Dir.: Clyde Geronimi, Les Clark, Eric Larson and Wolfgang Reitherman
Classic Disney to a fault (perhaps in some cases too much), gorgeously realised and lushly produced, Sleeping Beauty was a hit upon release and remains a fondly-remembered staple of many a Disney Brat. However, when you remove the rose-coloured lenses of childhood from the film, it’s not so much a great movie, but a serviceable one.
While there is no doubt Sleeping Beauty has earned its overall reputation of being one of Disney’s finest hours success and first-use technology wise (Technirama in glorious 70 widescreen! Stereophonic sound!), it’s heavily traditional approach, flimsy characterizations of Princess Aurora and her inamorato Prince Phillip and favouritism toward it’s side characters does bring the quality of the movie down a few notches. Nothing is criminal about Sleeping Beauty, but the heroic element for the most part is far out-weighed by the villainous as personified by the brilliant and aptly-named Maleficent. I actually feel the animators and directors cared more for Maleficent than the title character because the Mistress of All Evil (her words, not mine) is given considerably more character moments that the film only really becomes fully engaging when she slithers elegantly on screen enacting her nefarious schemes.
There is nothing particularly deep theme-wise to take away from viewing Sleeping Beauty, regardless, one can’t help but admire the sheer spectacle of what they see and in that element, the film succeeds. It is re-telling a classic tale that has been told time and again in varying degrees (can you imagine if this was told in the Brothers Grimm way? Yeeeeesssh, imagine that!), but it is a classic for a reason.
Disney understands the nature of the mission and with this assurance, Sleeping Beauty is a confident movie which played to its strengths with enough commitment to endure through the ages. Does it demand complex thoughts and beg for academic analysis? No, and that is a point- it is a straight forward fairy tale which does not rely on pretense, just the simple magic of telling a story to the masses, embracing its own simplicity and lavish beauty.