When I went to see the ballet The Sleeping Beauty it was more than a bit strange to hear Tchaikovsky’s music in a different context. For example, the music that I’ve come to know as representing Maleficent bewitching the princess to her doom is, in the ballet, a dance done by cats at the wedding of the princess to the prince.
Now that I’ve watched Disney’s Sleeping Beauty for the first time since seeing the ballet – I have to say that I have a greater appreciation for Tchaikovsky’s score. I am also very impressed at how the filmmakers took this classical suite and fit them to their adaptation, especially for songs like ‘Once Upon A Dream’ and cat dance music as I mentioned before.
Aside from the outstanding music, one thing that you really see from Sleeping Beauty is that this would appear to be the first time that the animation style was a clear choice for a narrative film. From the get-go, the backgrounds and character designs are drawn in a way that tip the hat to medieval paintings. Check the highlights in Aurora’s hair and some of the interesting use of perspective in the beginning sequence to see what I mean. I wonder how long it’ll be before I see them paying such an homage again.
Despite being called Sleeping Beauty, it is interesting how the main characters in this film really are the three fairies and Maleficent. Princess Aurora really isn’t in the film that much. The film may be named after her, but of all the titular Disney characters she has he second least lines (the least lines belong to Dumbo… who does not speak). In Maleficent Disney really did craft one of their most evil villains, I mean this is one that actually scared me as a child because of the way her eyes glowed in the fire. The voice acting is on point, which is hilarious now that I’ve seen Green Acres as I now know Eleanor Audley more for her role in that TV show than as Maleficent.
Despite the fact that Sleeping Beauty is now regularly ranked as one of Disney’s best films, the contemporary critics were not so kind. Neither were the box office receipts in the initial run in theatres, where Sleeping Beauty failed to make back all the money spent on it. Thanks to this, we had to wait 30 years and 12 films before Disney would attempt another fairy tale adaptation. At least, since their next fairy tale film would be The Little Mermaid, we know it was worth the wait.