Disney has been a big part of my life since the time I was just a bump in my mother’s belly. I’ve visited Walt Disney World well over one hundred times (seriously), worked there twice, have collections of Disney memorabilia out the wazoo, and have seen every Disney film ever made. There is just something about the magic of Disney that makes everyone feel like a child and takes them back to simpler times. And it all started with a mouse, but from that mouse came a huge franchise of films that have represented a lifetime of fantasy for numerous people. True stories, make believe, toys coming to life, talking bugs, and most notably of all, fairy tales. Disney always knew how to deliver the goods and that is no different when talking about Princess Aurora.
In case you haven’t heard the tale by now and even more so, Disney’s version, let me fill you in. Our story begins as a beautiful young daughter is born and she is given the name Aurora. Born to a king and queen, she of course takes on the title of Princess Aurora. She is given gifts upon her birth which include some wonderful things from good fairies Flora, Fauna, and Meriweather. But along with those fantastic things comes the gift of a cursed spinning wheel from the evil witch, Maleficent. Maleficent’s curse states that the Princess will prick her finger on the spinning wheel and die before her sixteenth birthday. Luckily the third good fairy had not yet given her gift to Aurora, and while she can’t lift the curse, she at least can amend it. Her reverse spell says that even if by some chance Aurora does prick her finger on the wheel; she will not die but go into a deep sleep until awakened only by true love’s first kiss.
The three fairies take all measures possible not to have Aurora prick her finger on the spinning wheel by taking her deep into the forest until her sixteenth birthday. In order to keep her safe from Maleficent, they even change her name to Briar Rose so that she cannot be found. While hidden away and acting as a common peasant, Aurora (Briar Rose) meets a handsome Prince named Philip and falls madly in love with him. Yet before they can bring their love together, Maleficent finds her and tricks her into pricking her finger on the spinning wheel so that she falls into a deep, eternal sleep. Believing she has won, Maleficent retires to her castle to bask in her victory. Prince Philip though will not sit idly back as he must do battle with the shape-changing Maleficent (now as a dragon) and deliver the kiss of true love. But he must first withstand Maleficent’s fire breath and razor sharp talons.
One of the timeless classics in both fairy tale and Disney lore, Sleeping Beauty
is a great story that is rather simple and easy to love or hate. It is easy to get involved in and follow along with because it is an open and shut case of good versus evil. Princess Aurora represents the ultimate in pure goodness, but is oblivious to the fact as to why she is so important. Maleficent is all that is evil and will stoop to any level to make sure the Princess’ light is extinguished prematurely. Little does she realize that the fight for good will be fought by the able-bodied Prince Philip whose love is much stronger for Aurora then any evil magic could ever be. It allows children to fantasize and hope to be the girl who finds her prince (true love), and it gives little boys to be the hero that slays the dragon.
On the other hand, not many people are thrilled with Sleeping Beauty
because, let’s face it, it’s not the most exciting Disney film ever created. There are numerous moments when it gets a little dull, and sometimes even quite boring. The opening is very exciting with all the anticipation of what Maleficent will do and her curse being laid upon the princess. Fast forward to the ending which is just awesome with the battle between Prince Philip and Maleficent as a dragon. When that is all said and done, you’re all worked up and glad to see a happy ending. Then there is everything in between which just seems to drag on and on without sight of relief. The only distinct change in temp is when Aurora starts singing the famed “Once Upon A Dream.” Other then that, I’d be happy with a film consisting of the beginning and ending and lasting all of twenty-five minutes.
The film is shown in 2.55:1 Anamorphic Widescreen format and it looks absolutely gorgeous. Disney has done a wonderful job of touching up every single aspect of the film and making all the colors brighter and much more vibrant. It is great also seeing much more of the scenes since the remastering to put the film into its original aspect ratio.
The film is heard in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound and it also is great for the viewing experience of any Disney film. All dialogue can be heard very clearly while the sound effects and music really sound fantastic.
“Once Upon A Dream” Music Video
Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough – Wander through the hallways and rooms of Sleeping Beauty’s castle complete with narration, a historical background, and diagrams showing us concepts for its creation. This walkthrough featurette runs just about eight minutes. It’s really a fun look and I can’t recall if they did this for Cinderella’s castle on that DVD release, but it’s something I’d like to see.
Alternate Opening – This is actually a really different look at the story as the alternate opening is shown with storyboards and drawings. It takes us through the baptism of Princess Aurora and a musical number about holidays.
Deleted Songs – Three different songs are given here with storyboard animations to go along with them. Kind of glad they left them out as they just don’t quite seem to fit.
