It was a bold and extravagant departure from the softly curved characters of Disney’s past.
When they added Eyvind Earle to the production his striking angular backgrounds influenced all the visuals. Sleeping Beauty became one of Disney’s most expensive and lavish productions.
The Fortress one sentence synopsis: After many years of trying a noble king and queen finally had a beautiful daughter who was then spelled by a demonic witch to die but spared by fairies to instead sleep until awakened by love’s first kiss which happened at the hands- er, lips of heroic Prince Phillip and thus two great kingdoms were united.
Sleeping Beauty was (thankfully) not politically correct. It included an arranged marriage, a droll minstrel who imbibed too much, and overt Christian imagery which befitted the setting. The hero was given a “shield of virtue” and a “sword of truth”; “weapons of righteousness that will triumph over evil”.
There was sadness too. The King and Queen allowed Princess Aurora to be raised anonymously as Briar Rose by fairies and missed out on 16 years of their daughter for whom they had waited so long.
At least the pernicious Maleficent also suffered through those years unable to fulfill her curse. However those dipstick fairies, after being so careful for 15 years 364 days blow it in the last few hours. Sheesh.
Maleficent was demonic, and they made no bones about it. The self proclaimed “mistress of all evil” was diabolically sadistic in her enjoyment of others suffering and torment of Phillip. A level of malevolence unmatched by Disney to this day.
The movie draws you in. One cannot help but feeling crestfallen along with King Hubert as his son Phillip announced his desire to marry a peasant girl (Briar Rose). Hubert is crushed as the 16 year dream of united realms is dashed.
The fairies put the entire kingdom to sleep rather than break their hearts with the news of Aurora’s fate. It was poignant that they all now suffered that same fate. Philip, imprisoned by Maleficent would be the key to all their destinies. No pressure.
The movie did not lag in its pacing as the climax built and Phillip with his horse Sampson begin a desperate all-or-nothing, no-turning-back, life-or-death struggle. (Are there any more dashed cliche’s we can add? How about “no-holds-barred”?)
This movie is truly classic for so many reasons. We delight in the multi-part choral harmonies. They were so rich, and aided by Thurl Ravenscroft, the deep voice of Tony (“They’re Greeeaaat!”) the Tiger. Sadly such harmonies fell from favor; reduced to just a few seconds by the Little Mermaid/Beauty and the Beast era, to completely gone today.
Another classic element is its timelessness. Walt Disney had a rule about adding no contemporary humor or references to his films. He wanted them to be enjoyed for generations and not tied to specific passing knowledge. Sadly that rule was later bent and broken after he died (*cough* Aladdin).
Additionally Sleeping Beauty has one of the best depictions of “love at first encounter” ever. With a few well placed set ups, the 2.5 minute scene where Phillip meets Briar Rose and they sing and dance together in the woods may make even the most jaded heart a believer in such romantic notions.
Sleeping Beauty is our favorite Disney movie. It is classic for all it includes, and all it leaves out. It is memorable for unique art direction never to be duplicated. It portrays emotions and character development with cleverness, and contains the most clear depiction of good versus evil ever to wear the Disney name.