Similarities—the evil witch-of-sorts, the ravishing prince, the friendship with woodland creatures, the helpful supporters—are aplenty in Sleeping Beauty, which is based just as much on the WD filmography as it is Peter Tchaikovsky’s ballet and Charles Perrault’s 1697 novel.
The 1959 film opens with the christening of Princess Aurora (voice of Mary Costa) and the three fairies who bestow gifts upon her: beauty, song, and—enter Maleficent (voice of Eleanor Audley), Mistress of All Evil, who promises Aurora death on her 16th birthday, when she’ll prick her finger on a spinning wheel. Fortunately, the third fairy uses her blessing to assure Aurora merely fall asleep when pricked…instead, curiously, of not being harmed at all. The further protect Aurora, the fairies Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather house the princess in the woods and dub her Briar Rose until Maleficent’s curse is nullified.
But of course the princess falls victim to the curse, and Prince Phillip (voice of Bill Shirley) must rush to the rescue, just in time for the final battle, which lasts less than 90 seconds. But in between, the film hits every WD trademark: wicked soliloquies, humor minor characters, and a soundtrack full of musical numbers (most forgettable, though the George Bruns music scored an Academy Award nomination).
But this isn’t to dismiss Sleeping Beauty as “just another Disney classic.” Supervising director Clyde Geronimi, with the aid of a team of artists (including Eyvind Earle) and Disney create a hand-drawn world of vibrant colors, medieval tones, and detailed backgrounds, producing some of the best animation the Walt Disney Company has ever put to celluloid.
Audio Commentary with John Lasseter, Andreas Déja, and Leonard Maltin: The Pixar director, the animator, and the film critic have an enthusiastic, fact-filled chat about Sleeping Beauty, noting the brilliance of the animation, their memories of the film, and its importance.
Grand Canyon (28:54) is an Oscar-winning short film that screened with Sleeping Beauty during its initial run, with footage of the Grand Canyon set to Ferde Grofé's “Grand Canyon Suite.” Awfully long, but also relaxing.
The Peter Tchaikovsky Story (49:23): This 1959 dramatization (available in two versions) covers the renowned Russian composer, his ballet Sleeping Beauty, and the feature film that was inspired by the work. Included are previews of the film and comments from Walt Disney himself.
Also on Disc One are Princess Fun Facts, which pop up throughout the film’s duration, a Music Video, and Song Selection, which allows you to view the film with on-screen lyrics.
Picture Perfect: The Making of Sleeping Beauty (43:30): Animators, historians, and others (including the voice of Aurora, Mary Costas) gather to discuss the merits of the 1959 film, including the unique look, memorable characters, voice talent, musical numbers, and more.
Eyvind Earle: The Man and His Art (7:32) gathers a number of commentators to paint a portrait of Earle, who was a color stylist on Sleeping Beauty and background artist on other Disney projects.
Sequence 8 (5:29) details the famed Nine Old Men’s painstaking work on the sequence, which cost $10,000 to create.
The Alternate Opening (3:26) is presented through drawings and the scrapped number “Holiday.”
Deleted Songs: There are three here: “It Happens I Have a Picture,” in a newly recorded version, “Riddle Diddle,” set to illustrations, and “Go To Sleep,” whose sequence is animated.
Storyboard Sequences: There are two here: “The Fairies Put the Castle to Sleep” and “The Capture of the Prince,” both with comparisons to their animated counterparts and an introduction by Andreas Déja.
Live Action References (2:11): There are three here (“Briar Rose Dances,” “Prince Phillip Fights the Dragon,” and “The Queen and a Good Fairy”), which can be viewed separately or in a bunch. This is a neat behind-the-scenes bit that shows how the animators are able to breathe life into their drawings.
Original Disneyland Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough Attractions: This feature allows you to explore the castle either in Auto Mode or With Guided Tour by Walt Disney Imagineer Tony Baxter, which has special interactive options that takes you further into the creation of several sequences in Sleeping Beauty. Also included is a History of… (9:51), which takes a look at the construction, attractions, and planned reopening of Sleeping Beauty’s castle in Disneyland.
Four Artists Paint One Tree (16:06): With narration by Walt Disney, this intimate featurette shows how animators Marc Davis, Eyvind Earle, Josh Meadow, and Walt Peregoy all worked together to create the look and style of Sleeping Beauty, with footage of each individual painting a tree. A fascinating and useful piece for aspiring artists.
Also on Disc Two are 8 Art Galleries and 3 Trailers.
And what’s a Disney Platinum Edition without Games & Activities? Briar Rose’s Enchanted Dance Game allows you to either “play a dancing game with the woodland animals” or “take a waltz lesson,” while the Fun with Language Game is useful to those who have no idea what a bucket is.