Saturday, December 13, 2008

Sleeping Beauty and Return of the Jedi

I watched Walt Disney's legendary Sleeping Beauty 50th anniversary platinum edition and was reminded of the sophisticated artistry and style of this unique treasure. Most notably, the background work of the artist Eyvind Earle

to whom Walt went in the hopes of injecting new life into what has become a predictable cartoony style aimed at children. This movie is Eyvind's. The infusion of Eyvind's style raised the bar for the animation industry to new heights and opened doors for imagination that later led to such classics as Fantasia. Geometric landscapes, art deco, gothic and even the characters were inspired by Eyvind, all contributed to produce one of Disney's first successful films.

But what struck me was the scene where we first see Malificent's goons in her castle as she expresses her frustration for not finding Aurora/Briar Rose. And in particular this guy (from a later scene in the film):

Immediately I thought "that's the character from Star Wars the Return of the Jedi!" The resemblance is unmistakable:

(Or should I say that the guy from Star Wars is based on him?) Could it be that George was, somehow, influenced by that image and reintroduced his own version for his film? I don't remember him saying that. It amazes me, however, when I saw ROJ I did not make the connection but now that I watch SB again the connection is made. And just to be sure that I'm not the only one making this connection, I asked my son when we watched it and he also immediately made that connection without hesitation.

So the next time your kid scoffs at Sleeping Beauty, it might be a good opportunity for an intellectual discussion about how history influences the future. And in my animation journey it certanly made me appreciate the contributions of of the artists of the golden age to the rest of the generations after them.

1 comment:

Robert said...

George Lucas influenced by a previous movie? Tell me it isn't so!

Actually I bet it wasn't GL so much as one of the character designers working for him. I imagine those people had seen a Disney movie or two.

Good catch on that, though.

I think those square trees in Sleeping Beauty are hysterical. I think that's part of the reason it didn't do well. Too much art for mainstream audiences to digest. They want trees that look like trees.

Maybe that's why the imagery in Disney features became so conventional after that?