Sleeping Beauty
Sleeping beauty disney.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by
Story by
Based onSleeping Beauty
by Charles Perrault
Produced byWalt Disney
Starring
Narrated byMarvin Miller
Edited by
  • Roy M. Brewer Jr.
  • Donald Halliday
Music byGeorge Bruns
Production
company
Distributed byBuena Vista Distribution
Release date
  • January 29, 1959 (1959-01-29)
Running time
75 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$6 million[1]
Box office$51.6 million (United States and Canada)[2]

Sleeping Beauty is a 1959 American animated musical fantasy film produced by Walt Disney Productions and released by Buena Vista Distribution. Based on the 1697 Charles Perrault's fairy tale of the same title, it is the 16th Disney animated feature film. The film tells the story of a young princess Aurora, who was cursed by the evil fairy Maleficent to die from a prick on a spindle of the spinning wheel, but was saved by the three good fairies, who altered the curse so that the princess instead fell into a deep sleep to be awakened by true love's kiss. Clyde Geronimi was the supervising director, while Wolfgang Reitherman, Eric Larson, and Les Clark directed the film's individual sequences. The story was adapted by Erdman Penner, Joe Rinaldi, Winston Hibler, Bill Peet, Ted Sears, Ralph Wright, and Milt Banta. It features the voices of Mary Costa, Bill Shirley, Eleanor Audley, Verna Felton, Barbara Luddy, Barbara Jo Allen, Taylor Holmes, and Bill Thompson.

Walt Disney first considered making Sleeping Beauty in the late 1930s, but it was not put into production until the early 1950s. It took nearly a decade and $6 million to produce the film, which made it the most expensive Disney animated feature at that time. The film's tapestry-esque design was developed by Eyvind Earle, who drew inspiration from the pre-Renaissance European art, while its musical score and songs, composed by George Bruns, were based on the 1889 The Sleeping Beauty ballet by Pyotr Tchaikovsky. Sleeping Beauty was the first animated film to be photographed in the Super Technirama 70 widescreen process, as well as the second full-length animated feature film to be filmed in anamorphic widescreen, following Lady and the Tramp (1955).

Sleeping Beauty was released to theaters on January 29, 1959, to mixed reviews from critics, who praised its art direction and musical score, but criticized the plot and characters. In its initial release, the film grossed $5.3 million against its $6 million budget, making it a box-office bomb, which caused Disney to lose interest in the animation medium.[3] However, the film's subsequent re-releases proved very successful, and it has since become one of the most artistically acclaimed Disney features ever produced.[4] It was also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Scoring of a Musical Picture at the 32nd Academy Awards.

A live-action reimagining of the film was released in 2014, followed by a sequel in 2019. That same year, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".[5]

Plot

After several years of having no children, the rulers of a European kingdom, King Stefan and Queen Leah[a] welcome the birth of their daughter, Princess Aurora. They proclaim a holiday for their subjects to pay homage to the princess, and at her christening she is betrothed to Prince Phillip, the son of King Stefan's friend King Hubert, to unite their kingdoms.

Among the guests are the three good fairies, Flora, Fauna and Merryweather. Flora and Fauna bless Aurora with beauty and song, respectively, but Merryweather's gift is interrupted by the arrival of an evil fairy Maleficent. As revenge for not being invited, she curses Aurora, proclaiming that the princess will grow in grace and beauty, but before the sun sets on her sixteenth birthday, she will prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and die. Since her magic is no stronger than Maleficent's to undo the curse, Merryweather uses her blessing to weaken the curse so that instead of dying, Aurora will fall into a deep sleep, only broken by true love's kiss. King Stefan orders all spinning wheels throughout the kingdom be burned. At the fairies' urging, King Stefan and Queen Leah reluctantly bring Aurora to a cottage in the forest to live with the fairies in safety.

Sixteen years later, Aurora, renamed Briar Rose, grows into a beautiful young woman. On her sixteenth birthday, the fairies ask her to gather berries while they prepare a surprise party. Aurora befriends the animals of the forest and sings them a song, "Once Upon a Dream". Phillip, now a handsome young man, follows Aurora's voice and is instantly struck by her beauty. She is initially frightened, as she is not allowed to talk to strangers, but she and Phillip fall in love, and she invites him to meet her family at the cottage that night.

Meanwhile, Flora and Merryweather argue over the color of Aurora's gown, attracting the attention of Maleficent's raven, Diablo,[b] who learns Aurora's location. Returning home, Aurora is thrilled to tell her guardians that she has fallen in love. The fairies finally tell Aurora that she is a princess, already betrothed to a prince, and she must never see the man she met again. Heartbroken, Aurora cries in her room. Phillip tells his father of the peasant girl he met and wishes to marry, in spite of his prearranged marriage. King Hubert fails to convince his son otherwise, leaving him devastated.

