REVIEW REWIND: Sleeping Beauty (1959)
Continuing my viewing of the Disney animated features in chronological order, we've come to the 1959 Disney classic Sleeping Beauty.
In this famous tale, we attend the celebration of the birth Princess Aurora. Everybody is there and the Three Good Fairies give their blessings. Flora and Fauna bestow the gifts of beauty and song upon her, but before Merryweather is able to give her gift, the proceedings are interrupted by the evil fairy Maleficent. She is insulted that she was not invited and curses Aurora to prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel at the age of sixteen and die. Merryweather is able to use her gift to change the death part to sleep which can be cured by true love's kiss, but that's the best she could do.
The King and Queen send Aurora into hiding for sixteen years where she lives with the Good Fairies. As they prepare for her to return home, they make a cake and dress for the occasion. The problem is that their constant quarreling has attracted the attention of Maleficent's raven Diablo. In the meantime, Aurora meets Prince Phillip in the forest where the two become quite smitten with each other not knowing that they were destined to be married.
Diablo delivers the news to Maleficent who prepares a trap and Aurora ends up pricking her finger on a spindle and falls into a deep sleep. The Good Fairies have the whole kingdom fall asleep until they can fix everything. They dispatch Prince Phillip to battle Maleficent and, in the end, bestow true love's kiss. And they live happily ever after.
Sleeping Beauty is a gorgeous film heavily influenced by Evyind Earle who provided the luscious and beautiful backgrounds with his geometric shaped trees. Tom Oreb designed the characters to compliment Earle's style, giving them a similar geometric feel. The Cinemascope aspect of the film gave it that wonderfully epic feel.
The music for Sleeping Beauty was done a little differently than other Disney movies. Because there was a ballet by Tchaikovsky for Sleeping Beauty, Walt wanted to use the music for his movie. George Bruns was tasked with creating music for the soundtrack using Tchaikovsky's music. It is some of Disney's most beautiful music.
Sleeping Beauty was also the first time that Disney attempted to give the prince a personality. He even had a name in Phillip as opposed to just The Prince or Prince Charming. He fought for his love's life and spoke much more than the other princes. And it cannot be ignored that the film produced perhaps the most beloved Disney villain in Maleficent. She was just so evil, yet elegant. And definitely somebody to be feared.
Unfortunately, the film was met with many problems and an exploding budget. The character designs proved to be difficult and animation was not happening fast enough. At the same time, they were met with the problem of the wide aspect ratios. Sleeping Beauty ended up being the most costly film up to that point. Walt, who's attention was already diverted by Disneyland, grew increasingly frustrated with animation at that point. He even looked for less expensive ways to do it, including introducing the xeroxed cells for 101 Dalmatians.
That said, Walt still looked for ways to promote the film. One of them being changing the name of the castle at Disneyland to Sleeping Beauty Castle. It was originally supposed to be Snow White's castle.
Regardless of how well the film did, it is undeniable that Sleeping Beauty is one of the most enduring classics in the Disney canon.