SLEEPING BEAUTY (1959) has always been my favorite animated Disney film. I own more editions of it than any other Disney movie: a widescreen VHS tape, a 2-Disc Special Edition purchased a decade ago, and then a 2-Disc Platinum Edition purchased in 2008.
When I got an all-region DVD player, my first purchase -- thanks to a tip in a Leonard Maltin column -- was a beautiful 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition of the film which came in a box with a cover modeled on the film's opening title; along with the DVD, the set includes a wonderful book on the film. Photos of this very special set are below. To my knowledge this set was only released in the UK.
It will thus come as no surprise that when I heard a few days ago that SLEEPING BEAUTY would be featured as a "one night only" Throwback Thursday film at the El Capitan Theatre, I immediately bought a ticket. I hadn't had the opportunity to see the film on a big screen since my husband and I saw it when we were dating, which is a lot of years ago!
As always, seeing a movie at the El Capitan is a wonderful experience. Throwback Thursdays are a great deal, with discounted tickets including popcorn and soda in the cost.
Rob Richards. Richards has been playing the "Mighty Wurlitzer" at the El Capitan for 15 years as of this year.
The picture and especially the sound were excellent; you just can't beat seeing this film in its original widescreen. (It was originally presented in "Super Technirama 70.") Seeing the film reminded me all over again why I love it so much, starting with the beautiful stylings of Eyvind Earle. Some of the scenes, such as the opening celebration sequence at the castle, almost have a 3-D effect.
The use of the Tchaikovsky music to score the film is brilliant, and there simply isn't a better Disney scene than "Once Upon a Dream," sung by Mary Costa. I don't mind saying that the combination of the beautiful music and animation makes me tear up a little, and the music evokes the same reaction in the final scene.
At 75 minutes the film is perfectly paced, balancing emotional depth and action without making the audience spend a great deal of time focused on the dark sides of the storyline. It moves, and this benefits the film greatly.
It also has a nice sense of humor, including a court attendant who drinks himself literally under the table (his face reminds me of character actor Gus Schilling) and the delightful alternating pink and blue dress in the last scene. Prince Philip's wonderful horse, Samson, seems as though he may have been an inspiration behind a Disney horse with an even more developed comic personality, Maximus in TANGLED (2010).
The voice cast is superb, including Mary Costa voicing Princess Aurora and Bill Shirley as Prince Philip. Eleanor Audley voices Maleficent; she was also the voice of mean Lady Tremaine in CINDERELLA (1950).
Verna Felton, who voices Flora, was the voice of the Fairy Godmother in CINDERELLA. The other good fairies are voiced by Barbara Jo Allen and Barbara Luddy. Luddy voiced Lady in LADY AND THE TRAMP (1955).
The film was directed by Clyde Geronimi.
Seen at right: a photo of a poster on display in the El Capitan lobby.
As a postscript, some may have heard the news that this week a certain Oscar-winning actress took it upon herself to slander Walt Disney as a "gender bigot," among other things, without considering all of the facts, not to mention historical and social context. In doing so, she made herself look small, maligning someone who is not here to respond to the attack.
One of those who worked on SLEEPING BEAUTY was Floyd Norman, who happens to be a black animator who worked directly with Walt Disney. Mr. Norman published a rebuke of the uninformed comments. He points out that, as with many other people of the era, Disney's views of working women evolved quickly with the times, nor did he ever see any evidence that Walt was a racist or anti-Semite; his firsthand experience was quite the contrary.
The Walt Disney Family Museum also posted a detailed response. I appreciated the Museum "favoriting" my own Tweet saying "Suspect Mary Blair, Alice Davis, Dorothea Holt Redmond, Harriet Burns would be surprised he was sexist."
Left: I have this certified Sericel of the "Once Upon a Dream" scene hanging on my wall.
Related posts: Photos of original Eyvind Earle designs for Disneyland's Fantasyland can be seen here and here. My photos of the remarkable Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland Paris, also known as Le Chateau de la Belle au Bois Dormant, are here.
Tonight's Movie: Lady and the Tramp (1955) at the El Capitan Theatre; Tonight's Movie: Cinderella (1950) at the El Capitan Theatre; Tonight's Movie: Peter Pan (1953) at the El Capitan Theatre, Tonight's Movie: Mulan (1998) at the El Capitan Theatre, Tonight's Movie: The Little Mermaid (1989) at the El Capitan Theatre; Tonight's Movie: Mary Poppins (1964) at the El Capitan Theatre.