The beautiful princess Aurora is cursed by a wicked fairy to fall into an eternal sleep after pricking her finger on a spinning wheel. She can only be awakened by a kiss of true love. Prince Philip, the only person who can save her, must first defeat the evil Maleficent in her castle upon the Forbidden Mountain with only three small fairies to aid him.
In production for eight years, and costing the studio six million dollars, Sleeping Beauty was the last fairy tale made while Walt Disney was still alive. (It wasn't until forty years later that The Little Mermaid brought fairy tales back to Disney animation.) The movie wasn't a failure at the box office, but it wasn't a runaway box office success, either. Today it's remembered fondly for its distinctive design and queen of evil, Maleficent.
The first thing you notice about Sleeping Beauty is the visual style, which is a departure from the rounded, cutesy features of Snow White and Bambi. Figures are more stylized and the color is intensely bright, but shadows are flattened so that the figures resemble stained-glass windows or medieval tapestries.
The music isn't quite as memorable as in some of Disney's other films. On the DVD we watched, the songs were often difficult to hear and were definitely recorded in a different studio and quality from the spoken dialogue. I thought it was a little distracting. At times it was hard to tell what was being said; I only caught about half of what each fairy's gift to Princess Aurora was.
To me, Sleeping Beauty seems like a very slow movie. I can't quite put my finger on why. It might simply be that older movies were paced different from our frenetic modern films, and I'm not used to the more leisurely storytelling.
I like Prince Philip. I mean, he's not Mr. Personality or anything but compared to his predecessors, Prince Charming and Snow White's Prince (who doesn't even have a name, how sad is that?) he actually does stuff and has opinions. How novel! His hair bugs me, though. I feel like he should have a ponytail or something. He and Aurora are both heavily influenced by the 1950s standard of beauty in their design. No, really! If you gave Aurora short dark hair she'd be Audrey Hepburn!
But naturally, the greatest character of all is Maleficent. I'm pretty sure she's one of Disney's greatest villains. She's so cool and elegant, but cruel. Oh man, she is cruel. At one point, she has Philip trapped in her dungeon, and she outlines her plan for him. She's not going to have him killed, even though that would be the easiest (and smartest) thing to do. No, instead she's going to let him rot in her prison for sixty years or so, 'til he's nice and old, and then she'll let me him free to go and wake Aurora up. He'll be a decrepit old man while Aurora is still pretty and in her prime - oh, the hilarity that will ensue! Maleficent can't wait to watch. Too bad the good fairies Flora, Fauna and Merryweather went and screwed that up.
She's patient, too. She doesn't kill Aurora instantly, but casts a curse so that she'll die on her sixteenth birthday. She's willing to wait for years to fully realize her revenge on King Stefan and his kingdom.
I also love how she talks. Look at her lines:
- "Well, quite a glittering assemblage King Stefan. Royalty, nobility, the gentry, and...oh, how quaint - even the rabble. "
- "Listen well, all of you. The Princess shall indeed grow in grace and beauty, beloved by all who know her. But, before the sun sets on her 16th birthday, she shall prick her finger, on the spindle of a spinning wheel - AND DIE! "
- "You poor simple fools. Thinking you could defeat me, *me*! The Mistress of All Evil! "
- "Now, shall you deal with ME, O Prince - and all the powers of HELL!"
Controls the powers of Hell AND transforms into a dragon? Maleficent is just awesome.
Maybe 8. Throw in an extra star for Maleficent's awesomeness. She is my favorite Disney villain.
This is a neat photo. It's Eleanor Audley, the actress who voiced Maleficent. She also dressed up in the costume and acted many of Maleficent's actions in order to provide visual reference for the animators. You can totally see her face and facial expressions in the animated Maleficent.