Eyvind Earle, despite having a voice that sounds vaguely Scandinavian, turns out to be from a fairly prominent New York family. His grandfather was a New York philanthropist who, among other things, restored New York’s Jumel Mansion, a major landmark in US history. I actually looked up family details because I caught part of a biography of him yesterday that talked about his father, who sounds like a horrible person. He took young Eyvind for a tour of Europe that he would refer to himself as having “escaped,” and by the sound of it, it was pretty well kidnapping—certainly Eyvind’s mother didn’t know it was going to happen.
We are lucky that that Eyvind’s talent was so strong that it couldn’t be denied, because after being forced to do a drawing or painting a day standing next to his hated father for three years, he told his mother he never wanted to paint again. His father, who sounds like a real winner all the way around, had a career for a while in the early days of film, painting sheets of glass that would be used as backdrops so silent films wouldn’t need to leave the studio for filming. But his personality pretty much kept him from having a job.
From what I can tell, people liked Eyvind. Some of them are interviewed in the biography we watched. He seems to have been encouraging of other artists, and he seems to have been a decent coworker. I wonder if this has anything to do with his father—an effort to distinguish himself from him. Or an awareness of what his father’s demeanor had felt like from the outside. Or something. I’m aware that a lot of the stuff you find on people like this is slanted to make them look better, but why include how awful his father is if you’re not using it as a contrast or an explanation?
Eyvind didn’t follow his father’s style, either, I think—from what I can find, his father leaned toward realism even in his personal work. Whereas Earle’s work was closer to that of coworker—indeed, former supervisor—Mary Blair. His work could be incredibly detailed, of course. There’s a clip I’ve seen several times of his painting a bush for a Sleeping Beauty background that involves layer upon layer of colour, painting incredible numbers of leaves in each one, showing them as something between a real bush and a tapestry. It’s amazing. His tree in “4 Artists Paint 1 Tree” is extremely detailed as well.
For most of his working life, he was a painter. His career at Disney lasted only fifteen years. But by shaping the look of “Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom” and Sleeping Beauty, among others, he influenced Disney art—animation in general—for decades to come even beyond his encouragement of other artists. If I remember correctly, he was one of the people who suggested going back to medieval art for the design of Sleeping Beauty, meaning that even things he didn’t immediately paint himself, he helped create. After all, Maleficent’s costume is based on a period painting as well. What he left at Disney lasted well beyond his time there.