The fairies take Aurora to the castle to await her birthday celebrations, where she will finally see her parents. Maleficent appears and lures Aurora into a dark tower away from the fairies, and tricks her into touching the spindle of a cursed spinning wheel. Aurora pricks her finger, fulfilling the curse. The three fairies place the sleeping Aurora on a bed in the highest tower and place a powerful spell on all the people in the kingdom, causing them to sleep until the spell on their princess is broken. They overhear a sleepy conversation between the two kings, and realize that Phillip is the man with whom Aurora has fallen in love. They rush to find him, but he is abducted by Maleficent and her minions at the cottage. She reveals to Phillip the enchanted princess and her plan to lock him away for a century until he is on the verge of death, then release him to meet his love, who will not have aged a single day.

The fairies rescue Phillip, arming him with the magical Sword of Truth and the Shield of Virtue. An enraged Maleficent surrounds the castle with thorns but fails to stop Phillip. She teleports in front of him and transforms into a gigantic dragon. They battle, and Phillip throws the sword, blessed by the fairies, directly into Maleficent's heart, causing her to fall to her death.

Phillip awakens Aurora with a kiss, breaking the spell and waking the kingdom. The royal couple descends to the ballroom, where Aurora is reunited with her parents. Flora and Merryweather continue their argument over Aurora's gown while the happy couple dances, living happily ever after.

Cast

Main article: List of Disney's Sleeping Beauty characters

Production

Walt Disney first considered making an animated adaptation of Charles Perrault's fairy tale Sleeping Beauty in 1938.[25] Preliminary artwork was submitted by story artist Joe Grant, but the project did not move forward.[26] In November 1950, Disney officially announced that he was developing Sleeping Beauty as an animated feature film,[27] although the production title was registered months earlier, on January 19, 1950,[4] due to a preview audience's positive reaction to Cinderella (1950).[26] Disney envisioned Sleeping Beauty as his masterpiece and the ultimate in animated filmmaking,[28] and was willing to pour all the necessary resources to achieve that.[25] He also realized the difficulty of producing another fairy tale feature that would not be too derivative of his previous films, particularly, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) and Cinderella (1950).[17]

Story development

Key early story work on Sleeping Beauty was done by Ted Sears, Winston Hibler and Bill Peet, who were joined by other story artists as the film's production progressed.[29] They decided to discard the "bizarre" second half of the Perrault's story, which tells about the life of a sleeping beauty married to a strange prince, and instead focus on its first half,[30] ensuring the development of a more convincing romantic relationship between the characters.[29] The earliest known story outline was written in April 1951, featuring a wake-up kiss as a climactic moment and the encounter between the prince and princess before the latter succumbs to the curse.[31] It also indicated the names of the fairies, whose number had been reduced from eight to four, and their corresponding magical abilities—Tranquility, the Fairy of Dreams; Fernadell, the Fairy of the Forest; Merryweather, the Fairy of the Elements; and Maleficent, the Fairy of Darkness.[18][31] Their roles in the story were also significantly expanded, with the three good fairies being turned into comical companions and guardians of the princess,[31] while the evil fairy became the primary source of conflict in the story.[15] The latter was also rewritten as a more menacing character than her "old hag" counterpart from the original tale.[32]

In this version of the story, Maleficent was supposed to conjure an indestructible spinning wheel, which the king and queen would have unsuccessfully tried to get rid of until they would have been forced to hide their daughter in the castle walls and never let her out.[31] The princess herself was envisioned as a "poor little rich girl", burdened by her royal pedigree and dreaming of exploring the world outside the castle, similarly to Jasmine from Aladdin (1992) over 40 years later.[26] Shortly before her sixteenth birthday, the princess was to switch clothes with her maidservant and secretly escape to a nearby forest[31] or, as in one of the later variations of the story treatment, to a country fair,[33] where she would have met and fell in love with the prince. Then, he was to go on a journey to a faraway land and return a few years later to fight Maleficent with the help of the good fairies, find the sleeping princess and wake her up with the kiss.[31] Several story ideas from that period also included an attempt of the good fairies to surround the castle with a protective circle[33] and Maleficent's comically incompetent vulture sidekick,[34] although the early outline depicted him as a sinister huge falcon.[31]

We had a lot of problems. We were fighting to break away from what we had done in the past. Sleeping Beauty was tough, because it had many of the elements we had already used in Snow White and Cinderella. You've got to give the creators new things to work with so they'll be able to keep their enthusiasm up. You're in trouble if they start saying, "Haven't we don't this before?" We had to find out what we had and whether it would please the public. I'm never sure myself what they're going to buy.

