“Sleeping Beauty” is one of Disney’s greatest achievements, not only due to the timeless story and the classic theme, but the imagery is something that far exceeds previous films and adds an element of history and beauty all its own. In the “making of” feature on the Platinum Edition of “Sleeping Beauty”, animation historian John Canemaker says, “I think it’s the end of an era. I think it’s the end of a kind of animation that we’ll never see again. A kind of opulence, and lavishness, and meticulous craftsmanship that is gone now.” As I hear his words, I can’t help but feel a sadness knowing he is probably right. “Sleeping Beauty” was the first and last of its kind. Thankfully, Disney has re-released “Sleeping Beauty” for it’s 50th anniversary so we can once more relive the magic and the beauty of this fine film.
“Sleeping Beauty” begins as so many great fairytales do, with Once Upon A Time. A young princess named Aurora (Mary Costa) is born and presented to the kingdom by her loving parents. As three kind fairies, Flora (Verna Felton), Fauna (Barbara Jo Allen) and Merryweather (Barbara Luddy) prepare to bestow blessings upon Aurora, villain Maleficent (Eleanor Audley) enters the castle to offer a curse. The curse: On the day of her sixteenth birthday, Aurora will prick her finger on a spinning wheel and die. While Flora and Fauna have already offered their blessings, Merryweather blesses Aurora with the gift that she will not die when she pricks her finger, she will instead fall into a deep sleep until awakened by true love’s kiss.
From here, Aurora goes to live with the three fairies who vow to keep her protected from Maleficent. She grows up in the forest in a charming cottage and goes by the name, Briar Rose. Briar Rose spends her time wandering the nearby forest and talking with woodland creatures while daydreaming of one day finding love. As she dances and sings in the forest, “I know you, I walked with you once upon a dream”, she meets Prince Phillip (Bill Shirley), and they fall in love.
A few problems come to pass: Maleficent sends her own sidekicks to do her dirty work and search for the princess, Aurora doesn’t learn the Prince’s name (or the fact that he’s a prince), and the fairies finally tell her the truth about her parents being the King and Queen and her duty to marry a prince (who, of course, happens to be the same man she loves). Without knowing this, Aurora and the fairies return to the palace where Maleficent finally catches Aurora alone and there, the princess touches the spinning wheel and falls into a deep sleep. While Prince Phillip could save her, he is capture by Maleficent. In one of the most fantastic animated scenes, Prince Phillip escapes with the help of the fairies and sets off to fight Maleficent and wakes Aurora with true loves kiss. Again, the animation here is incredible and it must be said that Maleficent Disney’s most superb villain. The restoration of the film is beautifully done and the story is as timeless and as enchanting as ever. For those that remember “Sleeping Beauty” from their childhood to those discovering it for the first time, this is a film worth watching and remembering again and again.
EXTRAS: This new edition mixes a set of enjoyable new supplements with many of the supplements from the original release.
“Picture Perfect: The Making of Sleeping Beauty”
This is a wonderful behind the scenes look at “Sleeping Beauty”. Several animators from past and present Disney films, Historians, and others involved in the classic talk about the artistic significance of the film. The decisions for designs, the change in animation over the years, character voice, music choice and the intricacies of “Sleeping Beauty” are all talked about and presented here. The look of “Sleeping Beauty” being like no other film is discussed, as well as the changes that were occurring during the time it was released. One of the more interesting aspects of this bonus feature is the music choice for the film, and how a completely different style was considered before settling on the music so fondly associated with the film today. One of the best things about “Sleeping Beauty” is touched on here: Walt Disney didn’t want the subplots (like with the mice in “Cinderella”), but wanted to have a full story. This is a very interesting, in-depth look at a wonderful classic with lots of interviews, clips and archive footage.
“Eyvind Earle: The Man And His Art”
A fascinating, saddening, and impressive story of Eyvind Earle’s life. With interviews from those who worked with him and knew him, this feature is one of the more interesting one’s that takes the look at a young man’s journey to becoming one of Disney’s artists.
A look at a scene known as Sequence 8, where Princess Aurora dances in the woods with Prince Phillip. The feature talks about how much the sequence cost due to how long it took the animators to complete the one scene. This is such an interesting and somewhat painful feature, due to the painstaking efforts it took to complete this one, memorable scene.
There’s an “Alternate Opening” with unused songs and picture storyboard, that makes you glad they decided to change the opening. There’s also three “Deleted Songs” that also include pictures/animation to accompany the songs. None of the songs are particularly memorable and, again, I’m glad they went the way they did, as I can’t imagine “Sleeping Beauty” any other way.
“Storyboard Sequences” (The Fairies Put The Castle To Sleep and The Capture Of The Prince) A very brief introduction to why storyboarding is used before animating a film, followed by a comparison run of the scenes to see how the storyboard images match up with the final product.
