Sleeping Beauty (1959)

After watching it something like 70 times with my oldest a few years ago I thought I had a sense of it but we watched it tonight with our youngest who has drunk of the Princess Kool-Aid. I was impressed. It’s really well-put together. Like Cinderella, it pulls together characters quickly to make transitions more exciting and finds fun ways to make dull tasks interesting. The scene in the woods with the animals, the owl quickly taking the lead of the animals and having a personality – which led to a transition into the woods and a transition into meeting Prince White Teeth – very smoothly and lightly done. It’s tight – 75 minutes! They don’t make them like that any more. Literally. Except for TV. Frozen was 102 minutes. Maybe studios feel they have to differentiate themselves from hour-long TV series but my kids under 6 lose interest at 45 minutes anyway.

There is a lot to like. There are little funny bits and the way they work through some of the holes in logic are great. I asked my wife aloud, “If they’ve been raising her for 16 years, why can’t they cook a cake and make a dress?” as we headed into the baking / sewing / cleaning scene but the characters went ahead and spelled out that the person sewing hadn’t done it, nor had the person baking, but they would this time as a last hurrah of being mortal. Seamless! I feel 50 when I write it, but it was a delight to watch.

To be honest they should have called it The Battle Between the Fairies and Maleficent. Aurora (the Beauty of the Sleeping of the title) was onscreen talking for all of 6 or 7 minutes (actually IMDB’s helpful trivia page says its 18 lines and 18 minutes on screen). Half of that in a trance or crying about life not being fair when you’re a princess, and half is singing. The Fairies are basically the main characters with Maleficent in the supporting role. Even the Prince has more to do than Aurora does – we get him as a kid, we get him riding around in the forest, fighting the big bad – the princess is basically a broomstick that gets pushed around for the plot to move forward. But I’d argue it’s not a film all about a dude rescuing a lady, it’s basically a film about good magic versus bad magic, good witches versus bad witches. The fairy tale itself, according to our friends on the Internet is not that different in the first half, though there is less singing in the old version. The second half, untold in the animated film, is where the old-school fairy tale shows its true colors – the prince’s mom is an ogre and demands to eat his two kids and wife, is tricked by the cook to eat other meat, and eventually is killed. I can see where that might not have fit, time-wise, in the Disney version.

But this Disney movie is appealing and runs quickly and smoothly, one thing into another, without much of a pause, except for the songs. Apparently (thanks again, trivia!) it was in production for something like 7 years. When I look at a Pixar film that has been in production a long time and how long a shelf-life it will have, and then look at this and how long its shelf life as been, sometimes the effort is worth the wait.


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