Walt Disney[35]

In June 1952, the full storyboard presentation was completed but Disney rejected it, concluding that this story approach was too similar to the studio's earlier films.[16] Because of this, the story team threw out the original version and worked from scratch while deciding to retain several story points from earlier suggestions.[26] These included the prince's acquaintance with the princess before the curse is fulfilled,[36] and, consequently, a shorter duration of her sleep, which lasted a hundred years in the original fairy tale.[26] Initially, the story artists worked out an elaborate sequence in which the characters would have met during a treasure hunt, but it was eventually abandoned when it became too drawn out and drifted from the central storyline. Instead, it was written that prince and princess would meet in the forest by random chance,[30] which had previously been introduced in the 1951 outline.[31]

Part of the difficulty was trying to differentiate Disney's third princess, who was named Aurora, from Snow White and Cinderella.[26] To do that, the story artists came up with an idea to have the fairies rear her up in a forest cottage,[36] with Aurora being completely unaware of her background or the danger she was in. She also was given a different personality style—"a freshness and a modern sensibility" to make her more appealing to the audiences.[26] Also, Disney, prompted by the improvement of his animators' skills in draftsmanship of a realistic male figure, insisted on expanding the role of the prince, who was named Phillip.[26] Particularly, to further establish him as Aurora's "true love", the story artists developed a storyline in which Maleficent kidnaps Phillip and plots to keep him prisoner in her castle for a century, also referring to the centennial slumber from the original fairy tale.[37]

Striving for a more serious direction of storytelling,[26] Disney personally cut out several gags and comic scenes for the three good fairies, which he felt were too "slapsticky"[38] and more appropriate for Donald Duck shorts.[9] One of these was a sequence in which the fairies, who by that time had been renamed Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather, attempt to bake a birthday cake for Aurora, but end up accidentally blowing up the oven.[38] Also, the characters were originally supposed to rule over the domains, indicated by their names—Flora was to have charge of flowers and plants, Fauna was to oversee the animals and birds, and Merryweather was to control the climate.[18] Disney ultimately discarded this idea as well, feeling that it led the main plot nowhere.[26]

Among other things, earlier versions of the story suggested Aurora to directly encounter with Maleficent, who would have tricked her into pricking the finger on the spindle.[39] However, Disney felt that the "eerie, haunting presentation of a victim powerless in the hands of evil" would be the "strongest and best statement for the film", so the scene was rewritten to have Maleficent lure Aurora with hypnosis.[40] Several story elements originated from discarded ideas for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) and Cinderella (1950), including Maleficent's capture of Phillip and his escape from her domain,[41] as well as Disney's favorite concept—prince and princess dancing on a cloud.[18] In all, more story sessions were held on Sleeping Beauty than on any previous Disney animated production.[18]

Production delays

By mid-1952,[42] Disney had planned to release Sleeping Beauty on Christmas 1955.[43] However, production did not start until July 1953,[44] when Wilfred Jackson, who was assigned as the film's supervising director, recorded the dialogue, assembled a story reel, and was to commence preliminary animation work for a pilot sequence in which Aurora and Phillip were to meet in the forest and dance. In the following few months, the sequence underwent extensive rewriting due to a "lukewarm" response from Disney. In December 1953, Jackson suffered a heart attack and was replaced by Eric Larson,[42] whose unit would animate the forest sequence.[45] As early as 1954, the project was still in the early stages of production.[46]

It was very difficult for him to put his mind on this picture. I think mainly because Walt was working on Disneyland, he was occupied with that… He just didn't have time or energy to come in as often as we'd like him to. He come in if we pressed him, but otherwise he'd just say “Well, I think you're doing okay. Why don't you go ahead, and I'll come in later”… He just didn't have the creative juices going on this picture than he did on most of them.

Ollie Johnston[26]

By April 1954, Sleeping Beauty was scheduled for a February 1957 release,[42] but it was subsequently postponed to Christmas 1957.[43] Later that same year, Disney began constructing the Disneyland theme park and developing a number of television series, including Disneyland and The Mickey Mouse Club. Most of the studio personnel, who were working on Sleeping Beauty at that time, were assigned to develop those projects, and the film's production was temporarily suspended. During its dormancy, the project was handed to Erdman Penner and Joe Rinaldi for further development,[36] while the castle built at Disneyland was specifically named Sleeping Beauty Castle to promote the film.[47]

Production of Sleeping Beauty resumed in December 1956,[36] and by that time the release date was scheduled for Christmas 1958.[43] Disney insisted on personally overseeing every aspect of the film or otherwise "he wouldn't accept it",[3] but still remained very focused on Disneyland.[48] Milt Kahl would blame him for the numerous delays because "he wouldn't have story meetings. He wouldn't get the damn thing moving". According to studio executive Harry Tytle, after a screening of the finished footage in August 1957, Disney also expressed the disinterest in the project, "seemed to be tired, had so much on his mind. He didn’t give this the treatment he would have in years past, where he’d go in for a couple of days and fine-tooth comb the whole picture… His comments were general rather than specific."[43]

Constant production delays led to a significant increase in its costs. In particular, the cost of the forest sequence, which took several years to complete, amounted to $10,000,[49] exceeding the budget, which Disney was dissatisfied with.[17] Relatively late in production, he removed Larson as supervising director and replaced him with Clyde Geronimi.[50] Also, to keep costs down, a quota system was instituted at the studio, due to which animators had to create a certain number of animation drawings per day.[51]