“Live Action Reference” (Briar Rose Dances, Prince Phillip Fights The Dragon, The Queen And A Good Fairy) Mentioned and briefly shown in “Picture Perfect: The Making of Sleeping Beauty”, these live action scenes show actors performing certain scenes from “Sleeping Beauty” so the animators would have something to watch and drawn upon.
“Sleeping Beauty Art Galleries”
There are several galleries and sub galleries included here. Each gallery has groups of stills you can click to enlarge. Galleries included are: Visual Development, Character Design, Storyboard Art, Live Action Reference, The “Sleeping Beauty” Storybook, Layouts And Backgrounds, Production Photos, and Publicity. While all offer interesting glimpses at the art of “Sleeping Beauty”, I found the Character Design to be most interesting since it offers drawings of the characters in their stages of development.
“Original Disneyland Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough Attraction”
Under this feature you can chose to view the virtual walk through on Auto Mode or with a guided tour by Tony Baxter (Walt Disney Imagineer). I recommend watching with the guided tour first. There’s also the History Of The Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough Attraction that opened in 1955.
“Publicity” includes the Original Teaser Trailer, Original Theatrical Trailer (1959) and the Re-Release Trailer (1995).
“Four Artists Paint One Tree”-This is actually a great look at art and how artists approach their work differently. With an introduction from Walt Disney, this short film takes a look at four artists, what they are working on, and how their differences come together to make a final product. Then the artists set out to paint the same tree. The film focuses on how each artist sets up differently, sees things differently and eventually four artists paint one tree. It’s incredible to see the final results and how each vary so much, but are all stunning works of art.
“Briar Rose’s Enchanted Dance Game”
Within the forest near Briar Rose’s cottage there are two dance choices for young children and the young at heart. You choose between a dancing game with the woodland animals, or a step-by-step waltz lesson. In the dancing game you watch closely as the woodland animals perform a dance and then use your memory to repeat the steps. The combinations get more complicated as you play further. In the waltz lesson, you chose if you’re dancing as Prince Phillip or Princess Aurora, and then you are taught waltz dance steps. This will be especially fun for anyone who likes to dance or always wanted to know how to waltz. One of the especially nice things about this feature is the art. The backdrops and characters remain true to the original, which is wonderful to see. All games are proceeded by a voiceover guide.
“Sleeping Beauty Fun With Language Game”
The language game begins with instructions that are stated very slowly. This is good for younger children who may need time to absorb the rules. This is a learning game that teaches words for items seen in the film. The words for items such as a mop, ribbon, egg, etc. are stated several times, the word is printed on the screen, and the item is highlighted. After learning the name for each item, you are asked to find which item matches which word. This will be fun for younger children. Again, the backgrounds and introduction clips are great.
“Once Upon A Dream” - music video by Emily Osment (from “Hannah Montana”)
“Disney Song Selection” includes an option to play the film with lyrics on screen, as well as the ability to listen to several songs individually (and with on-screen lyrics) including: “Once Upon A Dream” (Main Title), “Hail To The Princess Aurora”, “I wonder”, “Once Upon A Dream”, and “Sleeping Beauty”.
“Audio Commentary” with John Lasseter, Andreas Deja, and Leonard Maltin. There’s also inserted archive comments from original filmmakers who created “Sleeping Beauty”. This is a great group to have provide commentary for such a classic. They all offer information about their experience and excitement going to see upcoming Disney films when they were kids, as well as their memory of seeing “Sleeping Beauty” for the first time. Lasseter, Deja and Maltin seem to know their facts and offer them willingly. It’s so interesting to hear their inside knowledge as well as information they’ve learned throughout the years. They discuss Disney bringing back the fairytales after economic slumps, the cost of the film, as well as “Sleeping Beauty” being filmed in widescreen. They talk about everyone involved, as well as the process of making the film knowledgably and with genuine interest, which makes this commentary equally interesting to listen to and learn from.
“Princess Fun Facts” is a Pop-Up trivia track that plays with the film.
“Grand Canyon” a short film with scenes of the Grand Canyon accompanied by Ferde Grofe’s "Grand Canyon Suite". This is a beautiful short film with an incredible score that won a 1959 Oscar.
“The Peter Tchaikovsky Story” - this short bio of the composer originally aired January 30, 1959. Two versions are offered. While not the most interesting feature, it does offer some facts and ties in with “Sleeping Beauty” nicely.
Final Thoughts: "Sleeping Beauty" remains a beloved, enjoyable classic from Disney, with solid animation and fine performances. This new DVD presentation offers excellent video quality, fine audio quality and some informative new extras (along with a return of many from the prior release.) Recommended.
The Film A