Thursday, November 18, 2010

Sleeping Beauty (1959)

**excerpt of a review written for Worthy of Note. For the full article, please click here

Although I found this movie far too scary to watch as a child, I enjoy it greatly now that I'm older. One of the key reasons for this is because they used the music from Tchaikovsky's magnum opus, The Sleeping Beauty for most of the score. As an admirer of Tchaikovsky, therefore, I'm already hooked on that point. Sleeping Beauty, however, is a very different film from anything Disney made before or since. While some of the innovations are positive, and it proves to be a beautifully lyrical production, fans of the older style Disney production may find this film lacking.

One major point in which this film differs from the rest of the Disney oeuvre is in the animation. The incredible animators at Disney tried their best to make the art look like illustrations in a medieval tapestry, and they succeeded to a large extent. So we are treated to the bright colors and flat, angular style of the Middle Ages, which certainly renders a fairytale aspect to the proceedings. Until that point, Disney had tried to do their full-length films in a semi-realistic style with some cartoon-ish shapes and flourishes reserved for comic relief characters. Animation aesthetics started changing in the 1950s, however, and Disney had been slow to adapt. In Sleeping Beauty, however, Disney proved that the new taste could be catered to while paying homage to the great illustration traditions of the past.

In addition to these aspects, Sleeping Beauty also lacks the great quantity of musical numbers that we tend to see in the other films--though Disney had been straying from that model in the '50s as well. That tends to make it less appealing to young children. Combined, moreover, with the fact that the cast of characters is so small and the only real comic characters are the three good fairies and the two kings, it doesn't seem to paint with as broad a brush as the other princess films.

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