The Magic Behind Disney’s Sleeping Beauty

Rob Jaiven

Rob Jaiven has been an animation art collector and dealer for over 35 years. Many of the most famous pieces of animation art known to exist have been sold by his company Cuckoo Comics & Collectibles.
Instead of growing up and putting away his childish things, after years as a mathematician Rob quit the academic life, took those childish things out again and began his company. Suddenly in the early 1980's these childish things became fashionable and sought after. Cuckoo Comics & Collectibles continues to buy and sell the oldest, rarest and most desirable pieces of animation art. Rob also serves to educate collectors and is happy to answer questions and to talk about animation art with anyone who has an interest.
Rob Jaiven

Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty


“Sleeping Beauty” is a timeless classic in the world of animation and one of Walt Disney’s most enchanting productions. Released in 1959, this animated masterpiece marked a significant moment in the history of animation, bringing together the visionary artistic talents of Eyvind Earle, the incredible animation skills of Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, and a breathtaking story that has captured the hearts of generations. In this article, we will explore the contributions of these three remarkable individuals to the creation of “Sleeping Beauty.”

Eyvind Earle: Sleeping Beauty’s Visual Mastermind

Eyvind Earle was the artistic genius behind the visual style of “Sleeping Beauty.” His work on the film remains iconic for its distinctive and breathtaking artistry. Earle was known for his meticulous attention to detail and his ability to infuse each frame with a sense of enchantment.

The film’s visual design is characterized by its medieval-inspired look, which was a departure from Disney’s previous animated films. Earle’s use of bold colors and intricate patterns created a tapestry-like quality that gave the movie a unique and timeless aesthetic. His dedication to detail can be seen in the ornate backgrounds, the intricate forest scenes, and the grandeur of the castle. It was Earle’s artistic vision that made “Sleeping Beauty” a visual masterpiece that continues to inspire animators and artists to this day.

Marc Davis, Frank Thomas, and Ollie Johnston: Animation Pioneers

Marc Davis, Frank Thomas, and Ollie Johnston were three of Disney’s legendary Nine Old Men, a group of core animators who played a pivotal role in shaping the Disney animation legacy. In “Sleeping Beauty,” their work was instrumental in bringing the characters to life, creating memorable and enduring performances.

Marc Davis was responsible for animating the character Maleficent, one of the most iconic Disney villains. Marc Davis’ work on Maleficent helped define her as a formidable and memorable character. In addition to animating Maleficent, Marc Davis also contributed to the design and development of other characters in the film, such as Princess Aurora (Briar Rose), the three good fairies (Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather), and the prince.

Frank Thomas was responsible for animating some of the film’s most iconic characters, including the lovable fairies Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather. His skill in conveying personality and emotion through animation is evident in the fairies’ distinct and endearing characteristics. These characters added a layer of humor and warmth to the film, making it more relatable to audiences.

Ollie Johnston, on the other hand, took on the challenging task of animating the film’s central character, Princess Aurora, and her alter ego, Briar Rose. Johnston’s animation work brought a depth of emotion and humanity to the character, making Aurora a relatable and engaging protagonist. His attention to detail and understanding of movement and expression allowed him to convey the nuances of Aurora’s journey, from her youthful exuberance to the poise and grace of a princess.

The Collaborative Magic

“Sleeping Beauty” was a remarkable collaboration between Eyvind Earle’s visual artistry and Marc Davis, Frank Thomas, and Ollie Johnston’s animation prowess. These four talents, along with a dedicated team of animators, created a film that remains a testament to the art of animation.

The film’s success also depended on the vision and leadership of Walt Disney himself, who pushed the boundaries of animation with each project. “Sleeping Beauty” was no exception, as it marked the first time a Disney animated feature was released in Technirama 70 mm, a widescreen format that enhanced the visual grandeur of the film.


“Sleeping Beauty” stands as a testament to the collaborative effort of many talented individuals, but the contributions of Eyvind Earle, Frank Thomas, and Ollie Johnston were particularly vital in creating a masterpiece that continues to captivate audiences today. Their artistic and animation skills, combined with the visionary leadership of Walt Disney, resulted in a film that has left an indelible mark on the world of animation. “Sleeping Beauty” remains a shining example of the magic that happens when creative geniuses come together to tell a timeless story.

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