Learning to Draw

I was sketching Disney cartoon characters for a group of kids at the San Diego Comic Book Convention a few years ago. Most wanted drawings of their favorite Disney characters, and I was usually able to at least make a passable attempt. However, one little girl stopped me cold. She wanted a drawing of Briar Rose from Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty.” I had finally met my match.

I worked on Walt Disney's "Sleeping Beauty" a few years ago. The motion picture was an animation masterpiece and probably the last of its kind. Economics finally put an end to Walt's lavishing such care and attention on an animated film. Once the movie wrapped it was truly the end of an era. However, the film provided an excellent training ground for all of us Disney newbies, and anyone lucky enough to work on "Sleeping Beauty" was a better artist because of the film's demanding artistic level.

The original sketches for Princess Aurora (Briar Rose) were done by Disney designer, Tom Oreb. Tom’s wonderful drawings were refined by directing animator, Marc Davis. I loved looking at Marc’s rough sketches whenever I could get the chance. Since I was very young and still somewhat intimidated by Walt’s top animators, I would often sneak into their offices at lunch time. However, after all these years, the young princess remains a challenge. Of all the Disney princesses, Briar Rose is probably the most stylized. I’m sure Tom Oreb had that in mind when he was intent on making her fit in the “gothic world” color stylist, Eyvind Earle had created.

Cintiq tablets weren’t around when "Sleeping Beauty" was being created back in the fifties. This is a rough layout I created on the Cintiq tablet for one of the Disney storybooks produced last year. After spending nearly two and a half years working on "Sleeping Beauty" back in 1958 I thought my job might be a little easier this time around. Not a chance. All the characters I revisited from the Disney film remained a challenge. I honestly wonder if I've learned anything at all about drawing in the last fifty or so years? Marc Davis and Milt Kahl would probably laugh and say, "no!"