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.
The curse involved the needle of a spinning wheel. So King Stephen ordered every one to be burnt. The surprisingly moving scene ended the introduction.
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”.
Remember, do not drink and strum.
Mary Costa, veteran of many operatic roles voiced melodious Princess Aurora/Briar Rose.
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.
Slow to anger King Stephen became all business versus Maleficent and uttered one of our favorite lines, "Seize that CREATUUUURE!"
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.
Aww, she does not look so evil. Maybe she is just misunderstood. (Maleficent was voiced deliciously by Eleanor Audley. She had previously voiced Cinderella's step mother. Walt must have found her patrician tone perfect for this ultimate evil role.)
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.
Fear not, for King Hubert & everyone (except Maleficent) will live happily ever after.
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”?)
Phillip versus Maleficent: Yup. It is a pedal-to-the-metal, do-or-die, one-way-trip, David-versus-Goliath confrontation. (NOW we have exhausted the dashed cliches.)
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.
Blessed with the fairy gift of song, Princess Aurora/Briar Rose was the only Disney princess with a legitimate reason for the ability to communicate with animals.
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).
Maleficent appearing out of the dark is the stuff of nightmares. (The obvious answer? Do not sleep.)
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.
Phillip & Aurora Step 1: Boy meets girl and there is instant attraction. Overcoming initial caution, infatuation quickly grows.
Phillip & Aurora Step 2: Boy & girl get to know each other better and share activities as infatuation grows into something more.
Phillip & Aurora Step 3: Finally (after 2.5 minutes) destiny has taken hold and true love will conquer all. Disclaimer: 2.5 minutes is not typical. Your results may vary.
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.
Prince Phillip was brave and risked all. ("Oh my god, is that a cross on his shield?!" <-- Think of the irony built into that sentence.)
Maleficent said, "Now you will have to deal with me and all the powers of Hell!" The frightening dragon she transformed (or reverted?) into was one of the most intense and fearsome ever animated. Refreshingly, she was not "banished", "imprisoned" (or sent a strong letter). She was killed dead. D-E-A-D, dead.
Check out a couple more pics of Aurora as Briar Rose in