Disney Marathon: ‘Sleeping Beauty’


We’re on holiday, and that means we’re going to smash out some more Disney reviews! For someone who’s a bit of a Disney nerd you’d be surprised to hear that I’ve never seen this classic part of the Princess Pantheon. I’ve seen it in bits and pieces but this is the first time I’ve watched it as a complete film!

For those just joining us, this is a movie marathon with a twist. Myself (cranky 40 year old blogger), my son Josh (10 year old Nintendo obsessive) and my daughter Amelia (drama llama 8 year old) are watching Disney movies in a random order and ranking them. We hope to see interesting differences in how we organise our lists.

Film: Sleeping Beauty

Released: 1959

Director: Clyde Geronimi, Eric Larson, Wolfgang Reitherman, Les Clark

Cast: Mary Costa, Bill Shirley, Eleanor Audley, Verna Felton, Barbara Jo Allen, Barbara Luddy, Taylor Holmes, Bill Thompson

Plot: A newly born princess is cursed by an evil fairy to fall into a deep sleep on her 16th birthday. Through the efforts of three good fairies she is kept hidden in an effort to protect her.

Review: Out of all the Disney Princess, Aurora is the one I didn’t have a handle on. She didn’t have a clearly defined personality. Cinderella is optimistic in the face of adversity, Mulan is cunning and a quick learner, and Ariel is a dumbass. After watching Sleeping Beauty it is now clear that Aurora is…

Actually, she’s still lacking much in the way of personality. She isn’t very instrumental in her own story, with most of the interesting parts of the movie taking place while she is off-screen. When she is around, all she does is talk about her dreams and dance around the forest. If you haven’t seen this movie, it’s best to think of her as a plot point rather than the protaganist.

This is a production that went through many, many revisions on a script level and the final product feels like the issues weren’t completely ironed out. We open with the birth of Princess Aurora, daughter of King Stefan (Holmes). She’s immediately betrothed to the son of the neighbouring King Hubert (Thompson) and then visited by three fairies to receive magical blessings. The fairies Flora, Fauna and Merryweather (Felton, Allen and Luddy) give Aurora beauty and song before the party is crashed by the extremely extra evil fairy Maleficent (Audley) who delivers a curse. Maleficent magically decrees that on her 16th birthday Aurora will prick her finger on a spindle and die. Unable to undo the curse, Merryweather uses her blessing to ensure that Aurora will only fall into a deep sleep until true love’s kiss revives her.

In order to keep her hidden from Maleficent the fairies take on the guises of peasant women who raise Aurora in the forest under the guise of Briar Rose. Just prior to her 16th birthday, Aurora (Costa) has a chance encounter with Prince Phillip (Shirley) and they fall in love. Maleficent discovers where Aurora is hidden and ensures her curse does occur, leaving Phillip and the fairies to charge into battle to save her and the kingdom from an eternal slumber.

First and foremost, the animation is the star here. The abstract landscapes used to represent the fairies blessings is remarkable, especially for the era in which is was created. The Medieval art style gives the story a delightfully timeless feeling, and the animators aren’t afraid of exaggerating expressions and character movements to give everything an epic feel. Maleficent receives the best results of this style, becoming the most memorable and spectacular aspect of the movie. She throws herself completely into the role of the villain and delights in her evil actions. You can’t not love her.

Time spent with the fairies is also fun, as they try and fail to live like normal people. The comedy only gets better when they pull out the wands and we get imaginative and fun uses of their spells. The cake ingredients reading their own recipe is charming in a way of Disney movies manage, and the battle of colours is a solid running gag. On the other side of the coin in terms of tone is the epic final battle where Phillip battles through the Forbidden Mountain, the wall of thorns and Maleficent in giant dragon form. It’s an amazing set piece and there’s a real sense of dread and hopelessness.

What the film lacks is a solid through line. We jump between the fairies being clumsy, Aurora singing to herself in the forest, King Stefan and Hubert getting sloppy drunk and Maleficent cackling evilly to herself. Each scene feels like it could be taking place in a different movie. After all the rewrites of the script it still has no cohesion or clear protaganist. It’s also hard to ignore the fact that the fairies have been living in the forest for 16 years and are acting as though it’s their first day without magic. They can’t even bake without magic, so what have they been doing this entire time? It feels like a day has passed instead of 16 years and it’s jarring.

