Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Media Matters: Sleeping Beauty

Let me tell you about Sleeping Beauty. First of all, let's acknowledge the fact that yes, people have issues with the story. A beautiful princess (raised as a peasant) pricks her finger on a spinning wheel and falls into a deep sleep until a handsome prince kisses her and wakes her up. We all know the story. However, unlike Snow White and Cinderella, the triumph of good over evil is much more evident in this story than those other Disney classics. The emphasis on Prince Philip's weapons of truth and virtue are contrasted against Maleficent's evil powers. The three good fairies are invaluable to Prince Philip (although they get no thanks from him!).

(Was Prince Philip named after the Duke of Edinburgh? He's not named in the various Sleeping Beauty folktales or in the ballet. I did a little research and found that Princess Elizabeth, later Queen Elizabeth II, and Prince Philip married in 1947. Disney released Sleeping Beauty in 1959; the studio spent an entire decade creating the film, so it's entirely possible that the hoopla over the attractive young royal couple inspired the naming. The princes in Snow White and Cinderella are not named.)

Maleficent. The evil fairy who, in revenge for not being invited to the Princess Aurora's christening, is truly one of the most straight-up evil and chilling villains ever created by Disney. I distinctly remember how scary I found her when I was a child; combined with the sinister music and the deliciously creepy voice of Eleanor Audley, this villain-est of Disney villains still manages to creep me out. (She's also quite snarky, which I never realized until watching it this week.)

Unlike Cinderella and Snow White, Aurora/Briar Rose has, in my opinion, personality, warmth, charm, and humor unlike the other early Disney heroines. This is largely in thanks to the delightful Mary Costa, who voiced the character (she's adorable in the documentary; would you guess that she's as Southern as Paula Deen?). Disney's princes tend to be as dull as dishwater, yet Prince Philip manages to come alive through the talents of Bill Shirley. Actually, the entire movie has depth and humor that I think is lacking in those other early Disney classics, as brilliant and groundbreaking as they were. I'm biased, though; can you tell that this is my favorite of the early Disney classics?

Although the story line might not appeal to all, Sleeping Beauty is one of the most beautifully animated movies ever created by Disney. Lots of fun to revisit this one.

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