The Dragon Fight

I’ve told this story before, but it seems appropriate and fits the piece of art I’ve just completed. Back in the summer of 1957 we were putting in another few hours of overtime as the Disney animation crew rushed to complete Walt’s animated feature film, “Sleeping Beauty.” Dinner was served at the studio commissary during these overtime stints. We finished our meal and headed back to our drawing boards and another evening of hard work. After a few hours of night time toil it was time to take a break. Eager to stretch our legs, a few of us headed upstairs to the third floor to check things out. Would anybody else be working late, we wondered? It turns out we were correct because as we entered 3B on the third floor of the Animation Building we noticed the lights were still on in one of the large storyrooms . Knowing we were in unfamiliar territory, we reluctantly peeked inside the room where a lone artist sat working in the corner. Suddenly, the artist whirled around in his chair and surprised all of us by shouting, “Hey! Come on in!”

The gregarious storyman happened to be veteran Disney artist, Ken Anderson and he seemed eager to have a few night time visitors. We were kids just getting our feet wet at the Walt Disney Studio. Expecting to be scolded for being “out of our area,” the three of us were completely taken aback by the warm and friendly welcome we were getting from a guy who would one day become a Disney Legend. “Let me show you what I’m working on,” he gushed with excitment. “This is really great stuff and it’s going to knock the audience off their feet when they see it completed.” The three of us glanced up at the stack of storyboards that filled the large room. In fact, there were so many storyboards they encircled all of us. For some odd reason I had assumed this climatic fight sequence had already been storyboarded - but it had not. It appeard our timing was perfect because Ken had just completed his storyboards when we made our unannouced visit. Now, I realized why the Disney veteran was so excited to see us. We were going to be his first audience. The first people to view the famous dragon fight before the Disney Master pitched the dramatic sequence to Walt Disney.

Ken Anderson grabbed a vinyl record and placed it on the turntable of an old phonograph. Cranking up the sound full tilt, Ken began to pitch the dragon fight from Sleeping Beauty’s third act. Music filled the room as Anderson went through his story pitch with a long pointer. Much to our surprise, things were about to become even more dramatic. Caught up in the energy of the scene, Anderson began leaping on the studio furniture as he “fought the dragon.” I kid you not, the veteran Disney artist was jumping from his couch, to his desk and chair. Finally, the storyboard pointer was plunged into the “heart” of the fearsome dragon and with a horrible scream she plunged over the cliff to a fiery death below. And with that, Ken Anderson collapsed on the floor of the storyroom completely exhausted.

Breaktime was over and the three of us headed back downstairs and the work awaiting us on our drawing boards. We all returned to work that summer evening more energized than ever. We knew we were working on a classic Walt Disney motion picture that summer many years ago. Now we had little doubt that the three of us probably had the best job in the world.

A lovely young woman requested this color sketch of the dragon from Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty last week in Salt Lake City. I've completed the dragon but there's a fun story that goes with it.

A lovely young woman requested this color sketch of the dragon from Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty last week in Salt Lake City. I've completed the dragon but there's a fun story that goes with it.