Tag: the art of Sleeping Beauty

The Art of Sleeping Beauty: the artists, animators, & history of Disney’s classic film

ArtInsights has some strange and wonderful connections to the art of Sleeping Beauty, and further, to the artists who were integral to making the Disney classic. This blog will talk about that, and also offer a few great images of Sleeping Beauty art for Disney collectors!

First, take a look at the original trailer from 1959:

In July of 2022, we went to San Diego Comic-Con, producing and moderating a panel with some wonderful animation professionals, two of whom worked on Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. Both made a significant contribution to the art of Sleeping Beauty. Jane Baer, who was a special guest of the convention, and was awarded the Ink Pot Award for her contributions to the animation industry, and Floyd Norman, “Disney Legend”, Winsor McCay and Ink Pot Award winner, went to the Art Center in Pasadena together in the 50s. They then wound up at Disney Studios at the same time, working on Sleeping Beauty with some of the most storied, famous artists ever to work at Disney. 

Here for the first time, we publish the video of our panel “Legends Talk Animation”, where Jane and Floyd dish about the goings-on during the production.

Leslie Combemale of ArtInsights moderates the panel with Sleeping Beauty artists Jane Baer and Floyd Norman, with insights from animation historian and author Jerry Beck!

This panel doesn’t just talk about Sleeping Beauty, it goes into the many other projects that became Disney, Hanna Barbera, and Filmation classics, on which Jane Baer and Floyd Norman had a major impact!

That’s not the only connection we at ArtInsights have with Sleeping Beauty. In 1999, we were fortunate enough to welcome Mary Costa, the voice of Briar Rose, to ArtInsights for an event. People say you should never meet your heroes, lest they fall short. I can’t say I was particularly a fan of hers, or felt one way or the other about her before I met her, but I was a fan of the film. It’s truly beautiful, and represents all the best of Disney animation, in invention and story, and has traveled through time really well, keeping a magical quality that has never faded. Once I met Mary, though, and spent time with her, I learned she was one of the most luminous, positive, joyful, and, I’ll even say, “magical” people, that I’ve ever met.

a promotional photo of Mary Costa from around the time of Sleeping Beauty. She already had a reputation as an opera singer when she was hired as the voice of Aurora/Briar Rose in 1952.

As someone who was raised Christian and had a bad taste in my mouth from my own experiences, Mary Costa showed me there are open-hearted Christians out there, who truly walk the path of what they believe Jesus did, showing kindness, openheartedness, compassion, and love. While it didn’t bring me back into the fold, she was revelatory. There ARE a lot of “followers of Christ” out there, and she is definitely one of them!

Leslie, Mary Costa, and Michael at the art of Sleeping Beauty event at ArtInsights in 1999.

Here was my experience with her, and it is very personal: Our event was planned for Saturday, June 19th, 1999. She was arriving on June 18th. My sister Jane had been killed on December 17th of 1998, and the family had planned to bury her ashes on her birthday, which was June 18th. I called Mary a few days before she was arriving, to let her know why I wouldn’t be picking her up from the airport. Instead of being disappointed or put off, or just getting off the phone, she immediately asked me if it would be helpful for her to come to the event. She said she wanted to be present for our family. She said this as someone who had never met me. I was touched, and taken aback, but thanked her, and told her we’d just see her on the day of the event. We met a few hours before it started. She wanted to say a prayer beforehand, and asked that we all hold hands. I was cynical, and thought, “oh boy…” but she brought my sister Jane up, asked that she be there in spirit, and asked what other religions were represented in the circle. She called upon all the other belief systems, INCLUDING WICCAN(!) and then prayed that we all be blessed, and asked for a positive experience. When my family came, she stopped whatever else she was doing, and spoke to them about my sister. She told my dad she was honored he had come, and meant it. I think they even shed a few tears together, and this was when the gallery was full of people. For Mary, it was all about connection, first and foremost.

Just last night I went down a YouTube rabbit hole of interviews with Mary, and noticed again how well she listened and focused on those around her. It has been her gift a long time!

Mary Costa being fawned over by a true Sleeping Beauty fan, UK chat show host Paul O’Grady.
A Mary Costa signature from our event. It’s the handwriting of a princess!

