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SLEEPING BEAUTY (director: Clyde Geronimi; screenwriters: story adaptation by Erdman Penner/from the Charles Perrault version or the fairy tale; Animation Supervisors – Marc Davis/Ollie Johnston/Milt Kahl/John Lousnbery/Frank Thomas; editors: Roy M. Brewer Jr./Donald Halliday; music: adapted by George Bruns/from Tchaikovsky’s “Sleeping Beauty Ballet; cast: voices– Mary Costa (Princess Aurora/Briar Rose), Verna Felton (Flora), Barbara Jo Allen (Fauna), Barbara Luddy (Merryweather), Eleanor Audley (Maleficent), Bill Shirley (Prince Phillip), Taylor Holmes (King Stefan), Bill Thompson (King Hubert); Runtime: 75; MPAA Rating: G; producers: Walt Disney/ Ken Peterson; Walt Disney Pictures; 1959)
“Has grown better with age.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Sleeping Beauty took six years to film and was budgeted for a whopping six million dollars, the most expensive Disney at the time; though it was thought of as a financial and critical disappointment, over the years it has grown in reputation to be at last thought of as another Disney special treat. It was also the last film that Disney personally produced. Clyde Geronimi is the credited director, but as in all Disneys there’s a large team of mostly anonymous supervisors and animators responsible for the finished product. It was shot effectively in Super Technirama 70 and in the wide-screen format, making full use of the large space.

In a faraway kingdom during the 14th century, King Stefan and his wife finally have their wish granted for a baby with the birth of Princess Aurora and celebrate their joy with a gala celebration. At the palace festivities the royal couple announce Aurora’s betrothal to the infant Prince Phillip, the son of King Hubert. The three matronly good fairies Flora, Merryweather and Fauna bestow their magical gifts on the beautiful Princess when the evil witch Maleficent suddenly appears uninvited and reacts to being snubbed by casting a curse on the baby, that proclaims before her 16th birthday she would prick her finger on a spinning wheel and die. The fairies, not having the power to completely remove the curse, nevertheless alter the curse so that the Princess would not have to die, but instead fall into a deep slumber until awakened by the kiss of true love. To protect their charge, the fairies take her away to a cottage in the secluded woods where they raise her in secret under the alias of Briar Rose and keep her unaware of her true identity. On her sixteenth birthday, Aurora while singing Once Upon A Dream meets her betrothed Prince Phillip in the forest and both fall for one another unaware of each other’s real identity. But before they can meet again Maleficent arrives to lure Aurora away from the cottage to fulfill the curse and later captures Prince Phillip when he visits the cottage. The wicked witch keeps the Prince bound in chains in her retreat in Forbidden Mountain. But a happy ending is achieved with the aid of the fairies, who free Phillip from the dungeon and he bravely makes his way through the Forest of Thorns to the castle to kiss the “sleeping beauty.”

Time has looked kindly on this classic fairy tale of good versus evil that has grown better with age, and when viewed today it retains that old-fashioned Disney magical storytelling quality that keeps it timelessly enchanting for both children and adults. Though never quite the equal of classics like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio and Dumbo and too stodgy in spots and sugary in its Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty ballet soundtrack to do much for me, nevertheless the stately and finely detailed animations (it was the last Disney feature to use the costly process of hand-inking the individual cells) are works of great craftsmanship and left me more than visually pleased. The Disney team created this groundbreaking state-of-the-art film that has a pristine beauty that is awe inspiring and does justice to Charles Perrault’s version of the fairy tale (he also authored the ballet that Tchaikovsky scored).

REVIEWED ON 12/20/2008 GRADE: B+

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”