Sleeping Beauty (Special Edition)


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Rating: G

Mary Costa as Princess Aurora/Briar Rose
Bill Shirley as Prince Phillip
Eleanor Audley as Maleficent
Verna Felton as Flora
Barbara Luddy as Merryweather
Barbara Jo Allen as Fauna
Taylor Holmes as King Stefan
Bill Thompson as King Hubert

Special Features:
“Once Upon a Dream: The Making of Sleeping Beauty”

The Design: Film Historian Leonard Maltin and Others Share Their Thoughts on the Design of the Film

The Music: Singer Mary Costa Reminisces About the Film

The Restoration

Sleeping Beauty 3-D Virtual Galleries

Story Reel: “The Capture of the Prince”

Story Reel: “The Fairies Put the Castle to Sleep”

Widescreen-to-Full screen Comparison

Creating the Backgrounds

Helene Stanley Dance Reference — Live Action Reference

Live Action Reference of Prince Phillip

Four Artists Paint One Tree — Walt Disney Hosts This Vintage Special

“The Peter Tchaikovsky Story” (1959 “Disneyland” TV Show)

“Grand Canyon” Film Short

Rescue Aurora Set-Top Adventure Game

Sleeping Beauty Ink and Paint Game

Disney Art Project

Music Video By “No Secrets” – Once Upon (Another) Dream

Sing Along Song

Princess Personality Profile

Original Trailers

Other Info:
Fullscreen and Widescreen – Enhanced for 16×9 Televisions
Dolby 5.1 Digital Surround Sound
THX Certified
Running Time: 75 Minutes

This was Disney’s third fairy tale animated feature. It was released in 1959 and was based on the classic fairy tale. It also used the music from Peter Tchaikovsky’s ballet “Sleeping Beauty”. This is the first time this film has been on DVD.

In an enchanted kingdom, a princess is born to a king and queen. She is named Aurora. However, an evil sorceress named Maleficent puts a curse on the baby. When she is 16 years old, she will prick her finger and die. Attempting to foil the curse, three fairies named Flora, Merryweather, Fauna take Aurora into hiding to keep her safe until her 16th birthday. They name her Briar Rose.

Years later the evil sorceress locates the hidden Aurora and fulfills her curse. However, rather than dying, she is put into a deep sleep. She can only be awakened by the kiss of her love, Prince Phillip. It’s up to the Prince to save the day with the help of the fairies, but first he must deal with the Maleficent and her evil magic.

Sleeping Beauty is rated G.

The Movie:
I hadn’t seen Sleeping Beauty in quite a while. The last time I saw it was in a theater in the early 80’s. I remember the experience quite well because I got sick eating popcorn soaked in butter. To this day I haven’t eaten popcorn at theaters with butter on it. Horrible, life scarring childhood memories aside, it was quite a treat t see Sleeping Beauty again. My daughter is really into Disney Princesses, and despite having loads of merchandise with Aurora’s image on it, she had never seen the movie. Now that the DVD is available, she has watched it repeatedly with great enjoyment.

The new version looks fantastic. The picture and sound have been remastered and it looks better than ever before. Sleeping Beauty has a unique artistic style and look from all the other Disney animated films. The style goes a long way in transporting you to a fairy tale land. Besides the artistry of the movie, I was struck with how violent it could be. Prince Phillip’s battle with the dragon is easily one of the most exciting and memorable scenes in a Disney animated film. (When the dragon was killed, my daughter asked me what that “red stuff” was. This led to a debate with her on whether or not dragon blood is red.) The scene kicks off with Maleficent summoning “the forces of Hell” to transform herself into a dragon. I was amused to think of what people who accuse Harry Potter of being satanic will think of this.

For the most part, the film has aged well. The animation is beautiful and the score is superb. Using Tchaikovsky’s music from the Sleeping Beauty ballet gives the film timelessness and a classic sound. You’ll be humming “Once Upon A Dream” days after viewing this. Other parts of the film don’t hold up so well. Some of the sound effects in the dragon battle are really not that impressive anymore. Lightning bolts are symbols smashing together and the dragon roar is nothing more than a sound guy growling in a jar. The THX treatment doesn’t do anything to help it. The story also seems lacking, especially after the recent re-release of Snow White. The stories seem almost identical. A young girl is stalked by an evil witch and must be saved a Prince who awakes her from a deathly sleep. Seem familiar?

All this aside, though, the film is a true animated classic. Little girls will love it. Animation fans will be thrilled with the restoration. Adult fans will be eager to add it to their collections for the sake of nostalgia. All in all, it’s a DVD worth picking up.

