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Overall Rating
4.46

Awesome62.86%
Worth A Look: 28.57%
Average: 2.86%
Pretty Bad: 2.86%
Total Crap: 2.86%

2 reviews, 23 user ratings


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Sleeping Beauty (1959)
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by Dr. Isaksson

"Touch the Spinning Wheel"
5 stars

"Sleeping Beauty" was the final animated feature overseen by Walt Disney and for him, a great, shining moment in his busy yet quickly snuffed out career. He exclaimed when the film premiered in 1959 that the picture was "His most inspirational film ever." The six years of absolute blood sweat and tears that went into the production of the film could certainly be one reason behind Disney's bold statement. But when you see a film like "Sleeping Beauty" you realize that the statement is certainly not without it's merit. Never had Walt Disney's studios embarked on such a huge and arduous project as "Sleeping Beauty" and the effort by everyone involved paid off by producing one of the most glorious and stunning works of animation that the Disney studios has ever delivered.

In 1951, Walt Disney had bought the rights to the tale of Sleeping Beauty, thus sealing the decision on what animated tale the Disney Studio was going to bring to life next. 1953's Cinderella was a huge success and not listening to critics who warned that another fairy tale about a princess in peril seemed to be mimicking the famous tales of Snow White and Cinderella, Disney began work on a rough draft storyline of that year. The tale was from the 14th Century French Fable and the retelling by the Brothers Grimm. A story which is entrentched in a thick Mediaeval setting, where chivalry and sorcery encompassed a large portion of the human existence.

Throughout the 1950's, an extremely busy decade, Walt Disney's stamina was stretched to the limit as he oversaw the creation of Disneyland, and had numerous live action films and TV programs being produced. Amazingly, animation had taken a back-seat to everything else for quite sometime. And fortunately, for Sleeping Beauty, the long storyboarding process gave the film time to grow and change in ways that previous films had never been given the chance to. The film blossomed from a tale that very much resembled Snow White into an all out epic creation with a setting, characters and storyline that was shockingly fresh, completely unlike anything done by Disney before and stubbornly all it's own.

The tale centers on a Mediaeval Kingdom where King Stefan and his Queen have just announced the arrival of their first child who they have named after the dawning light, the Princess Aurora. A great celebration is underway but the evil Fairy Maleficent makes an unwelcome visit and upon learning that she was not invited to the festival curses the child with an evil spell. Before the sun sets on Aurora's 16th Birthday, she will prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and DIE. The Three Good Fairies in attendance (Flora, Fauna and Merriweather) try to diminish the curse with a spell that would not cause Aurora's death but instead have her fall into a hundered year sleep if she were to prick her finger.

Aurora is taken by the Three Fairies to a remote cottage in the woods where she lived in ignorant bliss of Maleficent and the evil curse. After 16 years we see a beautiful Briar Rose (a false name she is given to hide her identity) happily enjoying her existence with her three 'Aunts'. Her unawareness of her doomed fate on that 16th Birthday makes for a great eerie set up and as the day wears on you know that drastic things will soon unfold.

With great obstacles keeping her at bay, Maleficent is still able to forfil her prophecy and Briar Rose falls into a deep sleep, but the young Prince Philip, who has met and fallen in love with the Princess Aurora, has a mission to seek out his Briar Rose and break the curse with a kiss. But to do that he must escape and defeat the mighty Maleficent and her incredible powers. Which leads to a climax so intense that the people at Disney have never been able to live up to it ever again.

The animation for this classic is of the highest quality and seeing the film on it's new DVD release only makes me appreciate it all the more. The film has been restored with computer technology and looks better than ever. (I was a bit disappointed that the sound had not been revamped though.) Filmed in what they called 'Technirama' which is an older word for the widescreen format, Sleeping Beauty is revealed in an even grander and more stunning scale than before. You can see entire sections of the masterfully painted backgrounds which cannot be seen in the full screen format. And they characters body parts aren't cut off at the corners as in full screen version. If you have a chance to watch the film on DVD, please do so.

As for the voices behind the characters, as was the norm, Walt Disney searched for a voice for Sleeping Beauty for years before he found and decided on Mary Costa. She was a young singer from Knoxville Tennessee who was trying to get work as a singer in Hollywood when Walt called her in for an audition at his studio. Mary was instantly loved for her ability to sing in the upper register without sounding too mature and her speaking voice was soft enough to pull off the girlish glee Walt had so eagerly wanted to maintain. Mary was also able to handle the vocal demands of the amazing Tchkovsky score and sang the theme song of the film 'Once Upon a Dream' with a nobel beauty that suited the film's aura perfectly. Disney had always loved the score, which was created in 1905 for the 'Ballet of Sleeping Beauty' and wanted to use that same music as the foundation for the entire film. Never had Walt taken such a huge risk by creating an animated feature that swam within the confides of a ballet score but the finished result plays together with a seamless and sweeping grandeur.

