Waking Sleeping Beauty appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The film consisted entirely of stills, movie clips and archival footage, which meant it was often quite ugly – though not inappropriately so.
That was because there was only so much that could be done with the material. When allowed to look good – via the stills or movie snippets - Waking offered more than acceptable visuals. However, a great deal of the flick stemmed from 15-30-year-old videotaped material. Some of this came from TV broadcasts, while a lot of it was shot on camcorders as behind the scenes footage. Old videotaped bits aren’t a recipe for attractive visuals, so they meant a whole lot of the program was messy and muddy.
In truth, I felt reluctant to give the transfer a grade simply because it was such a melange of sources. Like I mentioned, it reasonably couldn’t look good; it used too many old, poorly shot sources. Objectively, the image would get a very low mark, but I didn’t think that would be fair. A “C” felt like a good compromise. The visuals were unattractive, but they represented the source material with reasonable accuracy.
To some degree, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Waking suffered from some of the same source restrictions, but these weren’t as severe. A moderate amount of the audio came from the same crummy old videotaped origins, but those weren’t a major component, so those auditory restrictions seemed mild.
Instead, the documentary mostly revolved around interview comments and music. Effects were usually a minor factor, though they broadened on a couple of occasions. For instance, when the program mentioned an in-house tongue in cheek recreation of Apocalypse Now, all five channels blossomed into war-related activity.
That was a brief – and startling – expansion of the mix, however, as the majority remained subdued. Music showed good stereo imaging and that was about all she wrote; the rest of the time, the track tended to seem low-key.
Audio quality was fine. As I mentioned, speech varied dependent on the source, but dialogue was usually natural and concise. Effects seemed reasonably accurate, and music showed nice breadth and dimensionality. Overall, this was a perfectly acceptable mix.
When we shift to extras, we find an audio commentary from director Don Hahn and producer Peter Schneider. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific track, but we also get additional interview clips edited into the piece; these include former Disney executives Jeffrey Katzenberg and Roy E. Disney, Disney Theatrical Group president Thomas Schumacher, composer Alan Menken, and animators/filmmakers Rob Minkoff, Mike Gabriel, George Scribner, Glen Keane, Randy Cartwright, Andreas Deja, Kirk Wise, and John Musker. The commentary covers the project’s origins and the film’s format/structure as well as additional background about the movie’s participants and situations.
Those “behind the scenes” insights work the best. While it’s nice to hear more about the creation of Waking itself, the notes about the Disney Studios and their operation prove to be quite valuable. The commentary helps flesh out the movie’s topics in a positive manner and contributes a lot of worthwhile info.
Six Deleted Scenes last a total of 34 minutes, 39 seconds. We get “Black Friday” (4:41), “Howard’s Lecture” (12:33), “Losing Howard” (4:54), “Recording ‘Part of Your World’” (6:30), “Research Trips” (4:21) and “To Sir With Love” (1:40). Across these, we get notes from Hahn, former executives Thomas Schumacher and Jeffrey Katzenberg, animators/filmmakers Ed Gombert, John Musker, Eric Goldberg, Ron Clements, Roger Allers, Chris Montan, Chris Sanders, George Scribner, Glen Keane, Lisa Keene, and Mike Gabriel, Howard Ashman’s companion Bill Lauch, composer Alan Menken, and Ashman’s sister Sarah Gillespie.
“Friday” looks at problems during the production of Aladdin, and “Lecture” shows an April 28, 1987 speech composer Howard Ashman gave to the Disney animators during the production of Little Mermaid. “Losing” opines about Ashman’s death, and “Recording” shows the session for that song. “Trips” talks about prep work for Rescuers Down Under, Lion King and Beauty and the Beast, while “Love” finishes with Katzenberg’s departure from Disney. All of these are pretty good, and “Love” would’ve probably helped the movie’s ending fare a little better.
A few featurettes appear as well. Why Wake Sleeping Beauty? goes for eight minutes, 54 seconds and includes remarks from Hahn, Schneider, Menken, Minkoff, Wise, Cartwright, and writer Patrick Pacheco. “Wake” looks at the impetus behind the project and aspects of its construction. We get a basic overview of the processes, though it seems fairly redundant after the commentary.
In The Sailor, The Mountain Climber, The Artist and The Poet, we find 15 minutes, 25 seconds with Hahn, Pacheco, Schneider, Wise, Minkoff, Cartwright, and Menken. “Sailor” discusses Howard Ashman, Frank Wells, Joe Ranft, and Roy Disney, the four men to whom the film was dedicated. It acts as a nice dedication to them.
During the two-minute, 13-second A Reunion, we see Wise and Minkoff. We learn how they’ve known each other since their teens and hear about their work together over the years. It’s a quick piece but it’s nice to hear about their joint careers.
Walt runs six minutes, one second, and includes Hahn, Schneider, Pacheco, Minkoff, Wise, and Cartwright. They compare the studio under Walt to the place in their period, and they also speculate about what Disney would think of the modern studio and the film. This isn’t one of the DVD’s strongest pieces, but it offers a few interesting tidbits.
Finally, Studio Tours offers footage from three different years. We can check out 1980 (4:56), 1983 (4:17), and 1990 (4:28). Including an intro from Cartwright, these fill a total of 14 minutes, 36 seconds. They show Cartwright’s home movie/video footage shot in the listed years. We see clips from these reels during the full film, but it’s cool to see these slices of history in longer incarnations.
One non-disc-based component pops up as well. A Collectible Litho shows a cartoon rendering in which “Howard Ashman excoriates directors Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale during a tough story meeting for Beauty and the Beast”; that’s a story told in the film. It’s an odd addition, but kind of fun.
The disc opens with promos for The Boys: The Sherman Brothers Story and Walt & El Grupo. Under Sneak Peeks, we also get ads for DisneyNature: African Cats, Fantasia/Fantasia 2000, D23.com, Bambi, and The Lion King.
With Waking Sleeping Beauty, we get a fascinating inside look at the Disney Studios during a period of transition and upheaval. The film feels frank about its subject and covers the topics well. The DVD comes with acceptable picture and audio as well as a good array of supplements. Waking will be of interest to any serious Disney fan.