Animation

Art direction

To distinguish Sleeping Beauty from his previous features, Disney decided to take a different approach to the film's art direction, utilizing a more unique and distinctive visual design.[17] Around December 1952,[52] Kay Nielsen, whose sketches were the basis for the Night on Bald Mountain segment in Fantasia (1940), returned to the Disney studio and was the first to create styling sketches for the film[53] that suggested an "ethereal depiction of the Middle Ages".[54] While impressed with his artwork, Ken Anderson, who was assigned as the film's production designer,[55] felt that Nielsen's soft pastel paintings would be difficult to translate into animation. Disney then tasked John Hench to help interpret Nielsen's artwork by using opaque cel paint,[56] but, as early as April 1953, Nielsen left the studio again.[52]

The tapestry-esque style of the film originated after Hench's visit to the Cloisters of Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, where he observed the Unicorn Tapestries series.[57] Upon his return to the studio, Hench brought reproductions of the tapestries to Disney, suggesting them as a visual template for Sleeping Beauty, which Disney approved.[58] Then, Hench made some sketches that were inspired by the museum trip, and the background artist Eyvind Earle made first trial paintings based on those drawings.[9] When a few of them were done, Disney held a meeting at which he said "Okay. That’s it. Everybody will follow Eyvind."[59] After one of the story meetings,[60] Disney also told Eric Larson that he needed a "moving illustration",[61] adding that he didn't care how long it takes, as long as it ended up on the screen.[49]

I wanted stylized, simplified Gothic. Straight, tall, perpendicular lines like Gothic cathedrals… I used one-point perspective. I rearranged the bushes and trees in geometrical patterns. I made a medieval tapestry out of the surface wherever possible. All my foregrounds were tapestry designs of decorative weeds and flowers and grasses. And since it is obvious that the Gothic style and detail evolved from the Arabic influence acquired during the Crusades, I found it perfectly permissible to use all the wonderful patterns and details found in Persian miniatures. And since Persian miniatures had a lot in common with Chinese and Japanese art, I felt it was OK for me to inject quite a bit of Japanese art, especially in the close-up of leaves and overhanging branches.

Eyvind Earle[62]

Wanting Sleeping Beauty to have a unified look from beginning to end,[63] Disney assigned Earle as both the film's color stylist and artistic director,[64] giving him control over the film’s entire visual appearance,[63] which had never been done at the studio before.[65] Earle's style was influenced by the pre-Renaissance Northern European art,[66] such as the works of Pieter Bruegel, Albrecht Dürer,[26] Huybrecht van Eyck,[67] Giotto di Bondone,[37] and Sandro Botticelli,[68] as well as by Gothic and Persian art,[63] medieval tapestries, and Japanese prints.[66] For Sleeping Beauty, his main inspiration was the French illuminated manuscript of Herman and Jean Limbourg, Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, from which he took the key colors for the film, such as the yellow-green for Maleficent’s flames and the pink and blue for Aurora’s gown.[66] In all, during his work on the film, Earle created around three hundred visual development paintings,[37] hundreds of small sequence sketches,[62] and dozens of key background paintings, some of them fifteen feet long.[67] Over eight hundred of other backgrounds used in the film were created by artists such as Thelma Witmer, Frank Armitage, and Walt Peregoy, who worked under Earle's supervision and followed his style to maintain the required consistency in the film's design.[69]

While the layout artists and animators were impressed with Earle's paintings, they also grew depressed at working with a style that many of them regarded as too cold, flat, and modernist for a fairy tale feature.[70] Animators in particular struggled to make their characters, who also had to be stylized to match Earle's style, stand out against his busy and detailed background paintings,[9] with the overall design and color styling having an inhibiting effect on character animation.[71] Frank Thomas complained about this to Ken Peterson, head of the animation department, to which the latter responded by citing Disney's instructions.[61] At one point, a group of animators, including Thomas and Milt Kahl,[71] rebelled and went to Disney's office to complain.[63] Nevertheless, Disney insisted on the visual design, claiming that the inspirational art he had commissioned in the past, such as Mary Blair's,[66] had always been homogenized by the animators.[70]

When Clyde Geronimi became the supervising director, he had creative differences with Earle,[50] feeling that some of the latter's paintings "didn't have the mood… All that beautiful detail in the trees, the bark, and all that, that's all well and good, but who the hell's going to look at that? The backgrounds became more important than the animation. He'd made them more like Christmas cards".[45] By that time, Disney himself, in spite of his initial instructions, felt that too much focus was put on the film's design to the detriment of its story.[43] In March 1958, before Sleeping Beauty was completed, Earle left the Disney studio to take a job at John Sutherland Productions, after which Geronimi had the background paintings softened with an airbrush so that they did not compete with the animation.[50] Nevertheless, Sleeping Beauty became the first time when background paintings had determined the art direction of a Disney film.[59]

Live-action reference

Before the animation process began, a live-action reference version was filmed with actors in costumes serving as models for the animators, which Disney insisted on because he wanted the characters to appear "as real as possible, near flesh-and-blood".[72] However, Milt Kahl objected to this method, calling it "a crutch, a stifling of the creative effort", also adding that "anyone worth his salt in this business ought to know how people move".[73]

