Waking Sleeping Beauty
Directed byDon Hahn
Written byPatrick Pacheco
Produced byDon Hahn
Peter Schneider
StarringRoy E. Disney
Michael Eisner
Jeffrey Katzenberg
Randy Cartwright
Howard Ashman
Narrated byDon Hahn
Edited byEllen Keneshea
Vartan Nazarian
John Damien Ryan
Music byChris P. Bacon
Stone Circle Pictures
Distributed byWalt Disney Studios
Motion Pictures
Release dates
Running time
85 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$84,918

Waking Sleeping Beauty is a 2009 American documentary film directed by Disney film producer Don Hahn and produced by Hahn and former Disney executive Peter Schneider. The film documents the history of Walt Disney Feature Animation from 1984 to 1994, covering the rise of a period referred to as the Disney Renaissance.

The film uses no new on-camera interviews, instead relying primarily on archival interviews, press kit footage, in-progress and completed footage from the films being covered, and personal film/videos shot (often against company policy) by the employees of the animation studio.

Waking Sleeping Beauty debuted at the 2009 Telluride Film Festival,[1] and played at film festivals across the country before its limited theatrical release on March 26, 2010, by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.[2]


The documentary is narrated by animator and film producer Don Hahn, with numerous audio interviews from company animators and executives.

The documentary begins in the early 1980s, when The Walt Disney Company was led by Walt Disney's son-in-law Ron W. Miller. Many new animators had joined the company after graduating from CalArts, but were hired in a time where animation was considered a dying art. Roy E. Disney, Walt's nephew and son of Disney co-founder Roy O. Disney, resigned from the company during a corporate takeover attempt by Saul Steinberg, which led to Miller's ousting. Roy returned to the company as vice-chairman of the board of directors, and chairman of the animation department. Roy installed Michael Eisner and Frank Wells, respectively, as the company's new CEO and President.

Eisner hired Jeffrey Katzenberg as head of the film division, but he proved to be a controversial figure, moving the animation department to an off-site location in Glendale, California. Roy hired Peter Schneider to be President of Walt Disney Feature Animation, who helped modernize the animation process. Losing at the box office to animated films released by Don Bluth, a former studio animator who left in 1979 to found his own company, Disney began producing new animated films to be released at a pace of one per year, and also began to release its classic films in the new home video videocassette formats. A gong show in the company led to the green-lighting of numerous film projects. The production of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, though expensive for Disney, proved to be a huge financial success, along with Oliver & Company.

The Disney Renaissance, which lasted from 1989 to 1999, began with The Little Mermaid. The soundtrack was composed and written by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, who also composed Beauty and the Beast; Menken later composed Aladdin. Ashman's involvement in The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast aided in both being box office successes and winning Academy Awards for Best Original Song and Best Original Score. However, Ashman died on March 14, 1991, and never saw the completed film. The Rescuers Down Under utilized the new CAPS system, which blended traditional and computer animation together, but the film was a box office disappointment.

At the production crew's wrap party screening of Beauty and the Beast, Eisner announced that a new animation building would be built on the studio lot as a reward for their hard work, but Katzenberg was unaware of this. In 1994, The Lion King was released and became another box office success for Disney. Katzenberg expected to become the new company president, but was denied the position by Eisner, eventually leading to his resignation; he later would go on to co-found future animation, film, TV, gaming, and music rival DreamWorks Pictures.



Narration is done by Hahn, with new audio-only interviews done by several of the studio's principal figures, including former executives Eisner, Katzenberg, and Roy E. Disney, and animator/directors Mike Gabriel, Rob Minkoff, Roger Allers, Gary Trousdale, and Kirk Wise. The footage includes filmmakers Tim Burton, John Lasseter, Don Bluth, Ron Clements, John Musker, Steven Spielberg, Robert Zemeckis, Richard Williams, and George Scribner, as well as Howard Ashman, Alan Menken, Jodi Benson, Robin Williams, Paige O'Hara, Jerry Orbach, Angela Lansbury, Jeremy Irons, Nathan Lane, Elton John, and Tim Rice. A significant portion of the personal film used was shot by John Lasseter and Joe Ranft for Disney animator Randy Cartwright, who is featured giving makeshift "studio tours" in 1980, 1984, and 1990. The Cartwright footage is used to bookend the film.[3]

The film is dedicated to the memory of Howard Ashman, former Disney President and chief operating officer Frank Wells, animator Joe Ranft, and Roy E. Disney.


Waking Sleeping Beauty has received generally positive reviews. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a rating of 71% based on 51 critics. The site's general consensus is, "[The film] doesn't probe as deep – or tell as many hard truths – as it could have, but Don Hahn's look at Disney's rebirth offers a fascinating and surprisingly candorous glimpse into the studio's past."[4] Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 top reviews from mainstream critics, calculated a score of 70 based on 18 critics.[5]

It earned a Special Achievement Award at the 2010 Annie Awards and a Best Documentary Feature nomination at the 2010 St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association Awards.[citation needed]

See also


  1. ^ Sciretta, Peter (September 6, 2009). Movie Review: Waking Sleeping Beauty. /Film. Retrieved 2010-12-02.
  2. ^ (2010-03-04). 'Waking Sleeping Beauty' Gets Limited Theatrical Release, 3/26. BroadWayWorld.com. Retrieved 2010-12-02.
  3. ^ Jeffrey M. Anderson (March 26, 2010). Interview: Don Hahn and Peter Schneider of 'Waking Sleeping Beauty'. Cinematical. Retrieved 2010-12-02.
  4. ^ "Waking Sleeping Beauty – Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved April 4, 2012.
  5. ^ "Waking Sleeping Beauty Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved December 3, 2014.