Once the event was over, we went to dinner together. It was just Mary and me. She had been married to a famous producer in the 50s and 60s, and talked about spending weekends with the rat pack. She shared great stories about Frank, Sammy, and Dean. She also shared, in whispered tones, she had a huge crush on Van Johnson for years. Then we went to see Disney’s Tarzan on the opening night. One of the main characters’ names was Jane, and the character looked like my sister, which we both thought was wonderful. She had lots of opinions about the voice acting and story, and it was all fascinating! What a trip it was to watch a Disney feature with one of the classic voices in Disney animation!

Perhaps some of you have met someone you think of as an “angel on earth”. I’d never really thought of that expression before meeting Mary Costa, and honestly I’ve never met anyone else who I think fits that description, but Mary Costa definitely does. Now when you think of Briar Rose, you can imagine that character being voiced by a truly wonderful person.

My other connection to the art of Sleeping Beauty was more accidental. I was traveling with movie poster artist Steve Chorney to his home outside of Santa Barbara, a place I’d never been. We drove together in his convertible, headed to the place he’d kept some of his classic original movie poster art. When we got there and drove into the driveway, I noticed a huge, gorgeous tree at the house across the street. I remarked to Steve that it looked like one of the trees in Sleeping Beauty. He told me that Sleeping Beauty concept and background artist Eyvind Earle had lived there, and that was where he had been inspired for the trees he drew in his work for Sleeping Beauty. That tree had been his inspiration!

You can see more about Eyvind Earle and his art in this wonderful, classic Disney film, which shows four Disney artists painting a tree. There’s a lot of art of Sleeping Beauty in this film…You should DEFINITELY watch this!:

I should have asked what tree it was, and taken a picture. I did neither. I was too overwhelmed! There, before my eyes, was the tree that we all know from Disney’s classic film! I guess it was one time when my Disney geekiness took over.

How much do you know about the art of Sleeping Beauty, or about the film itself? I’ve talked about it before in an ArtInsights blog from 2015 HERE.

Sleeping Beauty is based on a European fairy tale, the earliest version of which was in the 1300s. The more famous version of it, by Charles Perrault (who also penned Cinderella) was released late in the 1600s as La Belle au Boite Dormant. The Brothers Grimm also offered a version in the 1800s called Little Briar Rose. Of course there have been many versions told since then, including the famous ballet by Tchaikovsky in 1890, which was Disney’s favorite ballet, and one of his favorite pieces of classical music.

The 1959 Disney film was directed by Les Clark, Eric Larson, and Wolfgang Reitherman. The voices, in addition to Mary Costa’s starring role as Briar Rose, were supplied by a number of Disney favorites. Maleficent was voiced by Eleanor Audley, who also voiced Lady Tremaine in Cinderella. Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather were voiced, respectively, by Verna Felton (who also played Briar Rose’s mother, Queen Leah, the fairy godmother in Cinderella, and the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland), famed radio actress Barbara Jo Ellen, and Barbara Luddy (who played Lady in Lady and the Tramp and Kanga in Winnie the Pooh).

The art of Sleeping Beauty is unique in Disney history, in that it was a time of great experimentation, and also the last film that was completely hand-inked, so there was a level of meticulousness and specificity that is unparalleled. The hand-inking in Sleeping Beauty was more intricate and complicated than any of Disney film before or since. The drawings of the characters, especially Briar Rose herself (whether by herself or with other characters) were so intricate, the animators sometimes only completed one a day. That’s how much work these characters required! It definitely shows in the art left behind from the film.

Enjoy this great short film about the making of Sleeping Beauty:

Once Upon a Dream: The Making of Sleeping Beauty

Here are some new original pieces of the art of Sleeping Beauty available now at ArtInsights:

Original production cel of Briar Rose from Sleeping Beauty
An original production cel of Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather from Disney’s Sleeping Beauty
An original concept drawing of Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty
Fauna production cel from Sleeping Beauty
An original production drawing of Briar Rose and Philip from Sleeping Beauty
Production art of an imprisoned Prince Phillip, and the 3 Fairies, Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather

The above two images are sold as a set for $1800. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION.

You can see all the original art of Sleeping Beauty available for a limited time on the ArtInsights gallery website as well as the limited editions currently available, by going to the art of Sleeping Beauty page HERE.