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Princess Aurora: The Enchanting Tale Behind Disney’s Sleeping Beauty

Princess Aurora, known widely as Sleeping Beauty, is a beloved character in the vast pantheon of Disney princesses. Her story, originating from the classic fairy tale and immortalized in Disney’s 1959 animated film “Sleeping Beauty,” continues to enchant audiences decades after its release. We will explore backstory of Princess Aurora, exploring the origins of her tale, her portrayal in the Disney adaptation, and the fascinating facts that make her story a timeless classic.

In 1959, Walt Disney Studios released “Sleeping Beauty,” marking their third princess film. Princess Aurora was designed by artist Eyvind Earle, whose unique artistic style gave the film its distinctive and sophisticated aesthetic. Aurora’s character was based on the traditional fairy tale princess – graceful, kind, and somewhat passive, reflecting the era’s norms.

Interesting Facts About Aurora and “Sleeping Beauty”:

Mary Costa

  1. Voice of Aurora: Aurora’s voice was provided by opera singer Mary Costa, who was just 22 years old at the time. Costa’s classical training gave Aurora’s singing voice a lyrical and ethereal quality, particularly evident in the iconic song “Once Upon a Dream.”
  2. Limited Screen Time: Despite being the central character, Aurora has only about 18 minutes of screen time and speaks fewer lines than any other Disney main character. This is partly because she spends a significant portion of the film asleep.
  3. Inspiration for Aurora’s Look: Aurora’s appearance was inspired by the elegant, statuesque features of Audrey Hepburn, with her slender frame and graceful movements reflecting the fashion of the 1950s.
  4. Name Significance: Unlike her counterparts in earlier tales, Disney’s princess was given the name Aurora, which means “dawn” in Latin, symbolizing hope and a new beginning.
  5. Aurora’s Dress: The changing color of Aurora’s dress – from blue to pink – was a result of a dispute between two of her fairy godmothers in the film. This has become an iconic element, representing her character in both shades in various merchandise and media.
  6. Artistic Achievement: “Sleeping Beauty” was the last Disney film to use hand-inked cels, making it a significant achievement in animation art. Its detailed backgrounds and stylized art were heavily influenced by medieval art and the Pre-Raphaelite movement.
  7. Critical Reception: Initially, “Sleeping Beauty” received mixed reviews and did not fare well financially. However, over time, it gained critical acclaim for its artistry and was later hailed as one of Disney’s most visually stunning creations.
  8. Cultural Impact: Aurora’s character has become an iconic symbol of Disney’s princess culture. She is a regular feature in Disney parks, merchandise, and media, and continues to be a favorite among audiences.
  9. Legacy and Adaptations: Aurora’s story has been adapted in various forms, including ballets, plays, and live-action films like “Maleficent,” which offers an alternative perspective on the classic tale.
  10. The Spinning Wheel: The spinning wheel, a central element in Aurora’s story, has become a symbol of fate and destiny, often used in other literary and artistic works.
  11. The fairy tale “La Belle Au Bois Dormant,” written by Charles Perrault in 1697:  The book served as part of the inspiration for the story of Sleeping Beauty. It was also the inspiration for the Brothers Grimm story, The Briar Rose, published in 1812.
  12. The Name:  Princess Aurora was the first Disney Princess to have a name different from the title of her film.
  13. The Slim Figure:  Audrey Hepburn served as an inspiration for Aurora’s slim physique.
  14. Aurora’s Persona:  Tom Oreb was the one to develop the original design for Aurora’s animated persona. Later, Marc David and his wife Alice improved the look and costumes, which were much more realistic than any previous Disney film.
  15. The Last Princess for Walt:  Aurora was the last Disney princess created before Walt Disney’s death in 1966.
  16. The Last Princess for a While:  Aurora remained Disney’s last princess for 30 years until Ariel from The Little Mermaid debuted in 1989.
  17. Three Original Disney Princesses:  Aurora is one of the three original Disney princesses, alongside her two predecessors, Snow White and Cinderella. They are members of a trifecta known as the “Golden Era” of Disney heroines.

The Historical Stories That Inspired the Making of Sleeping Beauty

The inspiration for Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty” comes from a rich tapestry of folklore and fairy tales, with two primary sources often cited: “Sun, Moon, and Talia” by Giambattista Basile and “The Sleeping Beauty” by Charles Perrault. Additionally, the Brothers Grimm version, “Little Briar Rose,” also contributed elements to the story as we know it today.

  1. “Sun, Moon, and Talia” by Giambattista Basile (1634): This Italian tale is considered one of the earliest versions of the Sleeping Beauty story. In Basile’s narrative, the princess, Talia, falls into a deep sleep after getting a flax splinter under her fingernail. Unlike later versions, there is no mention of an evil fairy or a curse, and the story takes a much darker turn after Talia falls asleep.
  2. “The Sleeping Beauty” by Charles Perrault (1697): Perrault’s version, part of his “Tales of Mother Goose,” is more akin to the story popularly known today. In this French rendition, the princess is cursed to die by an evil fairy, but another fairy mitigates the curse to a hundred years of deep sleep. The story introduces the elements of the good fairies (or wise women), the spindle, and the kiss from a prince that awakens the sleeping princess. Perrault’s version also adds the christening ceremony at the beginning, where the curse is placed.
  3. “Little Briar Rose” by the Brothers Grimm (1812): The Brothers Grimm included “Little Briar Rose” in their collection of folk tales. Their version closely follows Perrault’s narrative but omits certain elements like the christening. The Grimms’ adaptation emphasizes the briar hedge that grows around the sleeping princess and the prince who braves it to find her.

In all these versions, the core elements remain consistent: a princess, a period of extended sleep triggered by a curse or enchantment, and awakening through external intervention, often by a prince. However, each story reflects its cultural context and the storytelling traditions of its time.

Conclusion

Princess Aurora’s tale, from its historical roots to its Disney depiction, is a fascinating journey through culture, art, and storytelling. Her character may not be as actively involved in her story as other Disney princesses, but her legacy is undeniable. Aurora symbolizes grace, beauty, and the enduring power of love and goodness. Her story, encapsulating the triumph of good over evil, continues to resonate, making “Sleeping Beauty” a cherished classic in the Disney canon, celebrated for generations and likely many more to come.

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