Sunday, January 12, 2014

Sleeping Beauty 1959

Personal Overview: everyone knows the story of Sleeping Beauty. I did, or at least I thought I did. I found out it’s real origins fairly recently and what actually does wake her up…it is not true loves kiss.

Knowing that and having this presented as a love story kind of spoiled me for it. Uncle Walt went back to Fairytaleland and he wanted to make this a real experience. He changed the style of artwork and story telling. It worked for many people and Aurora was added to the Princess Pantheon. She’s one of the big three with Snow White and Cinderella.

The story isn’t actually about her though. It’s the story of Flora, Fauna and Merryweather, the three fairies that raise Aurora as Briar Rose and try to protect her from the evil fairy Maleficent. It’s also about Prince Phillip (the first properly named Prince) who rescues Aurora.

It’s the first time in a fairytale story that they’ve actually specified a time period too. At one point Phillip tells his father that it’s the 14th century.

Hero/es: most people will say Aurora. I mean it makes sense, the film is called Sleeping Beauty, but she’s not really what it’s about. She only has 18 lines, most of them sung, she doesn’t speak until about 19 minutes in and it’s only 75 minutes long. She has no personality whatsoever. The real heroes are the three good fairies, who I tend to think of as Fairy Godmothers, as they give up their own lives and magic to raise and protect Aurora. The other hero is Prince Phillip who defies the odds, and Maleficent even when she turns herself into a fire breathing dragon, to rescue Aurora and wake her from her magical slumber. His horse should also get a mention, but I don’t think he’s even named.

Villain/s: there’s only one and its Maleficent, she’s a good old fashioned villain. They never give any reason for her animosity towards Aurora other than she’s evil, although I think in some versions of the story it’s because she wasn’t invited to Aurora’s christening. Apparently they’ve made or are making a live action film about Maleficent with Angelina Jolie as the horned fairy. That’ll be interesting because Merryweather sums up her personality perfectly in this by referring to her as being evil just for the sake of it.

Cuteness Factor: there’s the obligatory scene where Aurora charms the woodland creatures. You tend to see the same creatures or characters, there’s always an owl and there always seems to be this fluffy little blue bird. Squirrels are also very popular. Disney later capitalized on that by creating the chipmunks Chip and Dale, who eventually morphed into Rescue Rangers with their own show. I think the real Cuteness Factor in this belongs to the fairies, especially the battle between Merryweather and Flora (I think) over whether Aurora’s ball gown should be blue or pink. For the record Flora won., because she generally appears in a pink gown, although I think this is so she doesn’t clash with Cinderella who has a blue one, but I think it really should be white, because that was her gown in her film.

Animation: as I said they went for a different style here. I wasn’t personally a fan of it. I could see what they were trying to do with the backgrounds and buildings, give them that medieval look, but I didn’t like it. The people were largely standard Disney people, except for Aurora who they tried to make the picture of beauty. For the record they did a good job, but failed with the hair, which looks drawn and not real. It took years before animators could do realistic hair. I have to mention Phillip’s horse. Somewhere along the line it is related to Max the horse/bloodhound from Tangled. The resemblance is too strong to be coincidental.

Final Words: this is one of the classics, but not one I remember fondly. It’s an artistic achievement, but the story is very thin with massive holes and virtually no character development. An appearance film only. It actually caused a big loss when it was first released and may have scared the company away from ‘Princess’ films until 1989’s The Little Mermaid.

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