In 1959 with nine years of production and Disneyland’s castle already bearing it’s namesake, Sleeping Beauty was released as Disney’s 16th animated feature film. FINALLY another animated classic on my list in what seemed for awhile like a sea of lesser-notable live action. For me, this is a film from my childhood- my Sleeping Beauty storybook, dog-eared with a missing cover, a trip to the video store to rent it on VHS. What I remember is loving this film. Give me a cottage, doting woodland creatures and a princess melody and generally it’s a recipe for my favor.
Walt once called Sleeping Beauty the most beautiful film they had ever made, they had achieved ‘the art of enlivened, moving painting”. And by 1959, this can certainly be considered true. Striking are the landscapes and backgrounds that sweep the screen, stealing thunder almost from the characters themselves.
One of the best things about this project so far has been revisiting these films in a genuine way, paying close attention to them with the purpose of writing, rediscovering what girl-Amanda loved about them and uncovering what grown-Amanda thinks. The nostalgia for this one was obviously still there. I mean it’s Sleeping Beauty. But with this viewing, there was a definite shift in what I value about the film.
I found films like Cinderella, Peter Pan, Pinocchio, even Snow White to be highly character-driven. Sleeping Beauty shines aesthetically, highly stylized and themed with lines, angles and swirls, a surefire flex for the animation department. Characters, music, and even storyline were secondary elements for me. Aurora is a beauty and her dialogue is scarce. She’s the reason for the film, the one we’re to care about, and we do, but look how pretty the forest is.
The current legacy of this film lies in the castle, and a major motion picture remake. As it turns out, it’s entirely suiting that the iconic castle in Disneyland is named for Sleeping Beauty. To put it plain– like the film, it’s pretty. It’s the focal point of the park. At the time, naming the castle before the film was released was excellent film promotion, but today with a full catalog of Disney princess films to look back on, Sleeping Beauty remains the right fit.
As for 2014’s Maleficent, it is no surprise to me that Disney brought us a reimagined backstory of Sleeping Beauty’s villian- a character piece- rather than a scene-for-scene replay of the animated version. They gave us a classic and followed it with a castle and later a character piece and the only thing left unsettled is the age old question: pink or blue?