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Walt Disney
Mary Costa, Bill Shirley, Eleanor Audley, Verna Felton, Barbara Luddy
Writing Credits:
Milt Banta, Winston Hibler, Bill Peet, Erdman Penner, Joe Rinaldi, Ted Sears, Ralph Wright

After being snubbed by the royal family, a malevolent fairy places a curse on a princess which only a prince can break, along with the help of three good fairies.

Rated G

Aspect Ratio: 2.55:1
English DTS-HD MA 7.1
English Theatrical Mix 4.0
French DTS-HD HR 7.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1
Russian Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 75 min.
Price: $39.99
Release Date: 10/7/2014

• Audio Commentary with Art Director Eyvind Earle, Actress Mary Costa, Supervising Animators Ollie Johnston and Marc Davis, Background Painter Frank Armitage, Modern Disney Artists Mike Gabriel and Michael Giaimo, and Historian Jeff Kurtti
• “Picture Perfect: The Making of Sleeping Beauty” Documentary
• “Eyvind Earle: The Man and His Art” Featurette
• “The Sound of Beauty: Restoring a Classic” Featurette
• Deleted/Alternate Scenes
• “Once Upon a Parade” Featurette
• “The Art of Evil: Generations of Disney Villains” Featurette
• “@DisneyAnimation: Artists in Motion” Featurette
• “Beauty-Oke”
• Sneak Peeks
• DVD Copy


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


Sleeping Beauty: Diamond Edition [Blu-Ray] (1959)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 21, 2017)

Despite the studio’s reputation, Disney never really made all that many fairytales. Of course, they launched their line of animated features with one via 1937’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, but since then, they’ve only produced a few.

Of that group, 1959’s Sleeping Beauty probably remains the most obscure, as it seems to have fallen between the cracks to a certain degree. Of course, its stature as a Disney movie means it’ll always be remembered, but it’s not one that shares the prominence of the others.

Frankly, I can’t argue that it really deserves a greater audience. While the movie certainly displays some excellent elements, it seems somewhat lackluster and unimpressive as a whole.

After a long wait, King Stefan (voiced by Taylor Holmes) and Queen No-name finally bear a child whom they name Princess Aurora. We see a massive celebration in her honor and meet a young Prince Phillip, whose father King Hubert (Bill Thompson) arranges to marry Aurora when both reach the appropriate age. We also encounter three good fairies named Flora (Verna Felton), Fauna (Barbara Jo Allen), and Merryweather (Barbara Luddy), each of whom blesses the infant with a particular gift.

Before Merryweather gets her turn, the evil Maleficent (Eleanor Audley) busts into the party. She seems peeved they left her out, so she curses Aurora to die by sixteenth birthday if she pricks her finger on a spinning wheel.

None of the good fairies can counter this spell completely, as their magic isn’t as strong as Maleficent’s. However, Merryweather grants Aurora the opportunity to live again if Maleficent’s curse comes to pass; Aurora will “sleep”, and a kiss from a true love will bring her back to life.

Since no one wants this to happen, Stefan takes many precautions. Ultimately, the fairies take in Aurora and live in the middle of nowhere as peasants to keep her safe. This means they can’t use magic, for traces of it might lead Maleficent to them.

The flick then jumps forward to right before Aurora’s 16th birthday. Now known as Briar Rose (Mary Costa), all seems well out in the forest, but Maleficent is massively cheesed that her minions haven’t located the girl yet. It turns out the henchmen spent the last 16 years in search of an infant; none of them were smart enough to realize the girl would age. Maleficent sends her trusty raven sidekick to do the job.

In the meantime, the fairies prep a birthday party for Rose, and the kingdom girds for her return once she passes the magical 16th birthday and no longer has to suffer the curse. The fairies always kept Rose from strangers, but as luck would have it, she meets a handsome dude (Bill Shirley) out in the forest. They immediately start to bond and agree to meet up again later despite the warnings of the fairies.

