Eyvind Earle (1916-2000)

Eyvind Earle

Eyvind Earle

Eyvind Earle was an American illustrator, artist and author, famous for his contribution to the background illustration and styling of Disney animated films in the 50s of 20th century. Earle was born in New York, but his family moved to Hollywood when he was two years old. He began painting when he was 10 years old, and had his first solo show in France when he was 14. Earle’s first New York exhibition was at the Charles Morgan Galleries in 1937. Already in an 1939 exhibition, the Metropolitan Museum of Art purchased one of his works for its permanent collection. His work style at this time was realistic painting. In the 1940s he had already painted more than 800 Christmas card designs for the American Artist Group.

Later Earle remembered, that his father, who toiled through many roles in the movie business, encouraged Earle’s hard work ethic by suggesting him either read 50 pages of a book or paint a picture every day. In 1951 he joined Disney as an assistant background painter and received credit for the experimental background painting in the Goofy short, “For Whom the Bulls Toil”. In 1953 he created the look of “Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom”, a short animated film which won a Cannes Film Festival Award and an Academy Award. He was responsible for the styling, background and colors for the highly acclaimed “Sleeping Beauty”. In 1961, Earle completed a 18-minute animated segment of the Nativity story for the Tennessee Ernie Ford hosted television special “The Story Of Christmas” on NBC.

Earle returned to full-time painting in 1966, producing watercolors, oils, sculptures, drawings, scratchboards, and limited-edition serigraphs. These works were mainly not exhibited in his lifetime. Earle’s work and distinct graphic styling has continued to inspire new generations of artists and animators, serving to influence the look of other animated films. These have included the Disney features “Pocahontas” and “Frozen”, as well as the graphic style of Sony’s first computer animated film “Open Season”. The Banner Saga, a video game by developers Stoic, draws heavily from Earle’s style and contains a character named after him. He is credited for ‘Artistic Inspiration’.

In 1998, Earle was honored at the 26th Annie Awards with the Winsor McCay Award for a lifetime achievement in the art of animation. In 2015, in a presentation at the D23 Expo in Anaheim, California, Earle was inducted as a Disney Legend. His daughter, Kristin Thompson, accepted on her father’s behalf. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Rahr West Art Museum, Phoenix Art Museum and Arizona State University Art Museum have purchased Earle’s works for their permanent collections. His works have also been shown in many one-man exhibitions throughout the world.

To be continued in part II

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