Now that I’ve finished featuring one piece of concept art for each Disney Princess, I thought I’d feature one of Disney’s forgotten princesses, Princess Eilonwy from The Black Cauldron. I’ve written a full article on the film previously, but disclosed very little about the princess within it. In fact, I originally intended to include this particular piece of concept art in the article, but eventually had to cut it. This early piece of concept art was drawn by Disney legend Andres Deja in pencil and magic marker. Just like so many of the pieces of early concept art I featured in the larger article, it displays a character design that would have made the princess a unique and intriguing character within the film.
This concept sketch comes from extremely early in The Black Cauldron’s development, and from extremely early in Andreas Deja’s career. Before he was hired by Walt Disney Animation, Andreas Deja heard about the studio’s plans to make a film out of Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydian book series. He was immediately attracted to the idea, and began making character sketches for the film which he then submitted to the company as part of his portfolio. This sketch of Princess Eilonwy was one of the ones he submitted. The studio liked his character designs so much that they not only hired him as an animator, but also seriously considered using his submitted designs for the film. While ultimately his designs were rejected, Deja became a very important member of the film’s crew. He initially worked alongside Tim Burton on the film, translating Burton’s unique monster ideas into a more typical Disney style of animation. After Burton’s departure, Deja became one of the film’s main animators, contributing more final animation drawings than any other crew member. His experience on the ill-fated Black Cauldron eventually helped Andreas Deja become one of the most accomplished animators at Walt Disney Animation Studios. He eventually went on to animate characters like King Triton, Gaston, Jafar, Scar, and Hercules. So this early sketch of Princess Eilonwy ended up leading Deja into a very long and fruitful career with Walt Disney Animation.
In this drawing and in many other early concept drawings, Eilonway looks much more like a servant than a princess, like Cinderella and Snow White in their rags, especially compared to her final design. This design actually follows the character’s description in the original books very closely. In the books, the princess is described as having reddish blonde hair, as she does here, not the light blonde she has in the final film. In the book series Eilonwy is almost always barefoot, again as she is in Deja’s concept drawing, but in the film she wears flats throughout. Although she is a princess, Eilonwy is being kept prisoner in the Horned King’s dungeon, so a dirty and shabby dress actually makes sense for her character. There is even a line in the final film where the Horned King implies that he has been making her work as a scullery maid, which would have made much more sense had she been dressed like this. This scullery maid dress lasted all the way up until the rough model sheets were made for the character, but ultimately, Eilonwy was made to look cleaner and more princess like in the final film. She was given a dress similar to Briar Rose in Sleeping Beauty and hair in the colour and style of Alice in Alice in Wonderland. Although Eilowny’s design was made to fit in better with the Disney women and girls who came before her, I’ve always admired how Deja’s designs stuck closer to the character’s depiction in the original book.
I hope you enjoyed this look at a discarded design for Disney’s “forgotten” princess, Princess Eilonwy. Who knows, maybe in the future when Disney makes a live action version of the Chronicles Prydain they’ll look to Andreas Deja’s character design drawings for inspiration.