It’s a nice slice of animation, but the story doesn’t keep us coming back. Just skip to the fairy and Maleficent scenes.

Best Song: ‘Once Upon a Dream’ is a good song, I guess…

Coolest Easter Egg: The princess is known as both Aurora and Briar Rose in the film, bringing together two traditional tellings of the story. The Tchaikovsky ballet featured Aurora whilst Grimm Brother’s tellings called her Briar Rose.

Weirdest Trivia: Prince Phillip is the first Disney prince to be given an on screen name. Snow White‘s love interest is only known as The Prince (since known as Florian) and Cinderella met with a man known only as Prince Charming.

Rating: SIX out of TEN

THE RANKING

ME

I’m glad I saw it…but I’ll only watch the fairy scenes if it was put on again.

Click those titles if you want to see what we said about the other movies.

  1. Zootopia
  2. Robin Hood
  3. Aladdin
  4. The Nightmare Before Christmas
  5. The Lion King
  6. Wreck-It Ralph
  7. Alice in Wonderland
  8. Beauty and the Beast
  9. Moana
  10. Big Hero 6
  11. The Great Mouse Detective
  12. The Little Mermaid
  13. Frozen
  14. Tangled
  15. The Sword in the Stone
  16. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
  17. Mulan
  18. Cinderella
  19. Emperor’s New Groove
  20. Fantasia
  21. Ralph Breaks the Internet
  22. The Three Caballeros
  23. The Jungle Book
  24. Sleeping Beauty
  25. The Princess and the Frog
  26. Hercules
  27. Oliver & Company
  28. The Aristocats
  29. Saludos Amigos
  30. Home on the Range
  31. Bolt
  32. Dinosaur
  33. The Fox and the Hound
  34. Atlantis: The Lost Empire
  35. Pocahontas
  36. A Goofy Movie
  37. Fantasia 2000
  38. Treasure Planet
  39. Chicken Little

AMELIA

Oh, Amelia did not like this. She was vocal about everything taking too long to happen. The parts of the movie she enjoyed were far and few between.

  1. Frozen
  2. Moana
  3. Tangled
  4. The Little Mermaid
  5. Emperor’s New Groove
  6. Zootopia
  7. Atlantis: The Lost Empire
  8. The Great Mouse Detective
  9. Home on the Range
  10. The Nightmare Before Christmas
  11. Mulan
  12. Hercules
  13. Alice in Wonderland
  14. Cinderella
  15. Wreck-It Ralph
  16. Bolt
  17. Pocahontas
  18. Dinosaur
  19. The Aristocats
  20. The Princess and the Frog
  21. Robin Hood
  22. The Jungle Book
  23. Fantasia 2000
  24. The Lion King
  25. Beauty and the Beast
  26. The Three Caballeros
  27. The Fox and the Hound
  28. The Sword in the Stone
  29. Saludos Amigos
  30. Oliver & Company
  31. Aladdin
  32. Treasure Planet
  33. Big Hero 6
  34. Fun and Fancy Free
  35. Sleeping Beauty
  36. A Goofy Movie
  37. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
  38. Chicken Little
  39. Fantasia

JOSHUA

It was fine. That’s all he had to offer.

  1. Zootopia
  2. Big Hero 6
  3. Aladdin
  4. Emperor’s New Groove
  5. Treasure Planet
  6. Moana
  7. Ralph Breaks the Internet
  8. The Three Caballeros
  9. Saludos Amigos
  10. Wreck-It Ralph
  11. Frozen
  12. Mulan
  13. The Princess and the Frog
  14. The Lion King
  15. The Jungle Book
  16. Robin Hood
  17. Bolt
  18. The Sword in the Stone
  19. Beauty and the Beast
  20. Oliver & Company
  21. Sleeping Beauty
  22. Tangled
  23. The Great Mouse Detective
  24. Cinderella
  25. The Little Mermaid
  26. Home on the Range
  27. Pocahontas
  28. A Goofy Movie
  29. The Aristocats
  30. Fantasia
  31. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
  32. Atlantis: The Lost Empire
  33. Fun and Fancy Free
  34. The Fox and the Hound
  35. Fantasia 2000
  36. The Nightmare Before Christmas
  37. Dinosaur
  38. Hercules
  39. Alice in Wonderland
  40. Chicken Little