“Before the sun sets on her 16th birthday, she shall prick her finger, on the spindle of a spinning wheel — and die!”
An evil fairy named Maleficent (Eleanor Audley) — upset about not being invited to the birth celebration of Princess Aurora (Mary Costa) — curses her to die on her 16th birthday. In an attempt to keep the princess safe from harm, a trio of goodnatured fairies — Flora (Verna Felton), Fauna (Barbara Jo Allen), and Merryweather (Barbara Ludd) — raise her in the forest; but will she remain safe from Maleficent’s wrath?
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Animated Features
- Folk Tales, Fairy Tales, and Mythology
- Royalty and Nobility
Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that this “elaborate, charming animated feature by Walt Disney” — the second highest grossing film of the year (after Ben Hur) — has been “criticized for not being humorous enough or exciting enough (until the end) to please children”, but notes that he saw it in a “theater full of quiet kids who were absolutely spellbound”. He argues that while “the animation is not as flamboyant as in other Disney cartoons”, there is nonetheless “some fine detail work” (sadly, this was the last Disney film in which cels were inked by hand), and the Technicolor hues are truly gorgeous. Indeed, the animation style (inspired by European medieval painting and architecture — see stills below) is strategically different from that found in other Disney features, in part because — according to a bit of IMBd trivia — Disney’s “constant mantra to his animators” was that Sleeping Beauty could NOT be like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937).
While Peary refers to Aurora as “one of the sexiest and most beautiful of Disney’s animated heroines”, she unfortunately — much like Snow White — can’t really be considered the film’s central protagonist, given that she only appears on-screen for 18 minutes. Meanwhile, her romance with Prince Philip (Bill Shirley) is as slight and meaningless as Snow White’s with Prince Charming. Instead, it’s Aurora’s fairy godmothers — “who are like three lovable, squabbling, slightly daffy maiden aunts” — who drive the story forward, and are featured in some of the film’s most enjoyable scenes. The most justifiably celebrated sequence, however, is the “spectacular” “climactic battle on Forbidden Mountain”, between Prince Philip and the evil Maleficent — this scene, while far too scary for young viewers, is a truly thrilling, masterfully animated denouement.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- A unique animation style
- An eye-popping technicolor palette
- Many enjoyable sequences
- The exciting climax on Forbidden Mountain
Yes, as one of Disney’s enduring classics.
- Genuine Classic
- Historically Relevant