I still remember the day I saw this amazing background painting by color stylist, Eyvind Earle. And no, it wasn't at the Walt Disney Studio. The year was 1955 and I had just entered the gates of Walt Disney's magic kingdom, Disneyland. Though well attended, the crowds at Walt's theme park were light back in the fifties and there were still a fair number of attractions that had not yet gone online. So as not to disappoint his guests, Walt Disney set up a number of temporary attractions to keep his guests engaged. One these attraction was a small art show entitled, “The Art of Animation.”
There was no way you could keep me out of such an exhibit. Especially since I was a young art student with the hopes of one day working for the magical entertainment company. As expected the show was an animation geek's dream come true. There were animation drawings, storyboard sketches and painted characters on sheets of acetate called cels. Besides the Disney classic films there was a section featuring upcoming Disney projects and as could be expected one of those animated films in development was “Sleeping Beauty.”
Believe it or not, this actual background was on display in Walt Disney animation exhibit. Since there wasn't time to prepare reproductions, all the art work on display was the real deal. That included this particular painting by Eyvind Earle. The paint was totally experimental and nothing like this ever ended up in the final film. However, this was early on and Eyvind Earle was still experimenting with his color palette. Experiment or not, we were totally blown away. This image only shows you a little bit of what the actual painting looked like back then. Remember, we were looking at original Disney art and these were the most amazing images we had ever seen. There were other Eyvind Earle backgrounds on display and as expected none of these early color explorations would make into the final film. Having said that, I confess the work I saw that day left me stunned.
I spent the remainder of my day enjoying the several kingdoms of Walt Disney's new theme park. There was so much to see and do at Disneyland I knew that future trips to the park was pretty much a guarantee. Yet, as I headed out the gate that late afternoon I reflected on what I had seen that day. There were many wonders to be sure. Yet, the one image that stayed with me had been the background painting by Eyvind Earle and the promise of a new Disney feature film. Could a young art student like me ever be employed by Disney, I wondered? Or was it simply a dream as I headed back to my car on a late Monday afternoon in 1955.