From there a few plotlines emerge. The fairies never revealed Rose’s real identity to the girl, so when they do so, she has to deal with that. She also works through her betrothal, something that upsets her since she just met this other guy and fell for him.

We find out this guy’s real identity too. The raven hunts for Aurora and eventually succeeds, which will inevitably lead to a confrontation with Maleficent.

Most of Beauty’s problems relate to its story, as even at a mere 75 minutes, the movie often feels padded. There’s not a lot that happens here, and the filmmakers take on superfluous elements like a dispute between Kings Stefan and Hubert.

That scene seems moderately entertaining but really doesn’t advance the story. A lot of that happens in Beauty, and it often comes across like the filmmakers simply need to postpone the climax long enough to fill out the flick to feature length.

Beauty also suffers from a “been there, done that” factor, as the story comes across like little more than an amalgam of Snow White and Cinderella. The basic plot strongly resembles that of Snow White, while the fairies feel like little more than an effort to replicate the popularity of the Fairy Godmother from Cinderella. This lack of originality in storytelling doesn’t help make Beauty stand out from the crowd.

In addition, the characters themselves fail to make much of an impact. As I just mentioned, the three fairies feel like copies of the Fairy Godmother, and attempts to give them individual personalities don’t really succeed.

Flora is the head honcho, Merryweather is feisty, and Fauna is the other one - that’s about the extent of their characters. Maleficent is more compelling but never turns into anything other than a more powerful version of the Wicked Queen from Snow White.

As for our two romantic leads, one of them works surprisingly well. Unlike the dull Prince Charming from Snow White, Phillip comes across as fairly magnetic and appealing.

Granted, Charming’s role was hampered by the Disney artists’ inexperience with human forms; he may have played a greater part if they’d been better able to depict him as Walt desired. In any case, Phillip succeeds where Charming failed. He displays some spark and wit and functions as a reasonably heroic figure.

Unfortunately, Aurora/Briar Rose seems like a total dud. She’s cute, to be sure, but she presents virtually no personality. Shouldn’t a fun guy like Phil want a more active and exciting gal than this boring babe? Yeah, she can sing well and she’s hot, but she demonstrates a flat aura that makes her dull to watch.

Normally, villains spice up the action in Disney flicks, and Maleficent fills the bill when allowed. However, she appears so infrequently that we never get much of a feel for her. She never becomes quite as daunting as Snow White’s Evil Queen or Cinderella’s Wicked Stepmother simply because we see so little of her.

After Maleficent’s initial appearance to curse Aurora, she vanishes for most of the film until she takes action in the climax. Had she played a more active part in the search for Aurora, she’d be more compelling, and she’d seem smarter too. Her minions were clearly idiots, and yet she left the hunt up to them for 16 years? Duh!

When anyone discusses Sleeping Beauty as a Disney classic, they do so for one reason: its visuals. Almost everything else about the movie seems terribly pedestrian, but the flick’s look gives it tremendous character, and not just because it was the studio’s second widescreen offering.

Whereas other Disney animated movies came together as more of a collaborative effort, Beauty was mainly influenced by the ideas of artist Eyvind Earle. That gives it a much more unified appearance and makes it feel more coherent visually.

It also results in a stunningly gorgeous flick. Earle was heavily influenced by medieval art and that allows Beauty to look like a period storybook come to life. The attention to detail seems staggering, and the movie usually presents a lovely and effective visual piece.

Too bad the rest of it seems so ordinary. By no means do I consider Sleeping Beauty to be a bad movie, and it certainly offers a moderately entertaining affair.

However, once you get beyond its visual appeal, the flick becomes average. It definitely outdoes almost anything we’d see over the subsequent 30 years; between 1959 and 1989’s comeback hit The Little Mermaid, only 1961’s 101 Dalmatians provides a better movie than Beauty.

