Friday 5 November 2010

Orcs in Disneyland

.. of the pig-faced variety of course!


Tom Oreb, Don DaGradi, Ken Anderson, Bill Peet have design credits on Sleeping Beauty (1959), and checking around I'd plum for Bill Preet being responsible for the above concept drawings. Several pig-faced goons here, alongside some bovine and rather muppet-like creatures.

Uruks on the storyboard for Sleeping Beauty. I especially admire the goblin-hat, or should that be hat-goblin? Unfortunately he didn't make the final cut,  the anthropomorphic clothing is very Boschian medieval monsterism. Also, note the pink nosed, green skinned hooded orc in the top right. 

The bumbling buffons are an embarrasment to the forces of evil, a couple of screencaps of the movie, showing the Pig Faced Orcs alongside their Eagle-faced, Goblinoid and Gargoylesque brethren. The colourscheme has been muted down from the design phase, giving a nice consistent feel across the randomly shaped creatures.

From the Sleeping Beauty experience at Walt Disney world, which opened 2 years after the movie (1961) - which appeared under blacklight (UV) giving them a peculiar "blueish sheen", green skin and pink noses familiar to the description of the Orc in the AD&D 1e Monster Manual.  However, these appear to be crossed with the the ultra-rare Cyclopean Orc (Britanicus Editionus Adeeandeeus Uruk).

For those not versed in modern Orc lore, the Pig Faced Orc (green skin, lighter/pink nose) also appears as Gammorean Guard in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, the Orcs in the 1980s Dungeons & Dragon cartoons, 1970s Lord of the Rings paintings by the Brothers Hildebrandt, and yet true origins in popular culture remain somewhat mysterious. Certainly their first written appearance as specifically Orcs is in the 1e MM, but it's entirely possible that someone at TSR (Gygax?) had been to Disneyland and had drawn upon the imagery whilst reinventing the Orc.


  1. Interesting post. I've subconsciously wondered about this myself before - the link to Gomorrian in RoJ is an obvious one, my eldest son aged 3 used to say they were Orcs (he has an Orc character in the Heroquest-esque games we play), but fascinating to think about that more broadly and including Disney. Lot's of self reinforcing references. It was why the Orcs in Ralph Bakshi's animated version of LOTR stood out for me as so much more evil and fantastical - I was less familiar with that look, even though I was very familiar with the LOTR story. For me Pig-faced orcs have always been a toned-down version of that more nightmarish vision.

    1. It's one of those odd entanglements with the D&D toon and RoTJ both being released in '83. From what I remember of the production design drawings for RoTJ there isn't much else that resembles anything from the MM, but it certainly wouldn't be the first time George Lucas borrowed a character design from an earlier source.

  2. There is concept art for the Gammorean Guard that looks exactly like a fat D&D orc with full medieval fantasy garb and weapon. They developed away from that a bit for the final film version but it was clearly the starting point.