Helene Stanley, who had previously served as a model for the titular character in Cinderella (1950), provided a live-action reference for Princess Aurora, as well as for some scenes of the good fairies.[74] Her costume for the part of Aurora's woodland disguise, Briar Rose, was created by Alice Estes at the behest of her future husband, Marc Davis, as her first job assignment for the Disney studio.[75] The role of Prince Phillip was modeled by Ed Kemmer.[72] For a few scenes in the final battle sequence, he had to ride a wooden wagon imitating a horse, which was controlled by the animators.[76] Cubby O'Brien, who was a Mouseketeer on The Mickey Mouse Club, served as a model for young Phillip.[74]

The live-action reference for Maleficent was provided by both her voice actress, Eleanor Audley, and dancer Jane Fowler,[19] who also served as a model for Queen Leah.[77] Among the actresses who performed in reference footage for the three good fairies were Spring Byington, Madge Blake, and Frances Bavier.[16] Hans Conried and Don Barclay, who had previously modeled for Captain Hook and Mr. Smee in Peter Pan (1953), provided a live-action reference for King Stefan[78] and King Hubert.[79] The role of the lackey, who serves wine to the kings in the "Skumps" sequence, was modeled by Franklin Pangborn.[80]

Character animation

Tom Oreb, whose designs employed the "straight-against-curve" motif, similar to Eyvind Earle's backgrounds, was tasked as the film's character stylist.[81] He was the first Disney artist to receive a sole credit in that capacity.[18] Oreb worked closely with Earle, who also had the decision in the case of character designs and color schemes,[63] and created preliminary sketches for most of the characters,[26] incorporating strong horizontal and vertical planes of the background paintings into their designs.[4] The studio's ink and paint department also made finished cels of Oreb's sketches, which were placed over Earle's backgrounds, to make sure they would match the film's style.[82] Likewise with Earle's styling, the animators complained that Oreb's designs were too rigid to animate.[83] According to Ken Anderson, the characters became "really, unfortunately, quite stiff. In order to fit this mannered background, they, too, took on a sort of cylindrical, geometrical shape that didn't lend itself as well to the… Well, you might say, the Bambi type of animation. It wasn't really possible just to make the characters fit the style and still be quite as attractive."[17]

Marc Davis, who, unlike most of the animators, embraced Earle's style,[66] was assigned as the supervising animator of Princess Aurora.[84] Collaborating with Oreb, he created a "leading lady of elegance",[75] whose earlier designs were influenced by the features of Audrey Hepburn.[84] Stylizing the character to match the backgrounds, Oreb incorporated vertical lines into the folds of her costume and two-dimensional swirls into her hair,[4] while Davis slightly sharpened her features and clothes[84] and added Art Nouveau and Art Deco style into her curls.[75] The final design of Aurora was more refined than those of preceding Disney heroines, and therefore required much more attention to detail than any animated character before.[75] Particularly, Iwao Takamoto, who handled quality control of Aurora's animation, described working with animation drawings as a "laborious job"[81] that limited in-betweeners such as himself to completing only six or seven drawings per day,[75] while one second of the film required twenty-four.[15]

In designing Maleficent, Marc Davis experimented with flamelike shapes and patterns of triangular color.[4]
In designing Maleficent, Marc Davis experimented with flamelike shapes and patterns of triangular color.[4]

Davis was also tasked with supervising the animation of Maleficent.[85] He takes sole credit for the design of the character,[83] which was influenced by a religious painting from a Czechoslovakian art book that Davis found in his home library.[75] His original designs featured red trim to Maleficent's costume to highlight its flame-like shape,[85] but Earle requested the change to lavender as red would come off too strong, in which Davis agreed to.[75] He also added horns and a collar based on bat wings to give the character a devil-like look,[86] while her costume was endowed with a reptilian quality to foreshadow the dragon she would transform into at the film's climax.[4] Animating Maleficent proved challenging for Davis due to the character's tendency to soliloquize and lack of physical contact with other characters,[87] which was resolved through the introduction of Diablo, Maleficent's raven,[9] whom Davis also designed and animated.[37] Maleficent's dragon form was animated by Eric Cleworth,[88] who based its head movements on those of a rattlesnake.[37]

Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, who struggled the most to adapt to Earle's style,[17] were assigned as the supervising animators of Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather.[89] Initially, Disney urged for the fairies to be homogeneous, like Huey, Dewey, and Louie, which Thomas and Johnston objected to. Thomas stated that they had "thought 'that's not going to be any fun'. So we started figuring the other way and worked on how we could develop them into special personalities".[90] John Lounsbery animated the "Skumps" sequence between Kings Hubert and Stefan.[9]

Chuck Jones, best known for his work with Warner Bros. Cartoons, worked on the film from July to November 1953 after Jack Warner had closed the studio, anticipating that 3-D film would replace animation as a box office draw.[91] Following the failure of 3-D, and the reversal of Warner's decision, Jones returned to the other studio. His work on Sleeping Beauty, which he spent four months on, remained uncredited. Another notable animator who worked on the film was Don Bluth, who served as an assistant animator to Lounsbery.[92] Bluth would leave after two years but eventually came back in the 1970s.

