The Artist Who Brought Disney’s ‘Sleeping Beauty’ to Life Finally Gets His Due

Disney fans have Eyvind Earle to thank for the look of some of the studio's most iconic films

Eyvind Earle, Concept painting, c. 1950, Sleeping Beauty (1959).
Collection of the Walt Disney Family Foundation, © Disney
Layout artist McLaren Stewart, Walt Disney, and Eyvind Earle at The Walt Disney Studios during production for Sleeping Beauty, c. 1959.
Courtesy of Eyvind Earle Publishing, LLC
Concept painting, c. 1959 Sleeping Beauty (1959).
Collection of the Walt Disney Family Foundation, © Disney
Eyvind Earle in his studio.
Courtesy of Eyvind Earle Publishing, LLC
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Concept painting, c. 1959 Sleeping Beauty (1959).
Collection of the Walt Disney Family Foundation, © Disney
Concept painting, c. 1959 Sleeping Beauty (1959).
Collection of the Walt Disney Family Foundation, © Disney
Concept painting, c. 1959 Sleeping Beauty (1959).
Collection of the Walt Disney Family Foundation, © Disney
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Concept painting, c. 1955 Lady and the Tramp (1955).
Walt Disney Family Foundation, Gift of Ron and Diane Miller, © Disney
Concept painting, c. 1955 Lady and the Tramp (1955).
Walt Disney Family Foundation, Gift of Ron and Diane Miller, © Disney
Green Forest, 1989.
Collection of the Walt Disney Family Foundation
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Hillside Magic, 1976.
Collection of the Walt Disney Family Foundation
Ancient Forest, 1989.
Courtesy of Eyvind Earle Publishing, LLC
Yosemite, 1994.
Courtesy of the Earle Family Trust
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Paradise, 1973.
Collection of the Walt Disney Family Foundation
Animation cel set-up, c. 1958, Paul Bunyan (1958).
Courtesy of Mike and Jeanne Glad, © Disney
Chapter 8, Page 217, 1990–1991, Horizon Bound on a Bicycle: The Autobiography of Eyvind Earle (1991).
Courtesy of Eyvind Earle Publishing, LLC
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Chapter 4, Page 51 , 1990–1991, Horizon Bound on a Bicycle: The Autobiography of Eyvind Earle (1991).
Courtesy of Eyvind Earle Publishing, LLC
Chapter 5, Page 177 , 1990–1991, Horizon Bound on a Bicycle: The Autobiography of Eyvind Earle (1991).
Courtesy of Eyvind Earle Publishing, LLC
Eyvind on Bicycle, 1988.
Courtesy of Eyvind Earle Publishing, LLC

You may not know the name Eyvind Earle, but if you’ve seen Disney’s animated classics Sleeping Beauty, Lady and the Tramp and Peter Pan then you’re already intimately familiar with his artwork. The New York-born artist died in 2000 at age 84, but on May 18 the Walt Disney Family Museum will open a retrospective exhibition celebrating Earle’s distinctive style and cinematic legacy.

“Awaking Beauty: The Art of Eyvind Earle,” will feature over 250 artworks, including concept art for Disney‘s iconic animated features, a large selection of Earle’s fine art paintings of colorful and whimsical landscapes from the 1970s-90s, autobiographic prints from his early years spent bicycling cross-country in the 1930s, sculptures, poetry and commercial illustrations. Along with the exhibition, a 176-page exhibition catalogue will bring together sketches, watercolors and 80 works from his years working at Disney during the 1950s.

On his time at Disney, Earle said, “I consider my six or seven years at Disney the greatest art school in the whole world, because I worked hard and fast with the very, very best men in the industry.”

While Earle only spent a few short years full time at Disney, he still left a lasting and visionary mark on the studio. His dreamy forestscapes, peppered with lithe trees and pastel light, were the cornerstone of Sleeping Beauty‘s dreamy scenery. Earle brought that same airy touch of fantasy to his concept art for Lady and the Tramp and Peter Pan, though his style was perhaps at its most refined in his fine art paintings.

“Whether it was through a modest snowy landscape for a Christmas card or a more intricate background concept for films like Sleeping Beauty, Earle brought magic to everything he touched,” said friend, Eyvind Earle Publishing CEO and exhibition co-curator Ioan Szasz in a statement.

Beyond Disney, Earle was prolific in both his personal studio practice and his commercial work. In his lifetime, the artist oversaw a Christmas card company, designed magazine covers, and eventually started his own animation company which produced trademark logos, film trailers, print ads, and commercials and animated specials for television.

“Awaking Beauty: The Art of Eyvind Earle” is on view through January 8, 2018 at the Walt Disney Family Museum.

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