Sleeping Beauty appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.55:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Though not a slam-dunk, the transfer usually seemed quite good.
Sharpness was usually fine. Most of the film showed good delineation, though a few wide shots suffered from mild softness. These concerns weren’t major, though, and the flick demonstrated nice delineation the majority of the time. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering materialized, but I saw some light edge haloes on occasion. At least source flaws were absent, as the movie always seemed clean and concise.
Beauty featured a vivid palette, and the colors on the DVD 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. The occasional softness and edge enhancement nearly made this one a “B”, but I thought too much of it looked too good to drop my grade below a “B+”.
Though it showed its age at times, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Sleeping Beauty seemed quite good. The soundfield presented a reasonably broad spectrum of audio. 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. As for the surrounds, they essentially just echoed the forward channels. They reinforced the music and didn’t do much else, but that seemed fine for a flick of this vintage.
Audio quality appeared fairly positive though not as warm as I’d like. Speech always sounded fairly 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+”.
Note that the DVD includes both the movie’s “restored original audio” – discussed in the paragraphs above – as well as an “Enhanced Home Theater Mix”. That one also provided Dolby Digital 5.1 material, and it essentially presented the original track on steroids. The “Enhanced” mix used the surrounds more actively and boasted louder bass.
I didn’t much care for it, as the track seemed somewhat unnatural. The surround usage felt a bit forced, and the bass response didn’t match the thinness of so much of the period audio. The “Enhanced” track wasn’t bad, but I preferred the more natural sound of the original mix.
How did the picture and sound of this 2008 “Platinum Edition” compare to those of the original 2003 DVD? The “restored original” soundtrack here and the old disc’s audio seemed identical; the prior DVD lacked this one’s “Enhanced” track, but since I preferred the theatrical audio, that area was a wash.
On the other hand, the “Platinum Edition” presented noticeably improved visuals. I felt the 2008 transfer looked tighter and a little cleaner. The old one was watchable, but this one offered a definite step up in quality.
This “Platinum Edition” of Sleeping Beauty mixes old and new supplements. I’ll note new materials with an asterisk. If you fail to see a star, that means the component already appeared on the original disc.
On DVD One, we open with an *audio commentary from filmmaker John Lasseter, modern Disney animator Andreas Deja, and film historian/critic Leonard Maltin. All three sit together for this running, screen-specific chat. The track also includes a smattering of archival remarks from art director Eyvind Earle and animators Ollie Johnston, Frank Thomas, Marc Davis and Ken Anderson. The piece covers cast and performances, the animators and their work, music and audio, aspects of the story, and Walt Disney’s involvement in the project.
This commentary supplants a different one found on the prior DVD, but it’s not a particularly satisfactory replacement. Much of the time the lead participants simply praise the movie and don’t tell us a ton about its creation. I like their childhood memories, and we do learn a decent amount about the flick, but I still think the chat lacks great informative value. I prefer the original commentary from the prior release.
Called *Princess Fun Facts, a subtitle commentary accompanies the flick. This tells us a few tidbits about medieval princesses and life as well as some behind the scenes elements of the movie’s creation. The “Facts” pop up pretty infrequently and offer only basic material. They’re not bad, but they fail to become particularly useful.
A Disneyland TV program appears next. Aired January 30, 1959, The Peter Tchaikovsky Story runs 30 minutes and 22 seconds. Melodramatic, poorly acted, and sluggishly paced, Tchaikovsky isn't much of a biopic. Despite all of those flaws, it maintains a few entertaining moments, and it merits a place here due to its historical significance.
A short featurette called Grand Canyon ran prior to Beauty during its premiere theatrical run. The 28-minute and 53-second film offers film footage of the Canyon accompanied by the music of Ferde Grofe. Presented anamorphic 2.35:1, Canyon kind of reminds me of Beauty itself: love to look at but somewhat boring. Still, it’s great to have it here as part of the package. (Note that while Canyon also appeared on the old Beauty DVD, this disc offers it with anamorphic enhancement for the first time.)
Two musical features appear. We find a *music video for teen star Emily Osment’s rendition of “Once Upon a Dream”. She gives the tune a light pop-rock spin that sounds perfectly anonymous. The video offers a mix of movie clips, performance shots, and a minor story in which Emily moons over some cute boy. It’s inoffensive and nothing more.
A staple of various DVDs, *Disney Song Selection lets viewers watch the movie Karaoke-style. It offers on-screen lyrics for five of the flick’s tunes. Since the film already comes with optional subtitles, I don’t really get the purpose of “Song Selection”, but it doesn’t do any harm.
As DVD One starts, we encounter a mix of ads. We find trailers for Disney Blu-Ray Discs, Pinocchio, The Princess and the Frog, TinkerBell, SpaceBuddies and Disney Movie Rewards. These also appear in the disc’s Sneak Peeks domain along with clips for The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, Wizards of Waverly Place, The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea, WALL-E, Disney DVD Games and Disney Parks.
When you go to DVD Two, you initially have to choose one of two areas: “Cottage” or “Castle”. If you go for Cottage, you find two “Games and Activities”. *Briar Rose’s Enchanted Dance Game either lets you play the game or take a waltz lesson. I chose the former, which essentially acts as a memory contest. It’s not difficult but it’s a pain because you have to enter so many buttons to complete it. I expect it’ll frustrate most kids.
