Friday, January 30, 2015

Sleeping Beauty (1959) - 9 stars out of 10

Sleeping Beauty (1959) - 9 stars out of 10

“Sleeping Beauty” is a feast for the eyes.  From its detailed animated backdrops to the forest creatures and the bright green light that enshrouds Maleficent, this film embodies the classic Disney animation that we all love.  This was never one of my favorites, but experiencing it as an adult has given me new perspective.  Details like the 2-dimensional Medieval-style artwork at the beginning, comedy of the fairy godmothers ("Let it be pink!"), and the adaptations of Tchaikovsky’s ballet that run throughout the entire film make this a movie that can be enjoyed by children and adults alike.  One complaint that I often have about Disney films is that they feel too short but, even with a runtime of 75 minutes, “Sleeping Beauty” is a satisfying length because so much happens throughout the story.  I would definitely feel inclined to watch this one again soon because of those magic Disney moments like Aurora dancing with the animals to Once Upon A Dream and Prince Phillip fighting the dragon.  Like many Disney classics from the 50’s and 60’s, this diverse set of characters is enhanced by an all-star group of voice actors.  The most poignant of these is the villain, Maleficent.  Eleanor Audley’s wicked voice (Lady Tremaine and Madam Leota in the Haunted Mansion) has terrified generations of children and can send shivers down the spine of any adult.  It is perfectly contrasted by Mary Costa, the opera singer that voiced Aurora.  The comic relief of Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather comes mainly from the voice acting.  Verna Felton (Fairy Godmother, Queen of Hearts), Barbara Jo Allen, and Barbara Luddy (Lady, Mother Sexton, Kanga) have amazing chemistry and provide the momentum for the entire story.  As a child, I did not realize the significance of these characters but Aurora’s story is actually told through them (they are in the film more than she is).  King Stefan and King Hubert have similar comical chemistry during their bickering sequence.  Bill Thompson (King Hubert) is one of my favorite members of the Disney royalty, having played White Rabbit, Mr. Smee, and five characters with different accents in “Lady and the Tramp.”  Walt Disney tackled this film as he was creating Disneyland, but it was well worth the 4 years that it took to produce.  It would be tough to find anybody who does not consider “Sleeping Beauty” to be a true Disney classic but if you find one, simply show them the smile on Aurora’s face after Prince Phillip kisses her.  It doesn’t get any more magical than that.

[Pictured: A truly classic Disney moment]

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