Movie Review by Debbie Winkler
Starring: Mary Costa, Bill Shirley, Eleanor Audley, Verna Felton, Barbara Luddy
Director: Clyde Geronimi
Release Date: 29 January 1959
Length: 75 minutes
Movie Rating: G
View Format: DVD
My Rating: 5/5 stars
“A beautiful princess born in a faraway kingdom is destined by a terrible curse to prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and fall into a deep sleep that can only be awakened by true love’s first kiss. Determined to protect her, her parents ask three fairies to raise her in hiding. But the evil Maleficent is just as determined to seal the princess’s fate. This animated Disney classic earned an Oscar nod for its haunting score.” — Netflix.com
Growing up, this was my favorite Disney princess movie. I can remember watching it in the movie theatre when it was rereleased and fell in love with it! There is something so magical about this fairy tale and, even though other Disney movies have taken the lead position as my favorite over the years, there is still a special place in my heart for Sleeping Beauty. “I Know You” is one of my favorite songs and it is always so fun to watch Rose interact with the adorable animals in the forest. And, just so you know, “make it blue” should have won the day – I never liked that dress in pink!
My favorite character is the fairy Merryweather (voiced by Barbara Luddy). She is so funny! She is really the only voice of reason during Rose’s (voiced by Mary Costa) years growing up in a cottage in the middle of the forest. I love the way that she reacts when Flora (voiced by Verna Felton) and Fauna (voiced by Barbara Jo Allen) are trying to make a dress and bake a cake – and failing miserably! My next favorite character was Maleficent (voiced by Eleanor Audley). I know, I know, she is the bad guy in the movie and she is one of the most terrifying Disney villains, in my opinion, but I was just fascinated by her. She had this beautifully cultured voice and a facade of calm control that just sent chills up my spine when I was a kid and still fascinate me today. My other favorite is the bard who serves the wine to the Kings while they await the arrival of their children. It is a short scene, but these 3 men together are a hoot! Of course, all of the characters in the movie are adorable and fun to get to know – even all of the evil henchmen.
As I grew older, I cam to question the movie’s storyline a bit more. Firstly, if I was the King or the Queen, I would be furious at the fairies’ botched handling of the princess’s early years. How could you keep her identity hidden until the last day and then blow it over a stupid argument regarding pink or blue fabric?! Anyway, I would have not been able to forgive losing 16 years of my only daughter’s life for a plan that didn’t even protect her from the evil spell in the end. Secondly, hearing the “adult” versions of this fairy tale ruin the innocence and the beauty of this story for me. There are a lot of erotic versions and the more traditional “adult” version where Aurora awakens pregnant and completely confused. I much prefer Disney‘s version, but is hard not to remember the other versions while I am watching it, unfortunately. Avoid other versions at all costs! Thirdly, I never quite understood why there was so little music in this movie. By music, I mean songs like are found in the other movies that have lyrics and dancing and are upbeat and yet still move the story forward. I was delighted to have this last question answered by the one of the special features about Tchaikovsky. I had no idea that Disney used some of his original music for the animated feature and this really added another layer of delight for me.
The remastered version of this Disney classic is lovely. It looks almost new! There are some special features I enjoyed, such as the Wonderful World of Disney special introducing Sleeping Beauty and telling the story of Tchaikovsky and his love/hate relationship with music; original animators working on the Sleeping Beauty film and using a live model to plan the movements; and some that I did not enjoy as much, such as the Grand Canyon suite, which featured beautiful music, but was just a touch boring for me. This DVD is a must buy for anyone who enjoys Disney movies or has a little princess of their own at home.
Maleficent is a pretty scary villain and she turns into a dragon at the end to attack the Prince. There is an intense (for children) fighting sequence with lots of dark colors, dragonfire and narrow escapes. Also, she does say “hell” once in the movie – I remember being shocked when I was a kid! It is used in context (“all the powers of hell”) so it is used correctly, which is probably why this movie retained its G rating. There is one scene of drinking wine and getting tipsy. There are also some creepy little troll-like minions who wreak havoc throughout the movie while doing Maleficent’s bidding. Recommended for viewers of all ages.