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Sleeping Beauty Reviews

Page 1 of 602
Daniel Mumby
Daniel Mumby

Super Reviewer

February 11, 2013
Revisiting films that we loved as a child is not always a good experience. Disney films took up such a large portion of our childhood viewing that the stories and imagery of said films became bound up with our notion of childhood itself. Hence it can be depressing or disconcerting to revisit these films as an adult, either to find that they were never really that good, or that the messages they contained were in hindsight deeply questionable.

But for every time that Disney falls short or gives ample ammunition to cynics like me, we also get films which reaffirm our love for the company and the way in which they tell stories. Sleeping Beauty reaffirms Disney's good record with folk and fairy tales, with a near-perfect adaptation of Charles Perrault's story modelled on Pyotr Tchaikovsky's ballet. The result will send your heart soaring, being gleefully enjoyable, scary and romantic, all in the right places.

That said, there is a certain bitter-sweetness to revisiting Sleeping Beauty. While it is a really great film in its own right, it is also Disney's last truly great film until the renaissance 30 years later. The film stands on a threshold between the golden age, where Walt Disney was personally involved in every film, and the wilderness years era where the company declined into increasingly safe and mediocre fare. There are little hints in Sleeping Beauty of what was to come, including Wolfgang Reitherman's presence as a supervising director.

The one partial weakness of Sleeping Beauty is the quality of its animation. The film still looks stunning, with a wide range of bright, expressive colours, intricate backgrounds and very appealing character designs. But the colours are ever so slightly paler and less fluid than in Snow White, and there is a less of a shimmer to the cinematography than, say, Cinderella. Part of this was a conscious decision by Disney, who wanted to depart from the polished feel of these two films. But there are also shortcuts taken throughout, with the early reliance on narration, the multiple still book shots, and the crowd scenes where hundreds of extras are frozen to the spot.

Considering that the film was the most expensive Disney had ever made, this might send alarm bells ringing. But the good news is that shortcuts aside, all the money on Sleeping Beauty went to the right places, namely the story, music and characters. While the production took eight years in total, the voice acting was recorded in full very early on, and only minor changes were made when the songs were added near the end of animation. As a result we get a fairy tale adaptation which doesn't need to rely on its visuals to weave its magical spell.

First and foremost, Sleeping Beauty is a brilliant example of how to adapt a fairy tale. It is a great deal more faithful to Perrault's version than Cinderella was, playing everything straight and working overtime to sustain the feeling of magic and wonder it generates. Cinderella came a cropper because Disney made changes to the central character, adding a layer of unintentional cruelty to the final outcome. Aurora is far more innocent and genuine, with her reactions to every event that transpires being completely believable and empathetic.

There is a wonderful innocence to the whole production, which roots the fairy tale in its period of origin and allows all the more theatrical and pantomime details to emerge naturalistically. With Cinderella, there was a feeling of Disney taking a 17th-century story and using it to justify a 1950s view of women, with a deliberate emphasis on contentment within domesticity, servitude and pipe dreaming. With Sleeping Beauty, the story is treated and presented as a product of its time; all the different elements make complete sense and none of the plot points or character developments feel like they have been manipulated or tweaked behind the scenes.

Sleeping Beauty is also an example of the great potential in pantomime. The term is often used as an insult to describe something which is needlessly ridiculous or over-the-top - a criticism that results from the material trying to be something it's not. Like any genre or style, pantomime can be effective when it is openly accepted and put in the hands of people who understand the rules. Like its predecessor commedia dell'arte, it thrives on comic timing, and on this count alone the film is a masterpiece.

The characters in Sleeping Beauty all correspond to the archetypes and character arcs of any modern pantomime. The two lovers (Aurora and Philip) may be the main people that we root for, but they aren't really the agents of the plot: they succeed because they are helped by both the supporting cast of characters and circumstances beyond their control. These supporting characters (mainly the three fairies) do most of the work in combatting the villain (Maleficent), having limited powers of their own but relying in ingenuity to protect Briar Rose. There's also a lot of comedy based around confusion, with the arguments between the two kings or the king and Philip resembling the bluster between the king and the duke in Cinderella.

