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Sleeping Beauty

Sleeping Beauty is the sixteenth animated feature in the Disney animated features canon. It was produced by Walt Disney for Walt Disney Productions, and originally released to theatres on January 29, 1959 by Buena Vista Distribution.

It was the last animated feature produced by Walt Disney to be based upon a fairy tale (after his death, the studio returned to the genre with 1989's The Little Mermaid), as well as the last cel animated feature from Disney to be inked by hand before the xerography process took over. Sleeping Beauty is also the first animated feature to be shot in Super Technirama 70, one of many large-format widescreen processes (only one more animated film, The Black Cauldron, has been shot in Super Technirama 70). The film spent nearly the entire decade of the 1950s in production: the story work began in 1951, voices were recorded in 1952, animation production took from 1953 until 1958, and the stereophonic musical score was recorded in 1957.

Characters and story development

The name of the beautiful Sleeping Beauty is "Princess Aurora" in this film, as it was in the original Tchaikovsky ballet. The prince was given the only princely name familiar to Americans in the 1950s: "Prince Philip", named after Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. The dark fairy was aptly named Maleficent (which means "Evil-doer").

Princess Aurora's long, thin, willowy body shape was inspired by that of Audrey Hepburn. In addition, Walt Disney had suggested that all three fairies should look alike, but veteran animators Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston contrasted this idea saying that having them be like that wouldn't be exciting. Additionally, the idea originally included seven fairies instead of three.

Several story points for this film came from discarded ideas for Disney's previous fairy tale involving a sleeping heroine: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. They include Maleficent's capture of the Prince and the Prince's daring escape from her castle. Disney discarded these ideas from Snow White because his artists were not able to draw a human male believably enough at the time.

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Re-releases and home video

Release and later history

 

When it was first released, Sleeping Beauty returned only half the invested sum of $6,000,000, nearly bankrupting the Disney studio. It was mainly criticized as being too slow paced and having little character development. Since then, the film has gained a following and is today hailed as one of the best animated features ever made, thanks to its stylized designs by painter Eyvind Earle who also was the art director for the movie, its lush music score and its large-format widescreen and stereophonic sound presentation. The film was re-released theatrically in 1970, 1979, and 1986 and was first released on both VHS and Laserdisc that same year under the Classics collection, becoming the first Disney Classics video to be digitally processed in Hi-Fi stereo. Then the film underwent an extensive digital restoration in 1997, and that version was released to both VHS and Laserdisc again as part of the Masterpiece collection, and in 2003 was released to DVD in a 2-disc "Special Edition" that included both the original widescreen version and a pan and scan version as well. A Platinum Edition DVD/BD is scheduled to be released no earlier than 2008.

 

Sleeping Beauty in the Disney theme parks

Sleeping Beauty was made while Walt Disney was building Disneyland. To help promote the film, Imagineers declared the castle there was Sleeping Beauty's.

Several years later an indoor walkthrough section was added to the castle, where guests could walk through dioramas of scenes from the film. It closed shortly after September 11, 2001, supposedly because the dark, unmonitored corridors were a risk. Currently, the former attraction is being used as extra space to house parts for the new fireworks show for Disneyland's 50th anniversary celebration. As a result, none of the original walkthrough remains intact.

When Disneyland Paris opened in 1992 it also featured Sleeping Beauty's Castle, this time a far more romanticised, storybook building. Upstairs guests are able to view stained glass windows and tapestries telling the story, whilst downstairs they are able to view an animatronic dragon.

Hong Kong Disneyland opened in 2005 also with a Sleeping Beauty Castle, with a fairly similar design to Disneyland's.

Princess Aurora (and, to a lesser extent, Prince Phillip and Maleficent) makes regular appearances in the parks and parades.

Trivia

    1. In the original story, Princess Aurora sleeps for 100 years before being awakened by a prince's kiss. In the Disney version, Prince Philip comes to her rescue much sooner.
    2.  
    3. George Brun's orchestral score, which was nominated for an Academy Award®, expertly blended famous themes from Tchaikovsky's ballet.
    4.  
    5. With a budget that exceeded $6 million in 1959, this was Walt Disney's most lavish and expensive animated feature to date.
    6.  
    7. Determined to make the characters as realistic as possible, Disney had a live action film shot with actors posing as Sleeping Beauty, the Prince, and Maleficent, for the animators to use.
    8.  
    9. New York Times critic Bosley Crowther called the fight between Prince Philip and Maleficent "the noisiest and scariest go-round he [Disney] has ever put into one of his films."
    10.  
    11. When Maleficent reveals Aurora's body to the good fairies, Aurora is drawn to appear as if her neck was broken. In later shots, her neck is stable.
    12. Briar Rose is another name given to Sleeping Beauty and appears in the German version of the story.
    13.  
    14. Aurora's mother, the queen as a character, has no name credited to her. The only version of the story which gives her a name is a 1993 adaptation by A.L. Singer, where she is named Queen Leah.
    15.  
    16. The cookies the fairies eat with tea are shaped like Mickey Mouse's head and ears.
    17.  
    18. Second only to Dumbo (who didn't speak at all), this Disney title character has very few lines of actual dialogue throughout the entire film. In fact, Aurora says nothing at all in the film's second half, even after being awakened from the sleeping spell.
    19.  
    20. The musical score throughout the film was provided by the Berlin Symphony Orchestra.
    21.  
    22. The complex and detailed background paintings, most of them done by Frank Armitage and Eyvind Earle usually took seven to ten times longer to paint than average, which takes about a workday to complete. As opposed to having the backgrounds be designed to match the characters, Sleeping Beauty's characters were designed to match the backgrounds.