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Sleeping Beauty (SE)
DVD disk
10.08.2004 By: The Shootin Surgeon
Sleeping Beauty (SE) order
Director:
Various

Actors:
Mary Costa
Bill Shirley
Eleanor Audley

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Disney recounts the classic fairy tale of Aurora, a lovely princess put to sleep by an evil enchantress' curse until she can be revived by the kiss of true love. Through the help of three good fairies, she's kept away from the witch until Prince Philip dashes to the rescue.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
Disney’s golden era gave birth to some of the most legendary animated films in memory and SLEEPING BEAUTY is no exception. Endowed with beautiful, fluid animation, engaging characters and an unforgettable array of wonderful songs, it’s a treat for young, old and anyone who still gets a good feeling out of getting whisked away to an imaginary land where the endings are always happy. The usual blend of charming, frightening and comical characters can be found, each bearing his little peculiar twist. Among the funniest are the Sorceress Maleficent’s bungling henchmen, each as dumb as he’s ugly and the grandmotherly fairies who go to great lengths to protect Aurora from them.

The greatest asset of the movie though is Mary Costa, who voiced the Princess Aurora to perfection. She's good enough to make you really believe that a Prince would fall in love with a girl at the first sound of her voice echoing through the woods. It’s a short movie that lasts only about 75 minutes and a lot of that time is made up of listening to her lovely operatic tones. In a nutshell, what can be said about this film is that it remains one of the building blocks of what has become a long tradition of excellence that has produced other classics such as SNOW WHITE, PETER PAN and more. To this day, that tradition continues to create films that carry you away to your childhood every time you watch them and that always leave you feeling better.

SLEEPING BEAUTY also denotes a clean break from Disney's previous animation style. Led by background designer Eyvind Earle, the animation team created backdrops and sceneries of intricate detail and depth, a clear difference from the traditional fairy tale style used up until then and a fresh wind in animation altogether. The characters themselves blend into that environment through the use of wonderful techniques which are explained in detail in the special features on the DVD. Even if you're not interested in technical aspects of animation, this film is a "can't miss" affair that's worth keeping home for the kids and for an occasional late night viewing for yourself once they're in bed.
THE EXTRAS
As usual, Disney does a wonderful job of putting something for everyone on this 2-disc Special Edition. You'll find below a summary of all the bounty in the set

DISC 1:

Full Length Audio Commentary: This is the first time that I hear a commentary that has a host with many participants, but it works out pretty well. Voice talent, animators, current animators and more each discuss the effects the film had on their lives as well as their experiences in making it all happen.

DISC 2:

Games, Music & Fun

This is the section kids will have a blast with. It has a couple of easy little art projects explained in a step by step fashion, a sing along song and a music video. The highlight is the game in which little girls can answer questions in order to determine which of Disney’s Princesses they’re most alike (I’m Belle from BEAUTY AND THE BEAST!! Woo-hoo!!) and the one you might want to fast-forward through is the Music Video by teen band "No Secrets". It’s a lousy updated version of the film’s “Once Upon a Dream”. The great original song is the sing along.

History & Behind-the-Scenes

The Making of Sleeping Beauty: Hosted by film historian, critic and all-around nerd Leonard Maltin, this brief 15-minute documentary recaps some of the vital information about the film’s making. From the inspiration drawn from Tchaikovsky’s ballet to some of the basics of the revolutionary animation. It’s a very basic overview of the rest of the stuff you will find on this DVD.

Story: This contains a couple of text sub-sections relating the History of the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale as well as an outline of the 1951 story that was beginning to be adapted for Disney. There are also a couple of scenes that you can see via the storyboards created to aid the filmmakers.

Production: As you can imagine, creating an animated film is nothing if not tons of work and use of the imagination. In this section, the actual production of the film is divided into several categories. The music, design and backgrounds as far as artwork is concerned and also a clip of live-action references that were used for the animators to detail the movements of their characters.

A few things are also added that relate more to this particular edition rather than the 1959 original, namely an explanation of the restoration process used to give the film a fresh start and a comparison between the original 70mm reel and the Pan and Scan version.

Sleeping Beauty Virtual Galleries: Who says Disney says "art" and there are loads and loads of it in these galleries. With concept art for all the main characters, storyboards, layouts and backgrounds, posters and more, you can literally spend hours looking at various pictures, some of which have kids and/or adult commentaries attached. It’s quite interesting to see the characters evolve and take little parts of each concept in order to eventually take the form we’re now familiar with.

Publicity: This is a rather short section containing the Theatrical Trailer and Teaser from 1959 as well as the Trailer for the 1995 re-release of the film.

Sleeping Beauty Scrapbook: A bit of a throwaway, this section contains a bunch of pictures of products and publicity shots with the Sleeping Beauty name on them. There are also a few behind-the-scenes shots as well.

“Grand Canyon”: This 1958 Oscar winner for Best Short Subject, Live Action is a half-hour musical journey through the majestic Grand Canyon. With no narration but music instead, it’s actually pretty hypnotic.

“The Peter Tchaikovsky Story”: This is a half-hour long bio-pic of composer Peter Tchaikovsky, who composed a ballet based on the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale which inspired much of Disney’s film. The kid who plays Tchaikovsky is a bit stiff, but his French governess is actually very attractive. The film itself is a targeted at kids, they might enjoy it more than I did.

“Four Artists Paint One Tree”: This was, hands down, my favorite feature on the DVD and I still don’t know why. It begins with an intro by Walt Disney himself who explains that even though all artists have their own different styles, they need to work as a team in order to preserve the integrity of the art on an animated film. Following that, four of the film’s animators go off into the woods together and begin painting the same tree. It’s with the greatest anticipation that I waited to see what the results would be and lo and behold, they were each entirely different. Very interesting, especially since each artist explains the way he sees that one tree.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
There was a time when any family had a bookshelf stocked with fairy tales to read at bedtime. Times have changed, but the necessities of a child in terms of cultivating their senses and imagination haven't. No one does this better than Disney and even though it may be an expensive habit, it's worth keeping these classics close by. I have no kids of my own, but I'm always glad to have them when family visits or even to sneak away myself and watch.
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