The protagonists in Sleeping Beauty are all thoroughly appealing, whether because they fit archetypes we know and love, or because they are simply well-written. Aurora may be incredibly beautiful but she's still as impulsive and curious as we would expect teenagers to be; her reaction both to seeing Philip and being told she can't see him again are really believable. The fairies are a lot of fun, with the sensitive Fauna busying herself quietly while Flora and Merryweather scrap over anything from the plan to hide Aurora to the colour of her birthday dress.

The film is also beautifully paced, thanks largely to its soundtrack. Setting the story to Tchaikovsky's ballet is a masterstroke because it gives the film a consistent and brilliant rhythm, which in turn keeps the plot moving forward. The score is powerful and evocative enough in its own right, but where songs are added they don't trample on Tchaikovsky so much as reshape it, particularly the recurring theme of 'Once Upon A Dream'. The cast sing beautifully, particularly Mary Costa as Aurora, and the woodland scenes with Rose and the animals rival Snow White for their gleeful charm.

Like all good pantomimes, Sleeping Beauty has the capacity to be dark and creepy when it needs to be. One of the most striking moments in the whole film is the hypnotism of Aurora, in which our heroine is led in a trance away from her guardians, into a dark tower and to touching the fatal spinning wheel. For all the scariness of Snow White, these scenes are every bit as creepy as the Evil Queen's transformation, and the score really drives home just how threatening Maleficent is.

Maleficent is arguably the greatest villain that Disney ever created. Her character design is quite superb, with a sinister blend of black, purple and pale green topped of by the flowing cloak and demonic horns. Not only is her motivation pure spite, but she goes about her evil work in a cruel but enticing way. She charms you with her elegance and quiet delivery, only to terrify you with her outbursts and the immense power she commands. Eleanor Audley's vocal performance is simply perfect, bettering her previous work for the company as Cinderella's Lady Tremaine.

Sleeping Beauty is a truly great Disney film which has only grown in stature over time. While its animation isn't as glossy or as polished as Disney's 1940s efforts, it excels itself everywhere else, with enthralling characters, a fantastic villain, great comedy and a beautiful soundtrack. Every emotional development is perfectly judged and complimented by the next, making it Disney's best all-round effort since Snow White. It's just a shame we had to wait another 30 years for them to produce something this good again.
Matthew Samuel M

Super Reviewer

November 26, 2012
Quite dark for a princess story, Sleeping Beauty succeeds because of the beautiful animation and its iconic villain. These elements help it avoid becoming just another fairy tale movie.
TheDudeLebowski65
TheDudeLebowski65

Super Reviewer

April 28, 2012
Disney's Sleeping Beauty is a wonderful classic. The studio has always strived on bringing terrific animated features to the screen, and Sleeping Beauty continues that tradition. Brilliant from start to finish, and well drawn, this is a marvelous childhood favorite. Sleeping Beauty is a bit dark, and it might scare little kids under the age of five, but for the most part. The film is easily one of the studios best since Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Like many of Disney's first films, this film still belongs among the best of Disney's output. The classic, simplistic nature of this film is what really makes it such a memorable film to watch. I very much enjoyed the film and thought it was a brilliant classic with a great voice cast. Disney's strength lies in the simplistic tales that each film has, but they do it in such a way that it's hard to forget these films. Sleepy Beauty is a great film, one that is perfect for anyone of all ages. Even with its dark overtones, this is a film that children will love; I certainly enjoyed it when I was young. If you're looking for another great Disney classic, Sleeping Beauty is a must film. This is a fine film from start to finish, one that is just as memorable as previous Disney films. Brilliantly acted, drawn and told; Sleeping Beauty remains a definite classic in the Disney catalogue. If you love the old school Disney films, give this one a shot, it is a very memorable film, and yet another classic.
Alexander D