“Picture Perfect: The Making Of Sleeping Beauty“ – What a wonderful feature this ends up being. It is a forty-four minute long “making of” featurette that covers every single aspect from inception all the way up to the film’s release in theatres and onto DVD today. Conceptual art from the early fifties is shown along with narration and interviews from all those involved in the making of it. Lots of still shots from backstage voice acting and animators working are shown as well making the whole experience that much better. This must be seen to be totally appreciated.
Briar Rose’s Enchanted Dance Game – You can either play a dancing game with the woodland creatures or get a waltz lesson. Kids will like it, not so much the adults.
Princess Fun Facts – Pop-Up Video time as you can watch the film through with fun facts showing up on the screen every now and again.
Grand Canyon – Old school “Walt Disney Presents” here gives us a musical tour of the Grand Canyon. This close to thirty minutes feature is a lot more entertaining then it has any right to be in this day and time.
The Peter Tchaikovsky Story – This story was originally aired on January 30, 1959 and it marked the first widescreen presentation and the first stereo simulcast on TV. You’ll get all this information before the feature actually begins. There are also two versions of this film in which Walt Disney explains what viewers needed to do to hear the stereo portion of the show. The story itself is about a young boy and his piano, but it was the innovations back then that were the big deal. This feature runs just under fifty minutes.
Sleeping Beauty Fun With Language Game – Another game with Sleeping Beauty and going through different languages. Another game that kids will enjoy, but not the grown-ups.
Audio Commentary – John Lasseter, critic Leonard Maltin, and lead animator Andreas Deja are together for the commentary track and they just dissect the film like no other. They give little bits of secret information along with pointing out things that some people, including myself, may never have noticed. It is truly a fun listen and deserves watching the film a second time through to hear it.
Art Galleries – Eight galleries in all show hundreds of pieces of artwork from the first stages of development to live action references and even publicity.
Eyvind Earle: The Man And His Art – Here is a brief seven-and-a-half-minute feature showcasing the life of background designer and artist Eyvind Earle. It showcases his work on Sleeping Beauty along with numerous other issues he had to deal with in his life.
Four Artists Paint One Tree – The man himself, Walt Disney provides narration and advice to four artists as they show how to work together to paint one tree. It looks as if this sixteen-minute segment was lifted from one of the old Wonderful World Of Disney episodes.
Live Action Reference – I enjoy this feature a lot as it shows live action models partaking in specific scenes from the film as artists draw them to get the full effect. Sadly this feature only lasts two minutes and eleven seconds, but it’s still fun.
Storyboard Sequences – Two scenes from the film are compared one on top of the other with their storyboards to show how they went from creation to finished product. It’s always fun checking out scenes with how they were originally imagined and so interesting seeing them frame by frame together.
Sequence 8 (Forest Scene) – One of the most memorable scenes in the entire film sees Briar Rose (Aurora) singing and playing with the woodland animals and also meeting Prince Philip. While it is one of the most important moments in the film, it also brought about a lot of trouble for the filmmakers and animators. It seems there were a lot of problems concerning this scene including numerous budget issues.
Publicity – Included here is the original teaser trailer, the original theatrical trailer from 1959, and the re-release trailer from 1995.
Trailers – Pinocchio 70th Anniversary: Platinum Edition, The Princess And The Frog, Tinkerbell, and Space Buddies
When it comes to animated Disney films, there are the newer ones which are associated with Pixar and then there are those which are to be considered the classics of hand-drawn animation. Sleeping Beauty falls into the latter category, but it is far from being one of my favorites. Snow White, Tarzan, Beauty And The Beast, and Pinocchio hold those honors far and above anything else. While it is a good film, it’s just not one that can always hold my attention or would make me want to watch it repeatedly. I will say that they did a great job with the special features in this first time edition in the Platinum Collection. There’s so much extra footage to watch along with countless hours of stuff to learn about all that went on with the making of the film. Throw in the fact that the film has been remastered to heights of which I’ve never seen before this side of animation, and that adds even more. Children and adults alike will love this story and will always enjoy the wonderful music from the film, but don’t be surprised if the little ones don’t clamor over it like they would the seven dwarfs from Snow White or the lost boys from Peter Pan.
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents Sleeping Beauty: Two-Disc Platinum Edition. Directed by: Clyde Geronimi. Starring (voices): Mary Costa, Bill Shirley, Eleanor Audley, Verna Felton, Barbara Luddy, Barbara Jo Allen. Written by: Erdman Penner & Charles Perrault. Running time: 75 minutes. Rating: G. Released on DVD: October 7, 2008. Available at Amazon.com