Music

Sleeping Beauty
Film score by
ReleasedJanuary 21, 1997
RecordedSeptember 8 – November 25, 1958
GenreFilm score
Length1:02:57
LabelWalt Disney Records

The use of Pyotr Tchaikovsky's 1889 The Sleeping Beauty ballet as a score was first discussed in the early stages of the film's development.[93] Initially, the idea was discarded due to the potential difficulty of adapting Tchaikovsky's music to the needs of the film,[26] and in April 1952 Jack Lawrence and Sammy Fain had signed to compose the original score.[94] By late summer of that same year, a song score had been identified,[95] which included "Holiday", "It Happens I Have a Picture", "Sunbeams (Bestowal of Gifts)", "Where in the World", "Once Upon a Dream", and "Mirage (Follow Your Heart)".[96] However, in the following year,[97] Disney decided to go back to Tchaikovsky's ballet, feeling that the score of Lawrence and Fain would not fit in with Eyvind Earle's stylized design,[9] which rendered the songs Lawrence and Fain had written unusable except for the lyrics for "Once Upon a Dream".[97] Walter Schumann was originally slated to be the film composer, but he left the project because of creative differences with Disney. George Bruns was recommended to replace Schumann by animator Ward Kimball. Because of a musicians' strike, the musical score was recorded in Berlin, Germany with the Graunke Symphony Orchestra from September 8 through November 25, 1958.[98][4]

Although Bruns took much credit for the score, he derived most of his work from the themes and melodies in Tchaikovsky's ballet Sleeping Beauty.

Songs

Original songs performed in the film include:

No.TitlePerformer(s)Length
1."Once Upon a Dream"Chorus 
2."Hail to the Princess Aurora"Chorus 
3."The Gifts of Beauty and Song"Chorus 
4."I Wonder"Mary Costa 
5."Once Upon a Dream (Reprise)"Mary Costa & Bill Shirley 
6."Skumps"Taylor Holmes & Bill Thompson 
7."Sleeping Beauty"Chorus 
8."Finale (Once Upon a Dream)"Chorus 

Release

Original theatrical run

Disney's distribution arm, Buena Vista Distribution, originally released Sleeping Beauty to theaters in both standard 35 mm prints and large-format 70 mm prints. The Super Technirama 70 prints were equipped with six-track stereophonic sound; some CinemaScope-compatible 35 mm Technirama prints were released in four-track stereo, and others had monaural soundtracks. The film premiered in Los Angeles on January 29, 1959.[99] On the initial run, Sleeping Beauty was paired with the documentary short film Grand Canyon (1958) which won an Academy Award.[100]

During its original release in January 1959, Sleeping Beauty grossed approximately $5.3 million in theater rentals (the distributor's share of the box office gross) from the United States and Canada.[101][102] Sleeping Beauty's production costs, which totaled $6 million,[1] made it the most expensive Disney film up to that point, and over twice as expensive as each of the preceding three Disney animated features: Alice in Wonderland (1951), Peter Pan (1953), and Lady and the Tramp (1955).[103] The high production costs of Sleeping Beauty, coupled with the underperformance of much of the rest of Disney's 1959–1960 release slate, resulted in the company posting its first annual loss in a decade for fiscal year 1960,[1] and there were massive lay-offs throughout the animation department.[104]

Re-releases

Like Alice in Wonderland (1951), which was not initially successful either, Sleeping Beauty was never re-released theatrically in Walt Disney's lifetime. However, it had many re-releases in theaters over the decades. The film was re-released theatrically in 1970,[105] where it was released on standard 35 mm film. The release garnered rentals of $3.8 million.[106]

It was re-released in May 1979 at the Crest Theatre in Seattle in 70 mm[107] 6 channel stereo for a ten-week test engagement.[108] The film went into wider release later that year in both 70 mm and in 35 mm stereo and mono.[109] It had a further reissue in 1986[110] when it grossed $15 million in the United States and Canada[2] and again in 1995.[111] It was originally going to be re-released in 1993 (as was advertised on the 1992 VHS release of Beauty and the Beast (1991)) but it was cancelled and pushed back two years later to 1995. Sleeping Beauty's successful reissues have made it the second most successful film released in 1959, second to Ben-Hur (1959),[112] with a lifetime gross in the United States and Canada of $51.6 million.[2] When adjusted for ticket price inflation, the domestic total gross averages nearly $681 million, placing it within the top 40 of films.[113]