*Sleeping Beauty Fun with Language Game consists of some mini-contests. These are all intended to teach very young kids the meanings of some words. I quit pretty early on since I’m pretty sure I already know what a mop is. It might be useful for the littlest viewers, though.
Most of the disc’s extras appear under Castle. This takes us to “Backstage Disney” and its 11 areas. *Picture Perfect: The Making of Sleeping Beauty runs 43 minutes, 30 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. Though “Perfect” repeats some info from the commentary, it still manages to stand on its own. It 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 and 32-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.
Another featurette, *Sequence Eight goes for five minutes, 30 seconds and features Finn, Bluth, Norman, Mattinson, Barrier, Canemaker, Giaimo, Disney, Deja, Baxter, and animation producer Phil Roman. The featurette details the painstaking work put into the film’s animation. It includes more good notes and works quite well.
Cut material shows up next. We get an *Alternate Opening (3:26) and three *Deleted Songs. The latter area presents “It Happens I Have a Picture” (two versions, 6:36 total), “Riddle Diddle” (2:45) and “Go to Sleep” (2:47). The “Opening” offers a more standard piece of animated storytelling instead of the storybook intro used in the final film. It’s fine for what it is, though I think the storybook proves more effective. As for the songs, they’re interesting to hear as curiosities.
Two different Storyboard Sequences appear. Disney animator Andreas Deja introduces these with a discussion of what storyboards are, and then we see short clips that present split-screen comparisons of “The Fairies Put the Castle to Sleep” and “The Capture of the Prince”. Both are short but fairly fun to see, and Dejas’ comments will prove useful for newbies.
Live-Action Reference divides into three smaller pieces. “Briar Rose Dances” runs 48 seconds, while “Prince Phillip Fights the Dragon” takes 67 seconds and “The Queen and a Fairy” goes for 17 seconds. “Rose” looks like it was staged for TV show, as we watch a dancer stand-in for Rose while animators sketch. “Dragon” feels more legit, as does “Queen”. That last one actually consists of a series of stills linked together to create crude motion. They’re all cool to see.
While most of the preceding sections presented short video programs, stillframe lovers get their due in the Sleeping Beauty Galleries. We move into eight categories: “Visual Development” (150 stills), “Character Design” (181 across five domains), “Storyboard Art” (80), “Live Action Reference” (70), “The Sleeping Beauty Storybook” (25), “Layouts and Backgrounds” (55), “Production Photos” (51) and “Publicity” (34). A lot of good material appears across these areas.
Note that although “Galleries” also appeared on the original Beauty DVD, this presentation differs from that one. The old disc used a more awkward format, but I believe it included images not present here, and it also threw in commentary for 92 of the elements. The absence of that side of things disappoints.
Next we get an *Original Disneyland Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough Attraction. This can be viewed three ways. We find an “Auto Mode” that simply takes us through the attraction. We can view the castle with a guided tour from Imagineer Tony Baxter as well, and we can also check out a history of the attraction. The tour provides three interactive options: you can stop to read the attraction’s book, you can explore the attraction a little more, or you can “turn on the lights” for a more detailed glimpse of things. All of these options are a lot of fun, and they let us get a great look at this long-gone – but soon to return – attraction.
Finally, the “History” of the attraction runs nine minutes, 52 seconds and shows new comments and archival materials to educate us about the castle. We hear from Baxter, Imagineering Principal Dimensional Designers Andrea Bottancino and Doug Hartwell, former Imagineers Harriett Burns and Bob Gurr, and Imagineering artist Chris Merritt. It’s a solid little program.
Publicity presents a few ads. We get the flick’s original teaser, its 1959 theatrical trailer, and a 1995 reissue trailer. Finally, originally part of the April 30, 1958 episode of Disneyland, Four Artists Paint One Tree lasts 16 minutes and seven seconds. In this we encounter four Disney artists – Marc Davis, Eyvind Earle, Josh Meador and Walt Peregoy - and watch as they work on parts of Beauty. Then the four guys go outside and each paint the same tree, albeit with very different results. It's an informative and well-done program.
Does the “Platinum Edition” omit anything from the 2003 DVD? Yes it does – quite a lot, in fact. We lose some stills and archival materials, a few games and activities, some production notes and featurettes. I expect that the missing featurettes essentially pop up in the documentary here, but I can’t say that for certain since I’ve not watched the old disc in a few years. I don’t think we lose anything crucial, especially since we get a good look at the film, but it’s still a disappointment that the new set doesn’t replicate everything from its predecessor.
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 DVD offers good picture and audio and a very solid complement of extras. Despite my ambivalence about the film itself, there’s definitely enough here to entice Disney fans, so Sleeping Beauty comes with my recommendation.
That goes for fans who already own the original DVD as well, mainly due to the improved picture quality. While the “Platinum Edition” transfer doesn’t excel, it’s usually quite good, and it definitely surpasses the 2003 presentation. Supplements are a draw, as both sets include nice materials. The 2008 DVD doesn’t blow away the original, but the visual improvements make it a good upgrade for fans.
To rate this film, visit the Special Edition review of SLEEPING BEAUTY