Disney // 1959 // 75 Minutes // Rated G
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Mac McEntire // October 20th, 2008
Once upon a dream.
What can be said about Disney's Sleeping Beauty that hasn't already been said? Made under the supervision of Walt himself, the film broke new ground in the art of animation, while telling a simple tale of young love and good versus evil. It gave us playful music, eye-popping visuals, and an action packed finale that still thrills today.
This two-disc, 50th Anniversary Platinum Edition comes with all the bells and whistles. Not that bells and whistles could wake up the titular beauty. The only thing that can revive her is...well, you know.
In a faraway kingdom, a king and queen welcome their new baby, Princess Aurora, with a lavish party. The child's three fairy godmothers bestow on her gifts of beauty and song. Then, the sinister Maleficent arrives, cursing the girl to death when she turns 16. There's still one fairy gift to give, though, so it's decided that Aurora will not die, only sleep.
Still, great measures are taken to protect the girl, with the fairy godmothers taking her away from the castle and raising her in secret, in a secluded cabin in the woods. Years pass, and just before Aurora turns 16, she meets the handsome Prince Phillip, not realizing that he's a prince, or that he's the one she's destined to marry.
Maleficent, meanwhile, hasn't forgotten her curse, and manipulates events in her favor, so that Aurora does come under the spell and falls asleep. It seems that she will never wake, unless of course, there is still some magic at work...
Seven reasons why this movie is awesome:
1: A sense of style
Disney animated films sometimes get criticized for all looking alike. I say, look again. This is especially of true of Sleeping Beauty. After the success of Snow White and Cinderella, good 'ol Walt wasn't content to repeat himself, and brought in acclaimed painter Eyvind Earle to work on the film, giving it a rich, angular look that makes it stand out as visually different from any other in the Disney canon.
2: The real heroes
The dozing lovely and her sword-swingin' prince might be the marquee stars, but, in terms of story structure, it's really Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather who are the protagonists. They're the ones who sacrifice so much for Aurora's safety and happiness. Then, after everything falls to pieces thanks to Maleficent's scheming, they're the ones who regroup, and manipulate events back in their favor, giving Phillip what he needs to save Aurora.
3: Those woodland critters
It's become a cliché, and an often-spoofed one at that, in these films for the heroine to be alone in the woods, pouring her heart out to cute and unusually friendly woodland critters. In reality, she'd start singing and then they'd all start biting and pecking at her, giving her fleas and rabies and God knows what else. But this is not reality. In Sleeping Beauty, there's a nicely-animated bit where the animals use a hat, cloak, and pair of boots to mimic Aurora's prince, making them an active part of the scene.
4: What a villain!
Maleficent. Wow, is she scary. With relatively little screen time, her viciousness knows no bounds. She enacts a years-long plot to destroy a young woman's life just because she wasn't invited to a party? And let's not forget the iconic image of her rising up out of nowhere in the midst of swirling green flames. Great stuff.
5: Music from the source
Tchaikovsky was the man. Uncle Walt knew this, and incorporated music from Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty ballet into the film. Naturally, this boosted the emotional impact of those scenes greatly, providing as nearly a perfect score for a movie as there's ever been.
6: Comic relief that doesn't overdo it
There's plenty of humor in the movie, the most famous most likely being the debate over whether a dress should be blue or pink. But the comic relief character I really like is the minstrel guy who follows around Phillip's father. His shtick is basically that of the wacky drunk (in a kids' movie!) and, thankfully, he's not overused. He gets in his two or three laughs and that's enough. Some of today's lesser writers and filmmaker would try to put a screwball character like this into as many scenes as possible for cheap laughs and trailer moments until the audience is sick of him. Not in this case, though.
Cinematic dragons are rare, and good ones are even rarer. In my opinion, no movie dragon (not even Bruce Lee) has yet to top the one in Sleeping Beauty. It's a true monster, all snapping jaws and fiery breath and glowing eyes -- the stuff of nightmares. Even though this is a shiny happy Disney cartoon, there are moments when Phillip is confront when all you can think is, "He's screwed!"
Sleeping Beauty was previously released in a slick, extras-laden special edition, so why upgrade to this one? To begin, the picture has been upgraded to a super-wide 2.55:1 aspect ratio, and the entire film has undergone yet another digital restoration to match. The packaging alleges that this aspect ratio is the one Walt originally intended. The sound, in "Disney enhanced" 5.1 surround, has also received a new digital upgrading, and it fills the room with classical music and roaring dragons in a truly immersive sound experience.
Most of the extras have been brought over from the previous edition, with a few notable new ones, especially a never-before-seen alternate opening sequence. It's presented in a rough form, but that's good, to a get a glimpse at the raw work of the Disney artists of the time. A little less notable is a new music video by Emily Osment of Hanna Montana, based on the movie's signature "Once Upon a Dream" ballad.
As for the rest of the extras, there's a "cut and paste" commentary compiled of interview snippets of various performers, and a text commentary filled with amusing and interesting facts about the film. The "Picture Perfect" documentary is a good one, as are the featurettes about Tchaikovsky and Earle. "Grand Canyon" and "Four Artists Paint One Tree" are short films in the old-school Disney style. There are also some more deleted songs, storyboards and other art galleries, and theatrical trailers for the film. For younger viewers, there are a couple of interactive games and an interactive "walkthough" of Sleeping Beauty's castle.
It's one of the best movies ever made and an excellent DVD presentation. Quit reading this and go buy it already.
Not guilty. Skumps!
Review content copyright © 2008 Mac McEntire; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.40:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 75 Minutes
Release Year: 1959
MPAA Rating: Rated G
* Audio Commentary
* Princess Fun Facts
* Grand Canyon
* The Peter Tchaikovsky Story
* "Once Upon a Dream" Music Video
* Alternate Opening
* Picture Perfect: The Making of Sleeping Beauty
* Art Galleries
* Eyvind Earle: The Man and His Art
* Original Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough Attraction
* Sequence Eight (Forest Scene)
* Three Deleted Songs
* Four Artists Paint One Tree
* Storyboard Sequences
* Briar Rose's Enchanted Dance Game
* Sleeping Beauty Fun With Language Game