Super Reviewer

June 14, 2011
OK+
Emily A

Super Reviewer

May 30, 2011
Ugh, god. I think I must have outgrown this movie before I even gave it a decent shot. To give credit where it's due, it is a beautiful film. The backgrounds are to die for; the forestscapes are breathtaking and I found myself wishing that real thickets were as lush and idyll. Maleficent's castle alone would have been worth the price of admission. Dude, it's freakin' Mordhaus 45 years before Metalocalypse! Indeed, the woman's got exemplary taste in architecture. Her taste in minions, foes and general story worlds however is really lacking. The poor witch is much too badass a villain to degrade herself in a movie like this. Three pudgy and inept fairy godmothers who, in fifteen years, can't learn to sew or bake are really below her as nemeses. Maleficent is better than that. This movie's got huge problems. The writing should have been so much tighter; instead of events advancing the plot, this is a series of vaguely amusing and unconnected events interspersed with cursory plot detail. Sleeping Beauty is an example of terrible storytelling: It could have been a rom-com farce about two royal lovers that don't know that they were bethrothed to begin with. It could have been a fascinating story of a bitter anti-monarchistic sorceress who's trying to wake up her countrymen to thier blind hero worship. In fact, that would have given the villain believable motivation for her deeds, which are instead done out of the evil of her heart. The closest thing we get to a real story would be the tale of three clingy spinsters who never grew up, but try to define thier own identities through thier artifical roles as mothers. Because really, the three portly sprites are the actual protagonists of the film, not the title character. I don't understand this movie. What's its moral? Be sure to invite everyone to your daughter's christening? Teach your children about the dangers of the world, instead of trying to isolate them from them all? Blech. I want to see Maleficent in her own movie.
DreamExtractor
DreamExtractor

Super Reviewer

April 22, 2011
Great animation and story make this one of Walt Disneys most magical movies
Conner R

Super Reviewer

January 12, 2010
If I were to choose my favorite of the Disney Princess film collection, this would probably be it. I think it's probably due to the unbelievably great animation and the fact that it has the most realistic sense of danger. It's kind've more about Prince Adam's adventure of being awesome and defeating everything in his path than it is Aurora; making it the most unique in terms of atmosphere. I think Maleficent is the most downright evil and diabolical villain to exist in this mini-universe of fairy tales. The story is, as usual, fun to watch and timeless.
FilmFanatik
FilmFanatik

Super Reviewer

April 29, 2007
I haven't quite made up my mind about which film I believe is the best of all Disney's animated ventures. I'm always grappling with
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Beauty and the Beast and Sleeping Beauty. Most people consider the latter to be their choice, and I can certainly understand why. It is definitely one of Disney's crowning achievements (despite the fact that Walt himself didn't work as closely with the creative team as he had done in the past). Whether or not I make my mind up about it, I still hold it in the highest esteem.
michael e.
michael e.

Super Reviewer

December 13, 2010
a fantastic disney film with a fantastic villain music and characters (and by that i mean the fairies)
3niR
3niR

Super Reviewer

January 23, 2010
I enjoy the old fairy tales a lot. They are short and cute. This one was similar with the "Snow White". But not entirely. I love happy ending(s).
AJ V

Super Reviewer

September 12, 2010
This is a pretty good Disney movie, which I saw as a teen, but I think I would have liked it better if I'd seen it as a kid.
dietmountaindew
dietmountaindew

Super Reviewer

October 8, 2010
i always have an appreciation for the against-type roles, in other words, villains, especially when they're women, do you know that within 50 best villains in cinematic history, there're only 10 ones that are women? barbara stanwyck in double indemnity is surely gloriously included, and the other one which stays in my mind is maleficent in sleeping beauty which arouses my attention due to the well-publicized advertisements of M.A.C. cosmetics, which recently applies disney's "venomous villians" as their make-up muses. of course, i saw sleeping beauty long long long time ago when i was in elementary school and teacher played it in class and i never noticed how spitefully elegant that character is and enigmatic color-set of purple and green-blue in maleficient''s design...also, do you grasp the possibility that maleficient was inspired by greta garbo in queen christina? it often amazes me that lots of disney villains are inspired by 1930s feminist icons, the eyebrows, the facial features and the affected accents? once the glamour icons adored by all turn into some figures of twisted nightmares by the walter disney crew.

