Sleeping Beauty awakens a new generation of fans.
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.