Let’s take another trip back to the nineteen fifties and the Walt Disney Studio. During the production of “Sleeping Beauty” we usually had crew screenings in the upstairs projection rooms. The small rooms known as sweat boxes. However, today was different. This screening would take place on the big screen in the Disney theater. This was important because this would be the way audiences would eventually see the film.

The Walt Disney theater was a convenient short walk across the street from the Animation Building and was usually able to accommodate the entire “Sleeping Beauty” crew. As expected we were shown black & white story reels from the film and a few animated pencils. A few of the scenes had actually moved into “clean-up,” and the work was looking pretty impressive.

Suddenly, out of nowhere came the unexpected. A full color scene from the Walt Disney motion picture splashed across the wide screen and you could hear an audible gasp from the entire audience. It’s difficult to explain what we experienced that morning back in1957. Consider this was the nineteen fifties and we were viewing a full 70 millimeter Technicolor high resolution print. Think of seeing a motion picture such as James Cameron’s “Avatar” on screen back in the seventies and not expecting it.

Needless to say the entire audience was totally blown away by what we had just experienced and every artist in that audience knew we were suddenly a part of something very special. Critics and audiences were not receptive to the Walt Disney film back in 1959. Sadly, "Sleeping Beauty" remained a hidden treasure for years before people eventually discovered it. 

“Sleeping Beauty” was the end of an era. Never again would Walt Disney lavish so much money, time and attention on a traditional hand crafted animated motion picture. Economics and his frugal brother made sure of that. By the sixties, animation at the Walt Disney Studios had adopted a lean and mean model. Those of us who were lucky enough to survive the layoffs and cut backs over the next few years counted our blessings and reflected on that incredible day back in 1957. The day we realized we had pushed animation to a whole new level. The day we knew we were creating a Disney masterpiece.

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AuthorFloyd Norman