sleeping beauty is a story commonly known by all, the new-born princess is cursed by a witch of evil force that she will pick on her own finger and die on her sexiteenth birthday, then the good fairies come to rescue and redeem the curse of death into eternal slumber until the kiss of true love. what makes this version lasting even till today is the sophistication of its villain. first of all, the reason why maleficient veils the princess with her malicious damnation is because she gets rejected and marginalized by the royal court who even denies her the entrance into their baby-shower banquet. one of the good fairies, merryweather, even insults maleficient and ridicules her as "un-wanted"...second of all, in the final confrontation between maleficient and the good fairies, merryweather even uses her magic to transform maleficient's beloved pet (a raven) into stone, how cruel it is to deprive a friendless person of her only one friend in this world. and the dialogues do mention for several times that maleficient is unhappy and nobody cares at all. third of all, the supposed hero, in this story, is not so heroic. the prince, who saves the princess by his kiss of love, could only rescue his precious lover under the guidance and the aid of the good fairies. he cannot handle maleficient alone, and his sword-shot at her heart is only an accient catalyzed by the good fairies. in other words, it's like he's only there to take credits of others' works. so what's so heroic about him?

the princess' getting picked by the sharp wooden needle of a sewing machine has the metaphor of virginal deflowerment: she must really get "curious" enough to let her get hurt by exploring "this sharp penetrating gadget." (catch it now? ha) death by the pick refers to the loss of virginal blood. basically the story of sleeping beauty is a fight between chaperonage of feminine chastity and the dark force which intends to baffle the growth of feminine virtues. but in either way, the conclusion is simple: the girl has to remain virgin in pre-nuptial term or she dies! (what a costly hymen!) and maleficient has to be uglified for being a liberated woman without getting bound by those notions of womanhood, marginalized as the everlasting loner/rebel who poses a threat to the world of mainstream....to me, the most annoying character here is the good fairy merryweather, for being so self-righteously moralistic! just like a straight-laced puritan from bible belt, so eager to criticize and condemn, so haste on her judgement toward the outsider without a bit of emphatic sympathy!

(ps) do you recall the last scene where prince dancing with princess, the two good fairies are quarrealing whether the princess' gown should be pink or blue? the meaning of that quarreal is: pink stands for timid innocence of maidenhood; blue means the self-discipline of a fresh debuntante. therefore two fairies' quarreal is simple: a halting point between maidenhood and womanhood before her "consummation" with the prince, thus the result would be: sometimes she's a girl but sometimes she's also a young woman just as the gown keeps changing between pink and blue on the dance ball. but she's only 16 (before 18, it's minor), so you figure...
Richard C

Super Reviewer

July 23, 2010
C
Jennifer X

Super Reviewer

May 28, 2007
This is probably the most classically beautiful film Disney has ever made. Every scene looks like a watercolor painting. Aurora is beautiful. Philip is really hot. And the three fairies are sooo adorable!
Luke B

Super Reviewer

December 6, 2008
Outdated animation which is both a plus and a negative. It looks unlike modern animation with backgrounds standing out separately as individual pieces of arts. Great attention to detail is paid to moving characters but the colours used are all of the same tone for the most part making the film feel flat and lifeless at times. The film is full of classic Disney moments such as great songs, some excellent characters and moments of gentle comedy (the drunk mandalin player). The restrained dialogue gives a more adult and subtle feel and is certainly a welcome change from loud mouth sidekicks such as Eddie Murphy, Gilbert Godfried and Nathan Lane in later efforts. The story though, never quite shakes it's very simple fairytale roots and just makes it past the 1 hour mark.
deano
deano

Super Reviewer

March 8, 2007
This Disney adaptation of Charles Perrault's seventeenth-century version of the famous fairy tale features storybook-style animation that may surprise those accustomed to the softer style of the studio's other feature-length cartoons. Nevertheless, it is the last genre classic to be supervised by Walt Disney himself and belongs in any list of the best children's films (while having the added asset of being enjoyable for adults, as well).
sanjurosamurai
sanjurosamurai

Super Reviewer

January 11, 2007
its been a while since i saw this one, so id like to watch it again, but i remember it being a very quality film that was great for little girls. it deserves respect for being well made but its outside of my enjoyment category.
puffchunk
puffchunk

Super Reviewer

September 28, 2007
been a while.
thmtsang
thmtsang

Super Reviewer

July 13, 2007
One of my fave cartoons. Love the music and the fairies.
Lafe F

Super Reviewer

June 11, 2007
Classic Disney Feature-Length Animation with beautiful colorfully painted characters and backgrounds, and music out of a ballet. The story is a pure fairy tale. When I was young, I was totally terrified of the Malificent Witch who could transform into a dragon. I loved the three colored fairies who aided the prince in his quest. A real gem.
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