm not a fan of the story though, mostly because it all seems too easy, and Maleficent chose a shitty weapon of doom, why not a gurt big kitchen knife or something like that? Spinning wheel, watevz.

I had a peek at some of Earle's other work on his website, and his pieces are definitely worth a look, they all incorporate his wonderful angular style and fearless use of dark shadows. The black in some of his serigraphs and oils makes the colours pop so loudly, it's wonderful. I especially love his use of boldly and unashamed unrealistic scale and form. It really does turn otherwise commonly depicted scenes into something magical.

Click on the images for a higher resolution, but I seriously recommend heading over to www.eyvindearle.com to see the full collection of his work - his watercolours and oils especially. Serigraphs and silk screen printing requires bold shapes, but he manages to retain the strength of his bold angular forms in watercolour - something I loooove.

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