The other vocal performances are recognizable ones, Barbara Luddy, the voice of the Good fairy Flora, had been a Disney favorite, bringing to life the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland and Dumbo's Mother in Dumbo. Verna Felton, who played the fairy Merriweather, had voiced Lady in Lady and the Tramp. But most deliciously surprising is the return of Eleanore Audley as Maleficent. She had played the nasty Stepmother in Cinderella with a cold and icy proficiency. But it is here, in Sleeping Beauty where Audley is truly allowed to let her magnificent vocal style explode. She attacks the role of Maleficent with a gusto and flair that is unparalleled. She delivers each line with such a prefect devotion that never once do you loose site of her characters intentions. She reads her lines with such a devilish conviction that I almost felt bad for her when Prince Philip (voiced by a pleasant Bill Shirley) finally gave her the brush off. It's also interesting to note that Walt Disney was insistent that Prince Philip become a full bodied character with a back story and lines to say. Not just a Prince that would come in and take the Princess away but a real character the audience could root for. This had never been done in Disney's past pictures and once again the attention to giving us fuller character development where in the past we might not have gotten as much was just icing on the cake.

I remember as a child having the 'Little Golden Book' of Sleeping Beauty and just getting the chills everytime I read the part where Aurora is held spellbound as she steps up to the tower where a green glowing spinning wheel is awaiting her finger. I can remember thinking how deeply interested I was in the fate of Aurora and flipping through the pages and seeing the great Prince Philip save the day in that final battle. I was a fan of the film at 5 and I'm glad to say I'm still a fan now.

PS If you can get a hold of a copy of the DVD which has just been released, then I suggest you do because it is glowing with it's new restoration and is LOADED with bonus features.

This ranks #1 as my favorite of all the Walt Disney animated films. ***** 5 Stars

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=8040&reviewer=296
originally posted: 10/08/03 16:17:05
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User Comments

10/20/11 Magic It's style over substance all right. But my god, what style! And also, Maleficent. 5 stars
2/26/10 Rob Ranks with the very best of Disney's classics 5 stars
4/22/09 Dominic REGINA looks like AURORA,ARIEL and BELLE. 5 stars
9/20/08 PAUL SHORTT A CLASSIC OF THE DISNEY STUDIOS' POSTWAR STYLE 4 stars
8/23/08 Little Buddy Sleeping Beauty is my favorite movie with Rock-A-Doodle and Anastasia. 5 stars
3/05/08 Ringbearer Loved this. I used to have a crush on Maleficent; Cinderella was released in 1950 not 1953. 5 stars
2/25/07 Dark Enchantress my fav disney movie! I love malifiecent! 5 stars
9/13/04 donna i like the film 5 stars
7/05/04 Jeremy Credits listed wrong -- Verna Felton is FLORA, and Lady from Lady & The Tramp was PEGGY LEE 5 stars
6/22/04 Sean Scanlan Wonderful animation 5 stars
5/15/04 Sean Scanlan A family treat 5 stars
3/31/04 Rachel Very classic Walt Disney. All themes and motifs are present. 5 stars
3/28/04 john unfortunately just doesn't come together - average animation and unfocused story 2 stars
2/21/04 Denise Duspiva Dumb blond has a prince rescue her 3 stars
2/10/04 FAF TOTAL CRAP 1 stars
12/24/03 Snickerdoodle My favorite of the old Disney movies. The three fairies rock! 5 stars
11/28/03 Anna Richardson Sleeping Beauty is a really good movie. It's my very favorite Disney movie of all time. 5 stars
11/13/03 dania magical! 4 stars
10/27/03 R.W. Welch Age old tale revitalized by imaginative animation & effective score. 4 stars
10/26/03 Two-G - horror_blood2 (aka Double G) Though not horror flick, good child movie i enjoyed when young. Good Ol' Days:(Sadly Missed 5 stars
10/26/03 Victoria Otto Sleeping Beauty is the best movie of all time! 5 stars
7/25/03 Nicole Probably the first Disney movie I ever saw and still my favorite! 5 stars
7/23/03 Charles Tatum Actually, kinda creepy when you get right down to it 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  29-Jan-1959 (G)
  DVD: 07-Oct-2008

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