When the Walt Disney Studios released “Sleeping Beauty” in 1959 it was not received as well as other classics like “Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs” or “Cinderella.” Financially it didn’t prove to be as close to a success to Disney’s prior films. I dunno. Maybe moviegoers were tiring of the semi fluid animation where the drawn characters freely move but the backdrops remain in place. The gimmick of animation might have been getting old and stale.
My opinion though is that “Sleeping Beauty” carries a perfect blend of charm, humor, beautiful colors (whether it’s pink or blue) and most certainly suspense.
Princess Aurora is born, but during her introductory ceremony the evil fairy Maleficent curses her to die on her sixteenth birthday when she pricks her finger on a spinning wheel. The delightful fairies, Flora, Fauna and Merryweather (the original Golden Girls) agree to hide her in the forest, thus avoiding Aurora’s impending doom. This trio is are terrific with their squabbling and intentions to avoid magic use. No magic will ever bode well in dress making or baking.
This is one of the best examples of Walt Disney’s knack for beautiful storytelling in imagination and fantasy. It’s a perfectly innocent film, rated G, but it consists of terrific personality from all of the main characters, even Aurora’s true love to be, Prince Phillip with his trusty steed, Samson, who will carelessly toss Phillip off his back and into a pond.
Moreover, Maleficent is one of the greatest tools of suspense in all of film. A hauntingly well executed scene puts Aurora in a trance forced to follow a floating neon green light. Maleficent’s spell has possessed her and forced her to meet her destiny. Yet as the scene is playing out and Aurora slowly climbs the castle’s stone staircases, you hope to god she doesn’t prick her finger. The scene plays out slowly building on fear and anxiety. A great bedtime story moment.
Another highlight is one the greatest achievements in the studio’s history involving Maleficent transforming into a hideous black dragon breathing bolts of green/yellow fire and smoldering the bridge beneath Phillip as he tries to defeat the beast. Phillip loses his footing, ready to fall into a bottomless void, the three good fairies shake their heads in terror and the music builds. It’s a great scene of bold adventure.
Aurora is adoring as she harmonizes about meeting a handsome prince “once upon a dream.” A beautiful sequence set in the forest where the lovable creatures allow our heroine to play within her fantasies.
“Sleeping Beauty” has everything. Adventure, romance, music, suspense, and one of the best cast of characters, most especially well delivered from the evil Maleficent. It’s an absolutely perfect accomplishment in storytelling and filmmaking. A film that continues to sustain the Mouse House’s awe inspiring legacy.
Every family and young child especially should watch “Sleeping Beauty.”