Copyright 1959 by Walt Disney Productions. New York opening at the Criterion: 17 February 1959. U.S. release through Buena Vista: March 1959. U.K. release through Walt Disney: 7 August 1959. Australian release through Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer: 24 December 1959. 75 minutes.
SYNOPSIS: There is much rejoicing in the kingdom for a daughter is born to King Stefan and his queen. Both Stefan and visiting King Hubert, the ruler of a neighboring country, have long wished to unite their lands by the marriage of their children. On this occasion they announce the betrothal of young Prince Phillip to the infant Princess Aurora. Outside the castle, knights and their ladies, townspeople and peasants, join in a joyous processional. While the nobility are celebrating within the great hall, a shaft of light suddenly appears and floating down it come the tiny figures of three good fairies, Flora, Fauna and Merryweather. Waving their magic wands they bestow on the baby their favors: Flora, the gift of beauty; Fauna, the gift of song, but before Merryweather can bestow the gift of happiness, Maleficent, the evil witch, appears in a blinding flash of lightning. Angered at not being invited to the festivities she prophesies that before the sun sets on Aurora's sixteenth birthday she will prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and die.
NOTES: "Sleeping Beauty", Walt Disney's $6,000,000 animated production in Technicolor and Technirama, is dormant in title only. Six years of sustained effort went into it. For Disney, who liked to tackle the impossible and usually achieved it, this cartoon feature was his most challenging. "Hundreds of our top artists and craftsmen were involved in the picture" Disney declared at the time. "It took a million drawings to bring 'Sleeping Beauty' to life on the screen."
The big screen imposed tremendous added labors on the artists. They had to move their characters in larger fields of action. They had to create different color schemes and a new landscape for the classic tale. The mathematical calculations became much more intricate. Every phase of artistry and mechanics which together comprise the art of animation, the art of drawing in motion, had to be revamped. "In fact, the most difficult barrier for the artists was to keep them from covering old ground used in former cartoon classics — to keep their concepts fresh and talents sharp."
Directing animator Marc Davis handled both Sleeping Beauty herself (otherwise known as both Princess Aurora and Briar Rose) and Maleficent. Helene Stanley was the live model for Beauty, whilst Jane Fowler posed for Maleficent and Ed Kemmer for the Prince.
Filmed in Technirama 70mm, "Sleeping Beauty" was printed and projected anamorphically at an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Initial worldwide film rentals gross returned only $5.3 million, a long way short of recouping the movie's $6 million negative cost, plus print, advertising and distribution overheads.
COMMENT: This Disney DVD rates 10/10. The wide anamorphic screen is always full of movement. Absolutely chock-a-block. Never has the wide-wide screen been used so effectively — in either an animated or a live action film. Disney artistry at its super best, "Sleeping Beauty" is an entertainment masterpiece.