That simply reflects the crummy nature of the studio’s flicks in that era, though. When compared to its decade-mates, Beauty becomes the beast. The other four animated films of the era - Cinderella, 1951’s Alice In Wonderland, 1953’s Peter Pan, and 1955’s Lady and the Tramp - all seem substantially more entertaining. Beauty is the loveliest of all, but its dull story makes it a less than scintillating flick.

The Disc Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B+/ Bonus B

Sleeping Beauty appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.55:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This became a pleasing presentation.

Sharpness was fine. Only a sliver of softness ever affected any wider shots, so the majority of the flick delivered nice clarity and accuracy. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering materialized, and edge haloes were absent. Source flaws were absent, as the movie always seemed clean and concise.

Beauty featured a vivid palette, and the colors on the Blu-ray seemed terrific. The movie displayed these hues with fine vivacity and accuracy, and they consistently looked bright and well saturated. I saw no concerns connected to bleeding or noise, and the tones were dynamic and vibrant.

Black levels seemed deep and tight, while low-light shots came across as smooth and well depicted. Everything here looked very good and made this an “A-“ image.

Though it showed its age at times, the DTS-HD MA 7.1 soundtrack of Sleeping Beauty also seemed quite engaging. The soundfield presented a reasonably broad spectrum of audio, and music dominated the affair. The score showed nice stereo imaging most of the time and seemed well defined.

Some directional dialogue also showed up in the front speakers, and occasional effects emanated from the sides. However, other than the music, much of the track remained fairly monaural. Surround effects added reasonable punch at times, though, especially during scenes with action or magic. These didn’t offer great involvement, but they seemed satisfying.

Audio quality appeared fairly positive, though not as warm as I’d like. Speech always sounded reasonably natural and distinctive. The only signs of edginess came with some shouted lines, so most of the dialogue was concise and smooth.

Effects favored the trebly end of the spectrum. A few elements like thunder or crashes connected to Maleficent demonstrated moderate bass response, but overall, the track seemed a little on the thin side.

Music also lacked great dynamics and depth. The score was clear and acceptably detailed, but it didn’t present much warmth. The mix suffered from no signs of noise or other problems. Despite a few concerns, I felt that Sleeping Beauty offered above average audio for its age, so it earned a “B+”.

How did this 2014 Blu-ray compare to the 2008 Platinum DVD? Audio appeared more active, while visuals were more precise and vivid. Especially in terms of picture quality, the Blu-ray offered a good upgrade.

Note that this 2014 release represents the second Sleeping Beauty Blu-ray. Disney issued a prior version at the same time as the above-linked 2008 DVD. I never owned/saw that package, but from what I understand, the 2014 BD offers identical picture/audio.

We get a mix of old and new extras, and we open with an audio commentary from Disney executive John Lasseter, animator Andreas Deja and film historian Leonard Maltin. All three sit together for a running, screen-specific chat, though the piece also includes archival clips with Walt Disney and artists Eyvind Earle, Ollie Johnston, Marc Davis, Ken Anderson and Frank Thomas.

Because another commentary already exists, I felt surprised to find this new effort. I’d like to claim that this piece offers a good overview of the film, but it tends toward appreciation more than anything else, and that makes it less than enthralling.

Oh, we do get movie details along the way, as we find occasional notes about animation, art, Walt’s influence, story/characters and cast/crew. Most of the chat focuses on general praise for the production and participants, though, and this makes it a mediocre chat.

A few programs follow. Picture Perfect: The Making of Sleeping Beauty runs 43 minutes, 32 seconds and includes notes from Costa, Earle, Johnston, Giaimo, Davis, animators Will Finn, Frank Thomas, Burny Mattinson, Don Bluth and Andreas Deja, animation historians John Canemaker, John Culhane, Bob Thomas, Michael Barrier, Jeff Lenburg, Brian Sibley, Russell Schroder and Charles Solomon, background artist Walt Peregoy, consultant Roy Disney, USC Professor of Animation Christine Panuschka, filmmaker Pete Docter, story artist Floyd Norman, painting conservator Timothy Lennon, animation director Michael Sporn. Imagineering senior vice president Tony Baxter, in-betweener Ron Dias, costume designer Alice Davis, sequence director Woolie Reitherman, and Pixar production designer Ralph Eggleston.