The Extras:
Disney has done a great job reissuing the classics on DVD, and Sleeping Beauty is no exception. They have truly scoured the archives to give you anything and everything related to the movie. The result is a top-notch DVD presentation. Here are some of the highlights from the DVD:

“Once Upon a Dream: The Making of Sleeping Beauty” – This is kind of an overall look at the making of the movie. It summarizes the most interesting aspects from the other extra features and puts them into one nice 20-minute or so documentary. If you watch this, you may not want to watch the rest of the behind the scenes features. They go into detail on the look of the film, the music, how Disney himself was involved, and more. There are numerous interviews with the surviving cast and crew. They also talk to some of the modern Disney directors to hear their thoughts on this animated classic. Overall a great behind the scenes feature.

The Design: Film Historian Leonard Maltin and Others Share Their Thoughts on the Design of the Film – This documentary gets into greater detail on the unique look of the film. They go into depth about how medieval art was researched and where the artists got their inspirations. What’s interesting about this is that this was one of the first Disney animated features where they designed all the look of the movie on the artistic style of one man.

The Music: Singer Mary Costa Reminisces About the Film – Mary Costa was the voice of Aurora in the film. She talks about how she was chosen for the role, how she worked with Disney, and how she went from there into a career in opera.

The Restoration – While it may not be initially apparent when watching the film, it was heavily restored for the DVD release. This short feature goes into some detail on how they underwent the process. It’s quite interesting technically and the side by side comparisons make you appreciate just how much work they put into it. It’s an amazing difference.

Sleeping Beauty 3-D Virtual Galleries – All of the concept art, storyboards, production artwork, and more are put in this gallery format. The video makes it look like you’re walking through an art gallery in a castle. You can stop and admire the paintings while listening to some commentary. It’s a slick presentation, especially for fans of Disney art.

Story Reel: “The Capture of the Prince” & “The Fairies Put the Castle to Sleep” – In this feature, you get to see a comparison between he original storyboards of key sequences and the final products. It’s a unique insight into the creative process and it’s interesting to see how the look of the film was established at the very early stage.

Widescreen-to-Full screen Comparison – For those unfamiliar with the difference between widescreen and pan and scan, this short feature shows a comparison between the two. While I prefer widescreen, this comparison doesn’t do much to convince the viewer that they are missing something. Since this widescreen format was new for Disney animators, it almost seems like they didn’t quite know what to do with all the extra space.

Creating the Backgrounds – This is a detailed presentation on the making of the backgrounds. They are beautiful paintings on their own and this shows how they were made. You get to watch the artists painting happy trees.

Helene Stanley Dance Reference & Live Action Reference of Prince Phillip
— Live Action Reference – Sleeping Beauty relied heavily on live action reference, and this shows some of the surviving footage from that reference material. There isn’t as much of the Prince Philip footage as the Helen Stanley footage, but you get the picture well enough.

Four Artists Paint One Tree — Walt Disney Hosts This Vintage Special – This is a segment from the old Disneyland TV show from the 50’s. They talk about how the artists tried to combine their styles into one look for the film and characters. It’s interesting to hear Disney talking about Sleeping Beauty in his own words and this feature has a lot of the behind the scenes footage that is used in other extras on this DVD.

“The Peter Tchaikovsky Story” (1959 “Disneyland” TV Show) – This is a short biography of Tchaikovsky as portrayed by actors. It also aired on the Disneyland TV show. It follows him as a child with a gift for music through adulthood and his writing of the critically panned Swan Lake ballet. The film concludes with his writing Sleeping Beauty. It’s interesting if you’re not familiar with the Russian composer.

“Grand Canyon” Film Short – This short film preceded the original release of Sleeping Beauty. It features beautiful footage of the Grand Canyon set to classic music. This short won the Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film in 1958.

Rescue Aurora Set-Top Adventure Game – In this game you direct the Prince through the woods, thorns, and castle to help save Sleeping Beauty. The fairies ask you questions to help guide your path at critical crossroads. It’s a simple game, but kids will like it.

Sleeping Beauty Ink and Paint Game – In this game you try to paint pictures of the main characters as they exactly look in the movie. If you pick the wrong colors from the pallet, you must try again. It looks like a paint by number game, but it is not. You have to stick with what they specify.

Disney Art Project – This vide teaches you how to do some arts and crafts with materials you can find around the house. Fun for kids, but not much else.

Music Video By “No Secrets” – Once Upon (Another) Dream – This is a horrible music video by another one of Disney’s teen pop groups. Three girls dance around scenes from Sleeping Beauty as the sing a horrible variation of “Once Upon A Dream”. Seeing these teens bust a move in the forest is very difficult to watch.

Sing Along Song – You can sing along with some of the songs from the movie.

Princess Personality Profile – In this game, you answer a series of questions to determine which Disney Princess you are most like. Some are rather benign like “What’s your favorite color”. Others are rather skewed towards particular characters like, “Would you love spending time under the sea or on a flying carpet?” This is definitely geared towards girls as they ask questions like what qualities you would like in your prince. For the record, I’m most like Jasmine from Aladdin.

The Bottom Line:
Another great addition to your Disney DVD collection and it’s one of the few films that deserves the label “classic”.