Let's chat some more about Walt Disney's masterpiece “Sleeping Beauty,” shall we? in a age where more and more animated fare appears to be increasingly generic, this animation classic continues to shine. And of course, it remains immediately recognizable as a Walt Disney film. Today, one can hardly distinguish one animated film from another since they all look pretty much the same.
I'm going to focus on the opening sequence of the film. This is a sequence that was done, ironically late in production. With limited time and a limited budget, the heavy lifting for this opening sequence was the not so easy task handed to sequence director, Les Clark and his two layout artists, Jack Huber and Homer Jonas. Naturally, there wasn't much money left after burning through nearly five years of production. Word came from the Old Maestro himself to, “just get the darn thing done!”
With remarkable imagination and efficiency, layout artists, Jack Huber and Homer Jonas set about their task. There wouldn't be a great deal of animation because there was simply no budget for it. However, this was an opening filled with pomp and pageantry. There would be waving banners and huge cheering crowds. How does one accomplish such an assignment with limited time and money? In this case, (as in many I've experienced over the years) I learned that less is more. This is a stellar animated opening because Walt Disney simply didn't have the money to spend on it. The story beats were brilliantly conveyed by nothing less than the imagination of the director and his artists. What ends up on screen is nothing less than remarkable and I was able to watch it all happen back in 1958.
What's that you say? Watch it happen? Yes, I was in 2G on the second floor of the Animation Building when Jack and Homer were laying out this particular sequence for Sleeping Beauty. If you study the sequence you'll notice that what you're watching are simply layout drawings being pulled through the scene. Various levels are moving on top and bottom pegs along with multiple exposures. There's little animation except for an occasional galloping horse moving through the scene or a waving banner. The execution of the film's opening is pure genius and demonstrates the incredible ingenuity of the Disney artists.
The downsizing of Walt Disney's animation department sent Jack Huber and Homer Jonas to nearby Hanna-Barbera Studios where both men eventually ended their careers. Needless to say, the challenges of Saturday Morning cartoon making hardly compared to the artistry of Walt's feature animation team. If you've had the opportunity to watch Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty and marvel at the pageantry of the movie's opening, there are two guys I think you should remember. Jack Huber and Homer Jonas. Two damn good Disney artists, and names you should know.