From July 9 to August 13, 2012, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences organized "The Last 70MM Film Festival" at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater, where the academy, its members, and the Hollywood industry acknowledged the importance, beauty, and majesty of the 70 mm film format and how its image and quality is superior to that of digital film. The Academy selected the following films, which were shot on 70 mm, to be screened to make a statement about it, as well as to gain a new appreciation for familiar films in a way it hadn't before: It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963), Sleeping Beauty, Grand Prix (1966), The Sound of Music (1965), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), and Spartacus (1960), along with other short subject films on the 70 mm format.[114] A screening of the 70 mm print of the film was held during the 70 mm & Widescreen Film Festival at the Somerville Theatre on September 18, 2016.[115]

Home media

Sleeping Beauty was released on VHS, Betamax, and LaserDisc on October 14, 1986, in the Classics collection,[116] becoming the first Disney Classics video to be digitally processed in Hi-Fi stereo. During its 1986 VHS release, it sold over one million copies.[117] The release went into moratorium on March 31, 1988.[118] The VHS was first released on November 6, 1989, in the United Kingdom.

The film underwent a digital restoration in 1997, and that version was released to both VHS and LaserDisc in fullscreen and widescreen as part of the Masterpiece Collection on September 16. The 1997 VHS edition also came with a special commemorative booklet included, with brief facts on the making of the movie.

Sleeping Beauty was released on VHS and DVD in a 2-disc "Special Edition" on September 9, 2003. This THX-certified DVD release included both a widescreen version (formatted at 2.35:1) and a pan and scan version as well.[119] Its DVD supplements included the making-of featurette from the 1997 VHS, the documentary film Grand Canyon, the Life of Tchaikovsky segment of The Peter Tchaikovsky Story from the Walt Disney anthology television series,[120] a virtual gallery of concept art, layout and background designs, three trailers, and audio commentary from Mary Costa, Eyvind Earle, and Ollie Johnston.[121]

A Platinum Edition release of Sleeping Beauty, as a 2-disc DVD and Blu-ray, was released on October 7, 2008, in the US, making Sleeping Beauty the first installment in the Platinum Edition line to be released in high-definition video. This release was based upon the 2007 restoration of the film from the original Technicolor negatives (interpositives several generations removed from the original negative were used for other home video releases). The new restoration features the film in its full negative aspect ratio of 2.55:1, which is wider than both the prints shown at the film's original limited Technirama engagements in 2.20:1 and the CinemaScope-compatible reduction prints for general release at 2.35:1. The Blu-ray set features BD-Live, an online feature, and the extras include a virtual castle and multi-player games.[122] The Blu-ray release also includes a music video of "Once Upon A Dream" sung by Emily Osment; and featuring Daniel Romer as Prince Philip.

The film was released on a Diamond Edition Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital HD on October 7, 2014, after six years since its first time on Blu-ray. Sleeping Beauty was re-released on HD digital download and Blu-ray on September 24, 2019, as part of the Walt Disney Signature Collection in honor of the film's 60th anniversary.[123]

Reception

Critical response

Bosley Crowther, writing in his review for The New York Times, complimented that "the colors are rich, the sounds are luscious and magic sparkles spurt charmingly from wands", but criticized its similarity with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. He further wrote that "the princess looks so much like Snow White they could be a couple of Miss Rheingolds separated by three or four years. And she has the same magical rapport with the little creatures of the woods. The witch is the same slant-eyed Circe who worked her evil on Snow White. And the three good fairies could be maiden sisters of the misogynistic seven dwarfs."[124] A review in Time magazine harshly wrote that "Even the drawing in Sleeping Beauty is crude: a compromise between sentimental, crayon-book childishness and the sort of cute, commercial cubism that tries to seem daring but is really just square. The hero and heroine are sugar sculpture, and the witch looks like a clumsy tracing from a Charles Addams cartoon. The plot often seems to owe less to the tradition of the fairy tale than to the formula of the monster movie. In the final reel it is not a mere old-fashioned witch the hero has to kill, but the very latest model of The Thing from 40,000 Fathoms."[125] Harrison's Reports wrote: "It is doubtful, however, if adults will find as much satisfaction in Sleeping Beauty as they did in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, with which this latest effort will be assuredly compared because both stories are in many respects similar. While Beauty is unquestionably superior from the viewpoint of the art of animation, it lacks comedy characters that can be compared favorably with the unforgettable Seven Dwarfs."[126]

Among more favorable reviews, Variety praised the singing voices of Mary Costa and Bill Shirley and noted that "some of the best parts of the picture are those dealing with the three good fairies, spoken and sung by Verna Felton, Barbara Jo Allen and Barbara Luddy."[127] Kate Cameron, reviewing for The New York Daily News, described the film as "enchanting" and as a "picture that will charm the young and tickle adults, since the old fairy tale has been transferred to the screen by a Disney who kept his tongue in his cheek throughout the film's animation."[128]

