The largest collection – ever assembled in one auction – of production art from Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, and original artworks by Disney legend Eyvind Earle will cross the block in Heritage’s Animation Art Signature Auction August 6-8. More than 75 Sleeping Beauty pieces as well as original paintings from the film’s color stylist Eyvind Earle will be available for bidding. The color stylist made Sleeping Beauty enchanting – and nearly impossible to be animated. The largest collection of this “nearly impossible to animate” artwork will include original concept paintings by Earle. Also included are rare storyboards, animation drawings, concept art, production cels and original hand-painted production backgrounds.
The “future Disney Legend”, Earle worked in Feature Films under the tutelage of another future Disney legend Mary Blair, on Peter Pan and Lady and the Tramp before becoming the color stylist responsible for the design, color palette and the backgrounds for the highly acclaimed Sleeping Beauty feature film. Sleeping Beauty was the first time that background paintings had determined the direction of a Disney film. During previous projects, the story-boarders and animators had done their work first, and the background painters simply followed their lead. It wasn’t an easy transition, and tensions soon ran high. The animators found it difficult, even impossible, to translate Earle’s detail-laden style into viable character designs. During an early planning meeting with Walt Disney, Earle brought in several concept paintings featuring his signature lush landscapes and strong verticals. Walt came in, and he looked at it and said, “Okay. That’s it. Everybody will follow Eyvind.”
Before Earle joined the Walt Disney Studios in the 1950s, he was already an accomplished fine art painter – the Metropolitan Museum of Art purchased one of his paintings for their permanent collection. Earle’s first New York exhibition was at the Charles Morgan Galleries in 1937. He was honored at the 26th Annie Awards with the Winsor McCay Award for lifetime achievement in the art of animation. Earle was posthumously inducted into Disney’s hall of fame program as an official Disney Legend in 2015. The Walt Disney Family Museum hosted an 8-month original retrospective exhibit: Awaking Beauty: The Art of Eyvind Earle in 2017.
Earle left Disney for another job in March 1958, the year before Sleeping Beauty was released. He continued creating animated art until 1966, when he returned to fine art painting full-time. Several of Earle’s most famous works are California landscapes, reimagined in his fantastical style. But his legacy continues to be dominated by his time at Disney. “For 70 years, I’ve painted paintings and I’m constantly and everlastingly overwhelmed at the stupendous infinity of nature,” said Earle. “Wherever I turn and look, there I see creation. Art is creating…art is the search for truth.” Born in 1916, Earle died in 2000 at the age of 84.
This article appears in the August 2021 edition of The Intelligent Collector magazine. Subscribe to the digital magazine here.