Top 10 Things To Know About Eyvind Earle

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There’s no denying that Eyvind Earle is one of the most iconic animation artists of the 20th century.
You’ve seen his illustrations and background designs in Disney films and have treasured his fanciful landscapes since childhood. But, what else is there to know about the man behind Sleeping Beauty’s castle? From his first screen credit to his first Academy Award, here are the top 10 things you need to know about American illustrator and animation artist Eyvind Earle.


1. He worked hard at an early age

Eyvind Earle was born in New York and moved with his parents to Hollywood when he was two years old. His father, who toiled through many roles in the movie business, encouraged his son’s hard work ethic by suggesting Eyvind either read 50 pages of a book or paint a picture every day (Eyvind claims to have done both, every day). At the tender age of 14, the budding artist’s work had already been shown in an international group exhibition in France.


2. He received his first screen credit on a Mexican bullfighting film.

By 1951, the year Earle arrived on staff at Walt Disney Productions as an assistant background painter, he was already a well-established artist. His first assignments in Burbank were to design backgrounds for short films: a bullfighting arena in the south of the border Goofy picture For Whom the Bulls Toil (1953), a zoo elephant’s cage in Chip n’ Dale’s Working for Peanuts (1953), a railway station filled with guinea pigs in Pigs is Pigs (1954), and complex double-wide landscapes for the Donald Duck film Grand Canyonscope – the first Disney short prepared for theater exhibition in the Cinemascope format. Earle also contributed to background designs for the feature films Peter Pan (1953) and Lady and the Tramp (1955); and later created even more flattened and stylized backgrounds for the shorts Jack and Old Mac (1956), The Truth About Mother Goose (1957), and Paul Bunyan (1958).


3. He designed greeting cards.

Over the course of his career, Earle designed over 800 Christmas and greeting cards for the American Artist Group card company. His urban scene and winter landscape card designs remain available to order from the American Artist Group’s website.


4. One short film he designed both an Academy Award and a Cannes Film Festival Award.

Toot, Whistle, Plunk, and Boom (1953) is an educational short that teaches children how an orchestra’s sound is built from four types of musical instruments: horns, winds, strings, and percussion. It won the 1954 Academy Award for Best Short Subject and is listed among the 50 Greatest Cartoons of all time.


5. His works are included in prestigious museum collections.

In 1939, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York made their first purchase of Earle’s artworks. Today his illustrations and paintings are held in many museum collections.


6. The Disney film he designed stayed in production for a decade.

Sleeping Beauty was the most ambitiously designed film made during Walt Disney’s lifetime. Disney wanted a film with consistent visual style, and he assigned Earle to be responsible for the look of the entire film from beginning to end. Earle’s stunning designs for the film’s castle and forest scenes incorporate pre-Renaissance Gothic motifs with ideas borrowed from Persian miniature paintings and Japanese prints. No detail was too small to be considered. Earle spent up to ten days personally painting and refining each background – at a time when most other background designs for the studio were completed in one day. Today, critics and fans place Sleeping Beauty among the most artistically distinct and best-looking films every produced by Disney.


7. He continued to create paintings and animations after leaving the studio.

In 1961, Earle left the Disney studio having completed his major project, Sleeping Beauty. He continued to work independently and notably animated the trailer for West Side Story based on designs by Saul Bass. In 1966, Earle returned to full-time painting and was represented by galleries in California and Europe.


8. He has been the recipient of major lifetime achievement honors.

In 1998, Earle was presented the Winsor McCay award for lifetime achievement in the art of animation by the International Animated Film Society. The award is named after Winsor McCay (c.1869-1934), a cartoonist known as an early pioneer of animation. In 2015, Earle was anointed a Disney Legend at the D23 Expo in Anaheim, California. The Legends are individuals recognized for having made an extraordinary and integral contribution to the Walt Disney Company. Earle was honored in the same year as George Lucas, Johnny Depp, and Andreas Deja – the animator responsible for giving life to famous villains Jafar from Aladdin (1992) and Scar from The Lion King (1994).


9. The European Disneyland castle is based on his designs.

None of the other Disney Parks around the world have a castle like this one, unique to Disneyland Paris. Le Chateau de la Belle au Bois Dormant (“The Castle of Sleeping Beauty”) is a magical place featuring colorful stained glass windows and tapestries that retell the tale of Sleeping Beauty. Other highlights include a lower-level dungeon with a large animatronic dragon. The castle and surrounding gardens were based on Earle’s background paintings.


10. He wrote an autobiography.

Curious to learn more about the master? Check out Horizon Bound on Bicycle: Autobiography of Eyvind Earle (1990). The book includes Earle’s diary from a bicycle trip he took across the country from Hollywood to New York at the age of 21, in 1937.


Interested in purchasing an Eyvind Earle for your collection? Check out available works by the artist currently for sale on Lofty.


Feature Image: Eyvind Earle, concept of art castle in Sleeping Beauty, ca. 1950, courtesy of Walt Disney Family Foundation, © Disney