Sunday, December 18, 2011

Art and Music in Sleeping Beauty

Sleeping Beauty is the only animated Disney film to feature square trees.
I am running a little behind schedule on my blog posts but I didn't want to skip over an opportunity to talk about the art of Sleeping Beauty.

While the film's story is admittedly a little sparse, the visual design and the musical score more than make up for it. Walt Disney also knew Sleeping Beauty had several similarities to the previous two princess tales, Snow White and Cinderella, and so he set this film apart by giving it its own unique visual style. To this day there has been nothing like it, and it is often cited as the quintessential fairy tale look in animation. Additionally, the new 70mm format in the film industry afforded an opportunity for each frame to be twice as wide as in previous films. This meant larger, and more detailed backgrounds. It's no wonder it took seven years to produce this film!

if this forest existed i would so want to live there!
this is my absolute favorite scene. the use of light and shadow is unparalleled!

who wouldn't fall in love in a place like this?

Eyvind Earle was the artist who took the lead on the visual design, and his inspiration came directly from European medieval art. At the same time, there's a distinct graphic style in the backgrounds he created which reveal it's a Disney, 1950s interpretation of that period of art. To me, this blending of old and new is what makes it so great. I love that idea of being inspired by history and reinterpreting it to be relevant now.

The visual style is not the only aspect of Sleeping Beauty that draws inspiration from previous pieces of art. Tchaikovsky's ballet, composed in 1889, provides much of the musical score in this film. The waltzy, romantic melodies and moving orchestral undercurrent lend a sophistication to complement the visual style, and they give this film a very different feel than its predecessors and successors, some of which have a much more "Broadway" sound.

Sleeping Beauty is one of the best examples of animation as a genuine, legitimate art form. I wish I could say more, but I'm not eloquent enough to express in words the level of excellence displayed through sight and sound. You will just have to watch the movie, to see and hear for yourself! 

note: Thanks to for these images from the film.

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