STUDIO: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
MSRP: $14.99
RUNNING TIME: 75 minutes
•  Once Upon a Dream music video
•  Disney song selection
•  Audio Commentary
•  Princess Fun Facts
•  Grand Canyon
•  The Peter Tchaikovsky Story
•  Briar Rose’s Enchanted Dance Game
•  Sleeping Beauty Fun With Language Game
•  Picture Perfect: The Making of Sleeping Beauty
•  Alternate Opening
•  Deleted songs
•  Storyboard sequences
•  Live Action Reference
•  Art Galleries
•  Original Disneyland Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough Attraction
•  Trailers
•  Four Artists Paint One Tree

The Pitch

Some fairy tales never get old.

The Humans

Mary Costa, Bill Shirley, Eleanor Audley, Verma Felton, Barbara Luddy, Barbara Jo Allen, Taylor Holmes, Bill Thompson.

The Nutshell

Inspired by the Peter Tchaikovsky ballet and using much of his music, this is the 1959 Disney animated story of a princess who falls into a magical slumber due to the curse of an evil sorceress and who must be awakened by the kiss of true love.

“I’m digging you, baby.  Let’s hook up.”
“No, I couldn’t possibly, I – “
“I’m loaded.”
“Pick me up at eight…”

The Lowdown

In 1992 I worked in a movie theatre and was looking forward to watching the Pinocchio re-release because I hadn’t seen it since I was little.  I hated it.  I could barely sit through it because it was so trite and to me, virtually unwatchable.  I haven’t seen Sleeping Beauty in nearly 30 years and had no such problem with it.  This is one of Walt Disney’s truly epic animated productions and still holds up well, 50 years later.  Despite the very traditional and almost boilerplate formula that Disney had established with prior productions like Snow White and Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty’s lavishness of production can’t be denied and it’s still a joy to watch, even to a crotchety thirtysomething bastard such as myself.

“Oooh, shiny…”

It’s perhaps that this was essentially Disney’s last grand production, filmed in a 70-millimeter Technirama process that bestowed unprecedented imagery for the time.  And although the story is rather uncomplicated, the attention to character design, music and conflict still makes it one of Disney’s best animated features.  If there’s one issue with the film, it’s the lead character herself.  Princess Aurora only appears for less than 20 minutes of the film, and isn’t one of Disney’s best-realized heroines in terms of strength of character.  She’s completely eclipsed in that regard by Cinderella or Ariel.  So the film relies a lot upon the supporting characters, particularly the Three Fairies and Maleficent.  However, Maleficent is one of Disney’s best villains, outclassing the evil Queen in Show White, although perhaps not quite up to Cruella De Vil. 

“So, Phillip, you ever see the Elisha Cuthbert film, Captivity?”

The film benefits from Tchaikovsky’s musical score and was the last production to use traditional hand-drawn ink cells, and animator Eyvind Earle’s color stylings and background designs.  It actually surprises me that, despite the film’s obvious technical achievements, I still gravitate to the the story itself, which just works, although it’s very reminiscent of Snow White, with the Three Fairies filling in for the Seven Dwarfs.  I also always liked Prince Phillip more than the poncy Prince Charming.  He’s the classic fairy tale hero: gallant and a man of action and few words.  Disney rightly had him speak very little, rather letting the action tell the story.  The climactic battle with Maleficent frightened me as a child and still thrills even today.  It’s a stunning piece of animation. 

“So you’re saying all I have to do is say ‘By the power of Grayskull’ and I become a man mountain of muscle, huh?  Kooky…”

Mary Costa also impresses in the short amount of time that she speaks and sings in the film.  And although a lot of the Disney novelties, such as the woodland creatures, royal figures such as kings, queens, a prince, princess and fairy godmothers are present in the film, they don’t come off as trite at all.  This film isn’t as visually imaginative as Fantasia, and doesn’t seem to get the love that other Disney films get such as Snow White, Pinocchio, or Dumbo, but in terms of classic Disney fairy tale storytelling, I did and continue to think that Sleeping Beauty is the standard.  This is simply a gorgeous and well-made film.

