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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Sleeping Beauty Another Way

Danish illustrator Kay Nielsen moved from his native Copenhagen, where he was born in 1886, to Los Angeles in 1936, and worked for the Walt Disney Studios from late 1938 to 5/23/41. His most well-known work was, of course, done for Fantasia.

Later in his life, in 1953, he returned for a short stint on Sleeping Beauty, but in the end, the styling of Eyvind Earle was chosen for the film. Nielsen died, forgotten, in 1957.

For a long time, only one of his Sleeping Beauty pieces was known to exist, in the ARL. It is pictured in John Canemaker's beautiful book "Before the Animation Begins" (Hyperion 1996).
The caption reads: "The only example of Nielsen's art made during his brief return to Disney in 1953 to work on Sleeping Beauty (1959)."

Since then, however, a number of Nielsen's pieces have appeared on the market, sold through the reputable Van Eaton Galleries. They became available when a high profile Disney artist passed away. Over the years, I have collected the images from Mike's site, and I thought you might like to see these. The pastels are done on black paper on which the standard storyboard "Form P-212 B-4" is printed in white.

If you click a picture you'll see the actual image that I downloaded (without my color corrections). There is a big difference in quality: on some you can see the photographer's reflection in the protecting cell. Some of the pastel color was transferred onto these, but in all their state was pretty good.

First we have Seq. 08.0, "Boy Meets Girl."
Here, the boy meets the girl, and he asks "Will you be here tomorrow?" I actually acquired this one, so here is another view.
The caption reads "She's a princess."

[Addition: this one was sold by Hake's in August 2013]

Then Seq. 13.0 "Kings at King Stephan's Castle."

Called 13.1, this is Seq. 14.0 "Girl Pricks Finger."

Seq. 17.0 "Prince Captured."

Seq. 20.0 became Seq. 19.0 "Fight."
Above image is most reminiscent of Nielsen's wonderful stylings for the Night on Bald Mountain sequence in Fantasia.


Finally a few other images I found through the magic of Google:
[In the comments, David Lesjak points at the original page for the above image.]

So there you have it - 17 images so far...

For those who just tuned in, there are two Danish artists with similar names. Kai Nielsen (1882-1924) is a famous sculptor, while above Kay Nielsen is famous for his wonderful early 1900's book illustrations and his work for Disney. A book about his work was slated for release "next month" since 2009.

Remember that another famous Dane needs YOUR support!

(I know this posting is a bit of a different format, but I felt the art was worth a better look!)

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Blogger John V. says...

These are great concept drawings - I wonder what the animated version would have looked like?

Thursday, February 23, 2012 at 8:59:00 AM PST  
Blogger Janet Benn says...

Thank you for collecting these images! I have been looking for Kay Nielsen art as inspiration always.
I can see how some scenes are better as they were done by Disney, but the sheer beauty of the landscape and the power of the evil queen's gyrations are astounding.

Saturday, February 25, 2012 at 8:33:00 AM PST  
Blogger David says...

My friend Dennis owns several Kay Nielsen pieces, including one from Sleeping Beauty. Ten of his pieces are available for viewing here:

The Walt Disney Family Museum also owns several Nielsen pieces.

Saturday, February 25, 2012 at 11:49:00 PM PST  
Blogger Rodney Baker says...

Wow. What a goldmine.

Congrats on acquiring one of these!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012 at 4:32:00 PM PST  
Blogger Christopher Hei says...

did any of the animates you mentioned Wakko were on The Chipmunk Adventure?

Thursday, April 25, 2013 at 5:34:00 PM PDT  
Blogger draperhacker says...

omg! thankyou, thankyou, thankyou! I just viewed Sleeping Beauty yet again and all I can see is Kay Nielsen. He may only have worked briefly on the initial stages of the movie but those backgrounds in the movie came from Kay's world if not directly from his brush. I haven't checked the credits yet to see if Kay has a mention but Sleeping Beauty has Kay's brushstrokes all over it. The final dragon scene and the color schema is directly from Kay's Night on a Bald Mountain work, all the green and creme flames no less. Evynde Earle may have created and directed the actual animation but Kay was most definitely its father!! Just once I would love to see Kay's work and influence acknowledged in more cemented terms in the Disney canon.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 7:37:00 PM PST  

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