My opinion right after watching movie
Well if anyone knows me, they know that I do not like this movie. Watching it a year later, and……….that still stands. I think it is extremely boring, and the pacing can be extremely choppy to extremely slow. While the animation is beautiful and the scores are nice, it is hard for me to care for anything in this movie and the characters are not that interesting. Some are good, and the animation and the songs move it along. Ehh.
So production for this film started in 1951, after the massive success of Cinderella. The story was written in 1951, the voices were recorded in 1952, and the animation was from 1953-1958 (they probably upped their budget from the successes of Peter Pan and Lady and the Tramp). Disney wanted this film to have a more stylized, detailed look to it compared to its predecessors.
He wanted the three fairies to be identical in looks, but Ollie Johnson and Frank Thompson told him that they would not be exciting, so they gave them different personalities, colors, and looks. When making Maleficent, they were afraid she would look too much like The Queen or Lady Tremaine, so they made her look more elegant.
Like most of the films in this era, all of the film was recorded in live action, so they could use it for inspiration on the animation. This film had a good amount of ideas in it that were dropped from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Cinderella.
This is the final film in the canon to use cell-animation, as it became too expensive to make a film with, risking losing money, and the films afterwards would be strictly animated via Xerox. This is also the first film to ever use the Xerox process as well (it is used minorly for the Dragon). Many see this as the final film in the Silver Era because of it.
So we start the film with a storybook opening, explaining King Stefan (Taylor Holmes) and his Queen’s struggle to have a child, and finally gets blessed when Aurora (Mary Costa) is born. So they celebrate her christening, and invites everyone but Maleficent (Eleanor Audley). Flora (Verna Felton) and Fauna (Barbara Jo Allen) gives the child a gift of beauty and song, and when Merrywether (Barbara Luddy) is about to give Aurora her gift, but Maleficent shows up and curses Aurora to die on her 16th birthday.
So she makes a grand entrance, and Merrywether changes the spell, so she will be put in a deep sheep, and awakened by true love’s kiss. So far, great introduction. King Stefan burns all of the spindles in the kingdom, but the fairies meet up to find a way to get rid of Aurora. They know that she is always a step ahead of them and finds them predictable, so they decide to hide and raise Aurora int he forest like regular humans.
So 16 years pass, and Maleficent is stressing that they have not found Aurora. Her minions reveal that they have been looking for a baby the entire time, and she loses it out of incompetence.
So we are introduced to the 16 year old Aurora, and I will say it right now; she is the blandest princess to ever surface Disney. The fairies send her off to look berries, so they can plan a surprise for her birthday. Aurora does so, and she is singing about her need for love and how she is lonely via I Wonder. The animals join her as she explains about how she met someone in her dreams, which leads to Once Upon A Dream. Phillip (Bill Shirley) happens to hear her voice, and follows it. He starts dancing with her, and they soon fall in love. She tells him indecisively that she will never see him again, but to only invite him to her house, which I have to admit is smart.
Then we spend a bunch of unnecessary time with the fillers of the Kings singing scrubs and fooling around. They get into a minor argument for no reason, and then the plot returns with Phillip telling his father his final lines; being that he is marrying the peasant girl he met, and for his father to become more modern.
So the ladies return to the castle, and Aurora is still an emotional mess, so they leave her for a moment, which is the perfect time for Maleficent to get her (thanks to her parrot). Aurora is hypnotized, and the fairies try to rush to her in time, but it is too late; she pricked her finger on the spinning wheel.
So the fairies decide to put a sleeping spell on her entire kingdom (I do not know why though), but they overhear King Hubert say something about Phillip meeting with a peasant girl, and they connect one with one. They rush to the palace to only find that Phillip is gone. This is because Maleficent and her crew ambushed him at their cottage. How did Maleficent know he would be there? Guess…… We do not know.
sexually frustrated woman mistress of evil whisks him to his dungeon, leaving his hat. When the fairies finally get there, they realize that she already took him. The fairies quickly go to her castle and go through some scary imagery. Maleficent pays her toy guest a visit to tease and taunt him. After she leaves, the fairies sneak him out and explains everything to him; with him not muttering a word (some contractual mess him and Aurora’s actress had that caused them to not be able to record the rest of their lines).
So we reach to the part that was supposed to be in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. We are at the epic battle, where Phillip whisks through many trials and tribulations, an epic battle with the mighty evil, and then kills her, and runs to kiss his treasure; but he needs help from the fairies and by help I mean they do almost all of the work.
So the sleeping curse is lifted off of her and the entire kingdom, she reunites with her family, and the third human couple dance Once Upon A Dream.
The characters that I moderately care about in this film are a minimal. I feel like I barely know them and I can only invest myself into the fairies. Some of them are boring, others are annoying.
The animation in the film is beautiful. I have never seen so much style and detail in a film, and there is so much in the backgrounds. For the most part, the humans look more realistic and they have sharper lines. While the hair color and eye color changes in Aurora, it is perfect. The movements are good, and you can tell that everything in the animation has purpose.
The only memorable songs in this film are Once Upon a Dream and I Wonder. The others are very forgettable, and I barely remember anything about them. The score is nice and has that medieval theme, but it gets old soon enough because there is almost NEVER a time where there is no music. In most other films, there are breaks.
Reception at Release
When the film was released on January 29th, 1959, it made a lot of money, approximately $7.7 million dollars. The issue is, the production was so high (costing $6 million), that they barely made any money off of the film. It was the first box office disappointment since Alice in Wonderland. It also received mixed reviews, with some of the critics calling it out for its low pace and no character development.
The underperformance, coupled with the year 1959 not being that profitable for the company, it caused Disney to lose interest in animation and to put less effort into it, massive layoffs took place come 1960, and they switched to Xerography. They were back to lower budget films, and doing everything to save money with making cheaper films with bigger revenue coming in. It was never rereleased in Disney’s lifetime and became a big success in the 70s.
Well, now it is seen as an artistic masterpiece. It’s many re-releases in the later decades caused it to be the 2nd highest grossing film of 1959. I also forgot to mention that Sleeping Beauty‘s castle is in Disneyland. The film is studied in by schools for animation, included in many AFI lists, and it seen as Walt Disney’s final masterpiece.