“Perfect” examines the project’s origins and development, story issues and related challenges, visual design, influences and the film’s distinctive look, animation subjects and character concerns, cast and performances, costumes and live-action reference footage, music, the widescreen aspect ratio, and other animation topics, and the movie’s reception and legacy.

“Perfect” digs into a mix of good film-related topics and does so in a concise manner. This makes it a satisfying documentary.

Next comes a featurette called Eyvind Earle: The Man and His Art. In this seven-minute, 33-second piece, we hear from Alice Davis, Lennon, Dias, Canemaker, Panushka, Giaimo, Solomon, Culhane, Disney, Norman, Bluth, Docter and Earle himself. “Art” looks at the life and career of Earle, the force behind the flick’s visuals.

Though brief, “Art” gives us a decent recap of the important issues, and it doesn’t spare some unpleasant details about Earle’s childhood. Some fluff materializes, but this remains a pretty good show.

During the 10-minute, 50-second The Sound of Beauty: Restoring a Classic, we hear from Walt Disney Imagineering Senior VP Tony Baxter, Walt Disney Records supervising producer Randy Thornton, re-recording mixer Terry Porter, and Walt Disney Music president Chris Montan. This piece looks at the original soundtrack and its “upgrade” for Blu-ray. A few decent notes emerge, but mostly the show feels self-congratulatory.

Cut footage arrives next. We get two Deleted Scenes - “The Curse Is Fulfilled” (2:58) and “The Fair” (7:48) – as well as an Alternate Scene entitled “The Arrival of Maleficent” (1:58). All of these mix storyboards and audio to recreate the sequences. “Curse” becomes the most interesting of the bunch, but all are fun to see.

We go to Disney World for the eight-minute, 49-second Once Upon a Parade. Starring Modern Family actor Sarah Hyland, we get a look at one of the park’s features. It’s snarkier than one might expect from a promo piece such as this, but it’s still pretty forgettable.

For a look at characters, we visit The Art of Evil: Generations of Disney Villains. In this nine-minute, 49-second show, we hear from Deja, Frozen head of animation Lino DiSalvo, and animator Marc Davis and wife Alice. We learn about a few legendary villains as well as the artists who brought them to life. The featurette tends to be a bit fluffy but it offers a few decent details.

@DisneyAnimation: Artists in Motion fills four minutes, 27 seconds with info from visual development artist Brittney Lee. She tells us about her job in this moderately interesting featurette.

A sing-along, Beauty-Oke lets us croon with “Once Upon a Dream”. It features movie shots and lyrics in a stylized manner. I’m glad it doesn’t just repeat the scene from the film, but it still does little for me.

The disc opens with ads for 101 Dalmatians, Cinderella, and Maleficent. Sneak Peeks adds promos for Frozen, Planes: Fire and Rescue and Legend of the Neverbeast. No trailer for Beauty appears here.

A second disc offers a DVD copy of Beauty. It includes two deleted scenes and an alternate scene but lacks the other extras.

Does this 2014 Blu-ray lose bonus features from the prior DVDs and Blu-ray? Yes – it omits lots of materials, far too many to detail. Please consult the DVD review linked earlier to check out the absent components.

While I really like Disney animated films, I maintain mixed feelings about 1959’s Sleeping Beauty. The movie lives up to its name with arguably the most gorgeous visuals ever to grace an animated feature. However, the pedestrian and ordinary story and characters make it somewhat tedious to watch. The Blu-ray boasts excellent visuals as well as satisfying audio and a mostly useful set of supplements. This release presents the movie itself well but the fact it drops so many extras from prior releases becomes a disappointment.

To rate this film, visit the DVD review of SLEEPING BEAUTY

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main