This beauty is no sleeper!
Oct 22, 2008 (Updated Oct 30, 2008)
Review by Chris McCallister
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot.
Recommend this product?
Disney Home Video kindly sent me this DVD, in exchange for an honest review.
Movie: This is a very traditional fairy tale romance, with Princess Aurora being the only child of a king, betrothed at birth to Prince Phillip, the only child of another king. At the grand party to celebrate Aurora's birth, almost everyone attends, including the good fairies, Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather. However, the powerful, evil fairy, Maleficent, is not invited. Maleficent attends anyway, to bestow a "gift" on the child: a curse that, upon her sixteenth birthday, she would prick her finger on a spindle and die. Maleficent then disappears. Flora and Fauna had already bestowed the gifts of beauty and song, and Merryweather adds the gift of amending Maleficent's curse to be that Aurora would falls asleep, instead of die, only to be awakened by the kiss of her true love.
Of course, Princess Aurora does not die, but the road to the inevitable Disney ending includes magic, a dragon, intrigue, an unexpected romance, lots of singing, an enchanted forest with many creatures, kidnappings, and, of course, a spinning wheel with a spindle. The ending will not disappoint the little ones, but there is some suspense along the way.
Much is made of the Super Technirama 70 film method that was used, but I did not see it as noticeably better than similar-era animation. I prefer the look and the animation of Disney's original Bambi, with its incredibly rich colors. This DVD does involve a new digital restoration, and the before-and-after samples show a definite enrichment in color and detail resolution.
The songs and the singing were very nice. It was more music-based than I had expected or remembered. It had been many years since I last saw this film.
Mary Costa as Princess Aurora
Bill Shirley as Prince Phillip
Eleanor Audley as Maleficent
Verna Felton as Flora
Barbara Luddy as Merryweather
Barbara Jo Allen as Fauna
Taylor Holmes as Stefan
Bill Thomson as Hubert
Everyone does a very respectable voice performance, at least. The two who stood out were the good but mischievous Merry weather (Barbara Luddy) and, by far the star in this aspect, Eleanor Audley as the drippingly, snidely evil Maleficent. Maleficent made a truly scary villain, and it is my guess that she was the prototype for Cruella De Vil of the 1961 Disney One Hundred and One Dalmatians. It is probably no coincidence that both movies were directed by Clyde Geronimi.
I would have liked to have seen a bit more attitude to the characters, but I had to remind myself that the film goes back to 1959. Aurora pined a bit too much for me, although Phillip, Merryweather, and Maleficent certainly had enough attitude. Maybe, Princess Fiona of Shrek spoiled me!
Extra features: Immediately following the movie, on the same disc, is a music video of an upbeat, fairly contemporary version of a song from the movie, Once Upon A Dream, sung by Hannah Montana's Emily Osment. It is fairly good, and adds to the Prince Charming fantasy from the movie.
After that comes another music video, running almost thirty minutes, featuring The Grand Canyon Suite by Ferde Grofe, accompanied with video of the Grand Canyon, including the dramatic scenery, amazing sequences of storms and cloud changes, and the native wildlife. Both the music and the video are excellent, and I only have two minor quibbles with it. First, I am not sure why this video is there, as it does not seem connected, in any way, to the movie. I guess that Disney is just using this as an opportunity to introduce children to more classical music. The other quibble involves a few of the wildlife sequences, showing predator-prey situations, involving a cougar and an antelope, and a golden eagle and a large owl, and a hare and a small rodent. The music is fitted around these sequences to suggest that predators are villains and prey are pitiable good-guy victims. In all these sequences, there is no bloody climax (this is a Disney movie, after all), and the music suggests this is victory. Well, it is victory for the prey, but it is also possible starvation for the predator. Maybe I am over-thinking this, but that was my take on it. I still enjoyed this video segment.
The next video is a vintage one, with an introduction by Walt Disney, on where the movie concept came from, and mainly about the life of Peter Tchaikovski. It is very nicely done.
All of the above is on Disc One.
On Disc Two, there are a host of bonus features:
There is a simple word game, with six basic variations. It appears, from the pace of the instructions and the level of the task, to be aimed at pre-schoolers, as it is a basic word-object pairing game.
Another extra feature is a basic waltz instruction program, with two parts. One part shows the basic steps, and the player is guided toward picking the steps in the right order.
The other part involves actually dancing in the forest; the player chooses the role of Aurora or Phillip and is taught to do the basic moves in the right order.
A virtual walk-through of original Sleeping beauty castle. This is like taking a tour of a Disneyland exhibit.
A never-before-seen alternate opening sequence. This was interesting and would have been a perfectly acceptable choice of how to start the movie.
A sample of the songs that were deleted from the original movie. Several features on the making of the movie, with a heavy emphasis on the artists who did the animation, finish up the bonus features.
This movie is part of both Mark Carstair's Mickey Mouse Turns 80 write-off and CaptainD's Good Movies 2 write-off.
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Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Good for a Rainy Day
Suitability For Children: Not suitable for Children of any age
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