Hey, what do you call a narcoleptic Belle?

Sleeping Beauty (1959)

Soundtrack/Score/Music: 8.5

Story/Screenplay/Narrative: 7

Characters/Characterization/Voice-Acting: 8.5

Art Direction/Design: 10

Themes, Archetypes, and Artistic Interpretation: 8

From RM:

Jesus Christ and all his fucking glory, this film is GORGEOUS. Like, amazingly, artistically, meticulously beautiful. I take back everything I said about The Black Cauldron. The art in this film makes Black Cauldron look like a second grader's self-portrait. It is all that is good and light in this world.

Sorry. Let me take a step back.

Plot. Sleeping Beauty is the story of Aurora, a young princess blessed with great beauty and a nice set of pipes by two fairies, Flora and Fauna, on the day of her birth and betrothal to young Prince Phillip, only to have the party crashed by Demon Lady bar-none Maleficent (of Kingdom Hearts fame). Maleficent prophesies that on her 16th birthday, she will prick her finger on a spindle, and will die. Major bummer, then exeunt Maleficent and her crow familiar. Fairy #3, Merryweather, manages to find a loophole in the system and says that Aurora will only fall asleep, and be awakened by love's fist kiss. Still, for the sake of safety, the fairies agree to whisk away Aurora to the forest, and raise her as their own (in human form) to hide her from Maleficent (despite her father's proactive choice to burn every spinning wheel in the kingdom, crippling the then booming textile industry of his realm). There she grows into a beautiful young woman, who falls in love with a strange young man (Phillip). The fairies reveal her royal lineage, and her obligation to marry a prince (again, Phillip, but only we know that). She's not happy, and cries a bit in her room when they bring her secretly back to the castle. Maleficent uses a hypnotic bouncing ball to sneak Aurora to a hidden room that still held a spinning wheel, dodging the genocide, and she pricks her finger and falls asleep. Maleficent captures Phillip. The fairies help him escape, and guide him to Aurora, who he recognizes as the girl he became infatuated with in the forest. Thanks to the fairies rocking gear, he slays Maleficent in her dragon form, awakens the princess, marriage and hilarity ensues, the end.

This film began work in 1952, and was released seven years later, in 1959. If there is any word to describe this film, it is meticulous. The art, the music, the everything is very carefully thought out. Except for maybe Aurora. Though she be gorgeous, she also be a bit boring. But also has a strong brow and gorgeous, slightly masculine features that I am attracted to and willing to forgive.

We've discussed the Disney "Rule of Three" in the past, and in comes into play marvelously here. Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather are the three good fairies who help people, and are the three most well-crafted characters in this movie, and among the better in the canon. They are the characters we spend the most time with, and thus are the characters we identify with and are given the time to appreciate the nuances of them the best.

This movie is the best of the older generation that I've seen that take it's time. It doesn't have a whole lot of plot to deal with, so they let scenes and bits go on and revel in their ability to let things go on without having to worry about what comes next. It's very refreshing.

From Wiry:

Sleeping Beauty is probably my favorite of any pre-Little Mermaid Disney film, mostly because it's, well... really, really good. We had to take the time to nitpick flaws here, because the film doesn't give you a whole lot to work with in that general department. As RM says above, the art is beyond compare. The plotting is, for the most part, very well done. Unlike Snow White, in which the melding of the source material and the zany time-filling dwarfs felt a bit clunky, Sleeping Beauty takes its time and relishes its little moments (such as the infamous cake/dress scene) without losing sight of moving things forward.

But the plotting is actually the area where I have a few problems. Two, specifically. The first. Maleficent curses Aurora at the start of the film, stating that she will prick her finger before the sun sets on her sixteenth birthday. Is this a prophecy? Or, is it a promise of a future attack that Maleficent will make? Why doesn't she just kill the baby while she's there? True, Maleficent's the sort of crazy bitch who'd prefer the king and queen enjoy the company of their daughter for 16 years while living with eternal dread, and then (of course) the rug-pulling comes and it's too late to pop out a replacement heir anyway.

Or maybe it's more a prophecy, that Aurora will (of her own free will) accidentally do herself in. And yet, this isn't the case. I would be fine with things if Maleficent laid out the curse, and then provided the spinning wheel in question even. But she has to actually pull a Plan 9 from Outer Space on Aurora and hypnotize her into a vampire zombie before the prickage occurs. In some ways this is necessary, because Aurora isn't really a well-developed character who, you know, makes choices. If we're talking (say) Ariel or Belle, I can see them maybe electing out of curiosity to poke sharp objects. This is meant as a compliment! I think... But anyway, the extent to which Maleficent must facilitate the elaborate demise makes the whole thing seem a touch silly.

Second problem. In the original tale, there's a huge time gap between the start of the big sleep and the grand awakening. I understand we couldn't do 50 years, because then we'd be in a situation as Maleficent describes where Prince Phillip is taking out his dentures before layin' on with the smoochies. But Aurora and the kingdom end up snoozing for, what, 8 hours tops? Like, any normal night? I understand that compressing the timeline amps up the adrenaline, or something, but I would have liked to have seen Phillip languish some before the fairies are able to give him the sword of Nehemiah and the shield of St. Paul or whatever they're called and fly the coop. Then, we wouldn't be dealing with the unbearable lightness of the preceding developments - they become actual big deals. Not that I'm suggesting a return to the original story, wherein Aurora gets raped while asleep by a married prince she's never met, but I want some weight to the proceedings.

Music-wise, a few more sung numbers would have been appreciated (so long as they weren't in the 50's soft choral style), but it's absurd to whine about Tchaikovsky. Character-wise, the fairies are dazzling as the characters we track through the story, the ones who make almost every plot decision and are most responsible for Maleficent's undoing. I'm disappointed that we have to sacrifice an interesting female lead in order to have a somewhat-shaded prince, and I think (as in Snow White) we'd care more about her fate if she had a personality.

Skumps? Skumps! Skumps.

Final Grade: A-

Final Rankings:

1.) The Lion King
2.) Sleeping Beauty
3.) The Hunchback of Notre Dame
4.) Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs
5.) Lady and The Tramp
6.) The Great Mouse Detective
7.) Pinocchio
8.) The Jungle Book
9.) The Black Cauldron
10.) Mulan
11.) Fun and Fancy Free


A comment you Bastard

August 20, 2008 at 1:16 PM  

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