Sleeping Beauty (1959)
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Sleeping Beauty (1959)

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There are some memories that you have from childhood that never leave you. Just what you had for lunch the day before or the details of that business meeting the other day may be faint images in your mind, but some recollections you have from when you where a small child will persist for your whole life. For many of us who are in the baby boomer generation some of our most vivid memories are of going to the movie theater with your parents and watching a Disney animated movie. This studio has been providing the best in family entertainment so long that now each generation is associated with a particular Disney film. For us it was ‘Sleeping Beauty’ originally released in 1959. Back then going to the movies was nothing like it is today. It was an event. The theaters were palaces with incredible architecture that even we kids were in awe of seeing. The films were magical; bright images on the screen that was so much more wondrous than the black and white televisions most of had at home. When we got to see something like ‘Sleeping Beauty’ the overall effect was fantastic. As we sat in the red velvet seats staring at the screen time would stop for that brief time. Now, you can relive this experience or at least most of it in the comfort of your home. Disney has released the definitive DVD release of this classic film. It has been completely re-mastered so the video is clearer than ever and the audio is in a full Dolby 5.1. This is a movie that demands to be seen with each new generation of children sitting there alongside their parents. You have heard the expression ‘they don’t make movies like this anymore.’ In this particular case nothing could be truer. This is not just an example of cinematic history it is an important part of the personal history of many of us. This film is something that still can entertain even after five decades have passed. Your children are certain to be as mesmerized by the magic here as you were so long ago. They might resist but just find a way to pry them from the video games or the mindless cartoons that are popular now and give them a chance at real family entertainment.

The basic story was adapted by Erdman Penner in conjunction with several staff writers at Disney. Penner, like most of the team, worked on many of the most famous animated films in the Disney canon, such as ‘Pinocchio,’ ‘Fantasia,’ ‘Peter Pan,’ Cinderella’ and ‘Lady and the Tramp’ to name just a few. Together they crafted a classic tale of good versus evil that was perfectly suitable for the younger members of the family. There were themes like finding true love, loyalty and trust balanced against greed and jealousy that was presented in a way that would offer a scare to the kids but nothing traumatic. One thing that the adults should observe is the titular Princess is not really the center of the story. This tale follows the exploits of the three fairy godmothers as they oppose the evil queen and save their charge. It most likely wasn’t that apparent when you first saw this film in your single-digit age but notice that Aurora has only a few lines before she goes to sleep and nothing to speak of, pun intended after she awakens. The story is driven through the point of view of Flora, Fauna and Merryweather. This was absolute genius considering the potentially frightening scenes in the movie. The children are removed from overly identifying with the victim, Aurora, and shown that there are others there to protect her at all costs. This is one reason why Disney has remained the best in family entertainment for so long; they pay attention to the details and needs of their target audience. This is a strong story that has stood the test of time. After every scary scene there is one of gentle beauty to let the youngsters know everything is alright. The characters are strongly drawn and memorable.

The task of bringing this flight of imagination to the screen was director Clyde Geronimi. He also directed most of the classic animated films that the writers above worked on. Like most of the Disney directors Geromimi worked his way up from an animator so he understood the process from the ground up. This was the last film in the legendary Disney animated canon to be made by hand. The film that followed, One Hundred and One Dalmatians’ resorted to xerography due to the rising costs. There was some of this technique employed here but it was restricted to a few background drawings. This film was made old school with an army of animators had drawn each frame. That is about eight and a half million individual frames for this movie. They did have live actors dress in costume to provide a model for the artists adding a sense of realism. Sure computers can do fantastic things now and take animation to incredible places but there is nothing like this style for the sheer warmth and humanism.

Princess Aurora was blessed at her birth by three fairies, Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather, with the gift of beauty. This doesn’t sit well at all with the evil witch queen Maleficent. She plots to kill Aurora by having her die when she pricks her finger on a spinning wheel during on the day of her 16th birthday. Since Merryweather had not yet given her blessing to the girl she was able to use it to modify the deadly spell so that Aurora would sleep until kissed by her true love. Aurora’s father, King Stefan, wants to make sure the curse will never happen and orders all spinning wheels in the kingdom destroyed. To be extra safe the fairies take the girl to the woods and change her name to Briar Rose. Maleficent lures the girl to a tall tower where she has hidden a wheel and the curse is fulfilled. She falls into a deep sleep until much later when Prince Phillip comes to give her the faithful kiss.

This film is released to DVD as part of Disney’s Platinum Edition line. Every frame of the film has been carefully restored, so it looks more like the 70mm original prints than ever. The soundtrack has been fully re-mastered to a rich and full-bodied Dolby 5.1 audio. For the purest out there Disney did not leave you out. There is also a robust re-mix of the original theatrical stereo audio. Like any high-end Disney DVD release, it is not enough just to give you the film in better shape than before. There add a ton of extras on the primary disc which overflows to a second addition content disc. There is an all-new rendition of the famous song ‘Once Upon a Dream’ performed by Hannah Montana co-star Emily Osment which gives the classic tune a fresh new tween-friendly beat and video. There are an alternate opening and a look at some deleted scenes. As if that were not enough games and activities exist that will keep the children in your house well en.tertained. You even get an interactive tour through the castle. This is something to have and cherish with the whole family.

Posted 09/25/08            Posted 01/20/2020

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