Database for Animation Studies


Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty: The Components of Costume Design in Disney’s Early Hand-Drawn Animated Feature Films

Costumes in feature films can be deliberately used for narrative purposes to reveal or conceal something related to the plot, functioning as a key element for cinematic storytelling. Costume design in animation is an integral part of character creation; however, relatively little is known about the design process. Previous research concentrates on either the history of hand-drawn animation, the principles of making animated films or character construction. This article presents several key components of the animators’ costume design process in Walt Disney’s animated feature films Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), Cinderella (1950) and Sleeping Beauty (1959). The author demonstrates that the costume design in these films was a multi-layered process. For example, for Snow White, the costume silhouette of the final animation is visible in the early conceptual designs whereas, for Cinderella or Princess Aurora, the principal character animators designed the final costume. Additionally, the slow production time influenced the style of the costumes: small details on costumes and complex constructions were not used as it would have taken too long for them to be drawn. The article also reveals that animators used live-action filming and rotoscoping as tools for designing costumes. Furthermore, costumes that were used in pre-production filming for rotoscope were different in their construction from everyday garments. The work of a costume designer existed in the character design process, although not as a separate profession. This article aims to highlight the importance of characters’ costumes in Disney’s early hand-drawn animated films and the different ways costumes have been designed for animated characters.

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Animation: An Interdisciplinary Journal
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