Among contemporary reviews, Dave Kehr of The Chicago Reader later wrote that Sleeping Beauty was "the masterpiece of the Disney Studios’ postwar style. The animation has been stripped down, in accordance with economic imperatives, but what the images lose in shading and detail they gain in strength and fluidity...Though other Disney features were done in the wide-screen format, this is the only one that seizes the full dramatic potential of the extended space, most remarkably when the dragon makes its spectacular appearance in the final reel."[129] Charles Solomon, reviewing for the Los Angeles Times, felt the film "represents the culmination of Walt Disney's effort ...to elevate animation to an art form," although he later wrote "lacks the strong story line of the other Disney features. The central romance between Prince Philip and Princess Aurora isn't very interesting".[130]

The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported that the film received an 89% based on 46 reviews, approval rating with an average rating of 8.2/10. Its consensus states that "This Disney dreamscape contains moments of grandeur, with its lush colors, magical air, [and] one of the most menacing villains in the Disney canon."[131] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 85 out of 100 based on 12 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[132]

Awards and nominations

Award Category Nominee(s) Result
Academy Awards[133] Best Scoring of a Musical Picture George Bruns Nominated
Grammy Awards[134] Best Sound Track Album, Original Cast – Motion Picture or Television Sleeping Beauty Nominated
National Film Preservation Board[135][136] National Film Registry Inducted
Online Film & Television Association Awards[137][138] Hall of Fame – Motion Picture Inducted
Satellite Awards[139] Outstanding Overall Blu-Ray Disc Won
Outstanding Youth DVD Nominated
Saturn Awards[140] Best Classic Film DVD Release Nominated
Young Artist Awards Best Musical Entertainment Featuring Youth – TV or Motion Picture Nominated

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:

Legacy

Video games

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In the Kingdom Hearts video game series by Square Enix, Maleficent is featured as a villain in all but one of the games. Aurora briefly appears in the original Kingdom Hearts as one of the seven Princesses of Heart. The good fairies also appear in Kingdom Hearts II, giving Sora new clothes. Diablo, Maleficent's raven, appears in Kingdom Hearts II to resurrect his defeated mistress. Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep features a world based on the movie, Enchanted Dominion, and characters who appear are Princess Aurora/Briar Rose, Maleficent, Maleficent's goons, the three fairies and Prince Phillip, the latter serving as temporary party member for Aqua during her battle against Maleficent and her henchmen.

Aurora is also a playable character in the game Disney Princess.

Board game

Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty Game (1958) is a Parker Brothers children's board game for two to four players based upon Sleeping Beauty. The object of the game is to be the first player holding three different picture cards to reach the castle and the space marked "The End".[144]

Maleficent is featured on the cover of Ravensburger's Disney's Villainous board game of which she is also a playable character. Her goal is to place a curse on each of the four locations in her playable kingdom.

Theme parks

Sleeping Beauty was made while Walt Disney was building Disneyland (hence the six-year production time). To help promote the film, Imagineers named the park's icon "Sleeping Beauty Castle" (it was originally to be Snow White's).[citation needed] An indoor walk-through exhibit was added to the empty castle interior in 1957, where guests could walk through the castle, up and over the castle entrance, viewing "Story Moment" dioramas of scenes from the film, which were improved with animated figurines in 1977. It closed shortly after the September 11, 2001 attacks, supposedly because the dark, unmonitored corridors were a risk.[citation needed] After being closed for seven years, the exhibit space underwent extensive period refurbishment to restore the original 1957 displays, and reopened to guests on November 27, 2008. Accommodations were also made on the ground floor with a "virtual" version for disabled guests unable to navigate stairs. Hong Kong Disneyland opened in 2005, also with a Sleeping Beauty Castle, nearly replicating Disneyland's original design.

Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant at Disneyland Paris is a variant of Sleeping Beauty Castle. The version found at Disneyland Paris is much more reminiscent of the film's artistic direction. The Château features an animatronic dragon, imagineered to look like Maleficent's dragon form, is found in the lower level dungeon – La Tanière du Dragon.[145] The building also contains La Galerie de la Belle au Bois Dormant, a gallery of displays which illustrate the story of Sleeping Beauty in tapestries, stained-glass windows and figures.[146]

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

Maleficent is featured as one of the villains in the nighttime show Fantasmic! at Disneyland and Disney's Hollywood Studios.

Other appearances

Stage adaptation

A scaled-down one act stage musical version of the film with the title Disney's Sleeping Beauty KIDS is often performed by schools and children's theaters.[149] With book and additional lyrics by Marcy Heisler and Bryan Louiselle, the show is composed of twelve musical numbers, including the movie songs.[150]

Live-action film adaptations

In Walt Disney Pictures' live action adaptation Maleficent, released in May 2014, Angelina Jolie plays the role of Maleficent and Elle Fanning plays Princess Aurora. The movie was directed by Robert Stromberg in his directorial debut, produced by Don Hahn and Joe Roth, and written by Linda Woolverton. A sequel to this film began production in May 2018 and was released in October 2019.[151][152]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ The Queen's name is not mentioned in the film. She is referred to as Leah in the film's 1993 book adaptation by A. L. Singer.
  2. ^ The raven's name is not mentioned in the film. He was referred to as Diablo by the animators during the film's production.

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