Sleeping Beauty has the distinction of being the last full-length animation presided over by Walt Disney himself. Six years in production and costing the studio six million dollars, this film adaptation of the famous fairytale features a musical score inspired by the work of composer Peter Tchaikovsky.
The story begins with the long awaited arrival of a baby princess. To celebrate the royal birth, the entire kingdom comes together to bestow their best wishes on the infant. Well, not the entire kingdom. As it turns out, an evil witch named Maleficent (voiced by Eleanor Audley) didn't make it onto the guest list. In response to this deliberate oversight, the spiteful sorceress pronounces that before the sun sets on the child's sixteenth birthday, she will prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and die.
Although unable to remove the curse, three good Fairy Godmothers, Flora, Fauna and Merryweather (voices of Verna Felton, Barbara Jo Allen and Barbara Luddy), attempt to ease Maleficent's dire sentence by changing the consequences of the injury from death to an enchanted sleep that can be broken by true love's kiss. But just incase their magic isn't enough, the trio take the extra precaution of sneaking the babe out of the castle and into the woods where she will be raised in anonymity until the risky time period has passed.
The plan works perfectly until the day of Princess Aurora's (voiced by Mary Costa) sixteenth birthday. During those fateful, last few hours, two calamities occur: the young woman's hiding place and identity are accidentally revealed, and she falls in love with a mysterious man she meets in the forest (voice of Bill Shirley). When this information is passed on to Maleficent, she pounces on what she knows will be her last opportunity. Now the only way to stop the wicked woman's diabolical prediction from coming true is if the doting Godmothers and the handsome stranger can find a way to intervene.
While this well-loved classic is familiar to many, parents of little ones will want to remember just how frightening the menacing Maleficent may look through young eyes. Casting spells, commanding pig-faced minions and transforming into a dangerous dragon, this fiery female makes a formidable foe. As well, families will want to note the comical depiction of a toast to health and happiness that turns into tipsy name-calling and eventually a drunken fight.
Fortunately the tale also conveys the idea of truth and virtue being the greatest defense against the powers of darkness, and the notion true love conquers all. These central themes are likely part of the enduring nature of Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty -- which has made back its original budget and then some for the magic kingdom.
Content Details: Beyond the Movie Ratings...
In this animated fairytale, a cold and calculating evil sorceress casts a fatal spell on a young infant. When her plans are foiled, she sends an army of pig-faced minions and a pet bird to search for the missing princess. Later, the wicked woman uses her powers to create obstacles for her opponent, like thorn bushes and a fire. As well, she turns herself into a dragon before fighting. A young man is locked in a dungeon, shot at with arrows and narrowly escapes being hit with falling rocks and boiling water. Characters find themselves in peril and one is put into a magical trance. Some swordplay is shown and an animal is stabbed (a little blood is depicted). In a comedic fashion, two men are portrayed becoming drunk during a series of toasts, which leads to name-calling and the threat of a duel. Another character passes out after drinking too much alcohol. Characters kiss.
Discussion Ideas: Talk About the Movie...
When arguing about his future, a young man reminds his father that it is now the fourteenth century. Why do young people sometimes have trouble listening to those who are older then they are? Does age contribute to wisdom? Do some notions become old-fashioned? How would you handle the differing opinions on each side of the generation gap?
In fairytales, characters usually fall in love very quickly. What qualities about Aurora attract the young stranger? Are they enough for a lasting relationship? What things do you think should be considered when looking for that special someone?
Disney animators often reused character designs in various films. Look at the similarities between King Hubert in Sleeping Beauty, Prince Charming’s father in Cinderella and the Sultan in Aladdin. (What other duplicates can you spot?) The combination live-action/ animation movie Enchanted humorously contrasts fairytale romantic ideals (like those found in this story) with real life relationships.
Home Video Notes
Blu-ray Notes: Sleeping Beauty: Diamond Edition
Blu-ray Release Date: 7 October 2014
Disney’s Sleeping Beauty release in a Diamond Edition (Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy) with the following extras:
- All the previous bonus features releases on the DVD (see below), plus:
- Once Upon A Parade: Sarah Hyland (star of Modern Family) tells us the tale of Walt Disney World’s new Festival Of Fantasy Parade.
- Art of Evil: Generations Of Disney Villains: Spotlight on Disney’s favorite villain animator and Maleficent creator Marc Davis
- @DisneyAnimation: Artists in Motion: Walt Disney Animation Visual Development artist Brittney Lee goes through the process of creating a three dimensional sculpture of Maleficent, completely out of paper.
- Deleted scenes: The Fair (with Deleted Character The Vulture,) The Curse is Fulfilled and Arrival Of Maleficent.
- Beauty-Oke sing-along to Once Upon A Dream.
Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty: 50th Anniversary Platinum Edition
DVD Release Date: 7 October 2008
Walt Disney’s classic fairytale Sleeping Beauty reawakens (for a limited time) in this 50th Anniversary Platinum Edition, presented in its original 70 mm film aspect ratio. This two-disc set has been showered with many bonus extras like a recently discovered alternate opening and four deleted songs. Featurettes include a making-of documentary and a look at how many artists it takes to paint one tree. Along with games (Fun With English and Briar Rose Enchanted Dance Game), song selections and a music video (Emily Osment croons an updated version of Once Upon a Dream), there are two additional Disney productions: The Peter Tchaikovsky Story (a dramatization of the composer’s life which aired as an episode of the Walt Disney TV show to introduce the studio’s upcoming release of Sleeping Beauty) and Grand Canyon (the award-winning short film featuring panoramic vistas that accompanied Sleeping Beauty’s theatrical run). Past theme park visitors will also appreciate the opportunity to take a 3D tour of the former Disneyland Attraction, The Sleeping Beauty Castle Walk-Through. Audio tracks are available in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English, French and Spanish), with subtitles in English, French and Spanish.
Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty is also releasing on Blu-ray Disc. Don’t have a Blu-ray player yet?
Have no fear. The studio’s marketing team has thought of a solution for you. Buy the Blu-ray edition anyway (before the sales window closes), because they have included a standard DVD copy of the movie in the package. Then you’ll be prepared when you get a player in the future. (You might want to jot one down on your Christmas wish list). And why do you want the Blu-ray version? Because it not only has all the extras materials found in the DVD set, but it also offers more games (Maleficent’s Challenge and Dragon Encounter), a Cine-explore commentary (with picture-in-picture options), a customizable menu and a featurette about the sound track’s restoration. As well, there are BD-live network options, allowing you to chat, send movie mail, play movie trivia games and collect redeemable reward points. (How could Santa possibly say no to all that!)