It was known only as, “The Feature” and not just anybody was deemed worthy of working on it. In most cases you needed at least a year under your belt to even be considered. Most of us young trainees had cut our teeth on such simple fare as Jiminy Cricket and Donald Duck. However, being a good duck in-betweener didn't say a whole lot. In the Disney view of things you were still in the minor leagues.
Then came the fateful day when the animation boss, Andy Engman gave you the word to report to an assistant in D-Wing. It went without saying that coveted D-Wing was the home of Walt Disney's legendary Nine Old Men. If you were sent to this special wing it meant you were probably being considered for “The Feature.”
In those days, the wing was quiet and your footsteps echoed as you made your way down the hallway. Most doors were closed, but a few remained ajar and you quickly glanced young men and women hunched over their drawing boards. They could have been devoted monks copying biblical text. They worked in silence and with an intensity we had not experience before. No, boys and girls, this wasn't Donald Duck or Mickey Mouse. Welcome to Walt Disney's “Sleeping Beauty where the men are separated from the boys.
A few meager in-betweens were doled out among the few of us and we were told to report back later. However, we shouldn't bother returning here, we were told. Report to 1D-2 where three lovely young women would evaluate our work. If you think we were getting off easy, then think again. The "girls” as women were called back then, were not about to make our lives any easier. They were tough, and probably tougher than any of the men who occupied the famous wing. We stood like scared school boys as they looked over our drawings and began to make corrections. After being scolded soundly, we were sent on our way with a stern warning to do better next time. Eventually, we upped our game and in time learned how to be a feature quality Disney artist. There was even a Disney happy ending to this ordeal because one of the young men eventually fell in love and married one of his “bosses.”
I thought I would share this story with you because it illustrates what was expected of young artists who saw themselves as possible contributors to this Walt Disney masterpiece. You had to be good to work on “Sleeping Beauty” back in 1958. Actually, to be on this Disney classic you had to be better than good. If you don't believe me, take another look at this amazing Disney art that still astonishes me even to this day.