“Kill da wabbit.  Kill da wabbit.  Kill da WAAAAAABIT…”

The Package

The film has has been digitally restored and just jumps off the screen.  It’s also presented in what’s called Disney Enhanced Home Theatre Mix, in English, French and Spanish Dolby 5.1, with accompanying subtitles available.  There are a ton of special features, and they break down like so:

Disc 1:

There’s a music video by Emily Osment (Haley’s kid sis) singing Once Upon a Dream, modern Disney kid rocker style.  Disney Song Selection is a feature that allows you to jump straight to a musical number in the movie.  There’s also an audio commentary with Pixar honcho John Lasseter, animator Andreas Deja and Leonard Maltin.  Princess Fun Facts are little pop up factoids about the movie. 

“Uh, okay listen, maybe we got off on the wrong foot with that whole ‘evil PMSing sorceress bitch’ crack earlier…”

Grand Canyon
is a a 1958 Disney production by James Algar of a visual representation of Ferde Grofe’s Grand Canyon Suite that won the 1958 Oscar for Best Short Subject.  It’s like a Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom set to classical music and runs about 29 minutes.  Finally, The Peter Tchaikovsky Story was a Disney production that was the first program to be shown in widescreen and stereo simulcast on TV.  It even features an intro by Walt himself and footage of the upcoming Sleeping Beauty

Disc 2:

This disc has all of the new special features for this 50th anniversary release.  Briar Rose’s Enchanted Dance Game is an interactive game for kids that either teaches the Waltz or does a memory game.  Sleeping Beauty Fun With Language Game is another kid’s game available in English, Spanish or French.  I know this is a game for small children, but this is probably the most annoying feature on the disc as the chick narrating this game does so like its for retards, in a slow, tedious voice.  I could take only about 30 seconds before I almost jumped off my balcony.  Picture Perfect is a quite good 43-minute making of documentary of the film featuring contributions from people who worked on the film, film historians and Mary Costa.  Eyvind Earle: The Man and His Art is an eight-minute piece on animator Earle. 

“Aurora?  Hello?  Are you awake?  What?  You want me to suck your toes?  Sure, I can do that…”

Sequence 8 is a five-minute piece on the animation of Sequence 8, which was the dancing sequence in the glen.  There’s a storyboard sequence of an alternate opening.  There are three deleted songs which also get the same storyboard treatment, as well as two storyboard sequences: the Fairies putting the castle to sleep and the capture of the Prince, with an intro by Andreas Deja.  These sequences compare the storyboards to the film footage.  Live Action Reference is an interesting feature where they show what amounted to 1950s motion capture: having live actors model the action sequences for the animators to reference.  This consists of Briar Rose dancing, the Prince fighting the dragon and the Queen and a good family.  There are copious art galleries of many sequences of the film: Visual development, Character Design, Storyboard Art, Live Action Reference, The Sleeping Beauty Storybook, Layouts and Backgrounds, Production Photos and Publicity. 

“Okay, we’ve saved the kingdom, Maleficent’s dead, and Aurora and Phillip are gonna do the whole ‘happily ever after’ shtick.  Now what?”
“Shrek’s hosting a kegger later on.”
“Sounds like a plan…”

There’s the Original Disneyland Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough and Attraction.  This is broken into three parts: an Auto Mode of the walkthrough of the attraction, a more in-depth guided tour by Walt Disney Imagineer Tony Baxter, with branching segments via the three fairies, and a history of the attraction and Disneyland itself, hosted by Baxter.  There are three trailers, the 1959 teaser, the 1959 theatrical and the 1995 re-release trailer.  Finally, 4 Artists Paint 1 Tree is an old feature introduced by Walt Disney where four artists paint one tree to show how artists can approach the same subject differently, but that no one of them is correct, rather they all are. 

Man, there’s enough here to keep fans of Sleeping Beauty, young and old, busy for hours.  This is a really great offering.

8.3 out of 10