Sleeping Beauty (1959)

Sleeping Beauty is a 1959 American animated film produced by Walt Disney based on Charles Perrault’s novel Sleeping Beauty. Released in 1959, Sleeping Beauty was the first animated film photographed in the Super Technirama 70 widescreen process. 

The movie was another hit following Lady and the Tramp released four years earlier. The year 2019 saw the film being re-released for preservation by the Library of Congress in the United States National Film Registry for being aesthetically, culturally, and historically significant.

Plot

King Stefan and Queen Leah spent several years childless. Finally, upon the birth of their daughter Princess Aurora, a public holiday is proclaimed to pay homage to the princess. At the christening of Princess Aurora, King Stefan betrotheds the princess to Prince Philip, who is the son of King Hubert, a close friend of her father in an attempt to unite the kingdoms. 

The royal herald announces the arrival of three more guests, the three good fairies called Faun, Flora, and Merryweather. While Flora and Fauna bless Aurora with beauty and song but Merryweather’s gift is interrupted by Maleficent an evil witch who is frustrated at not being invited by the kingdom. 

As a result, Maleficent curses the princess and proclaims that the princess will prick her finger on a spinning wheel’s spindle and die before the sunset on her sixteenth birthday. Although Maleficent’s curse is too strong to undo but Merryweather manages to weaken the curse. Instead of dying, the princess will go into a deep sleep until a true love’s kiss breaks the spell. 

However, King Stefan is not satisfied. He orders the burning of all spinning wheels in the kingdom. On the other hand, the fairies are aware of the fact that Maleficent will not go away until she does what she needs to do and insist that the prince is allowed to leave with them until she turns sixteen. 

Aurora grows to be a beautiful young woman. However, she is not aware that she is protected by fairies as they disguise themselves as peasants. On her sixteenth birthday, the fairies ask her to fetch so berries to prepare for a surprise birthday party. 

Aurora befriends the animals of the forest by singing the song “Once Upon a Dream”. Philip, a young handsome man hears her voice and instantly falls in love with her grace and beauty. Aurora is startled but both fall in love. As a result, Aurora invites him to the cottage to meet her godmothers. 

Meanwhile, Flora and Merryweather argue over Aurora’s gown color, Maleficent’s raven Diablo is attracted by their magic. Upon returning home, Aurora tells her godmothers that she has fallen in love. As a result, the godmother tells her that King Philip is the real one and she is already betrothed. 

Upon hearing this, Diablo flies off to Maleficent to convey the news. In the meantime, Aurora is heartbroken and goes to her room crying. On the other hand, Philip informs his father that he wants to marry a peasant girl despite his betrothal to a princess, which leaves Hubert devastated. 

Then, the fairies take Aurora to the castle where her parents and guests await a birthday surprise. However, at the same time, Maleficent appears and tries to lure Aurora into a dark tower that features a spindle of a cursed spinning wheel. The fairies in return try to protect her. 

However, before the fairies could arrive, Aurora prickles her finger, and Maleficent taunts the fairies upon not being able to protect the princess and defeating them. While Aurora goes into a deep sleep, the fairies place her on a bed in the highest tower and cast a powerful spell on the entire kingdom causing them to sleep until the spell on the princess is broken. 

The fairies upon hearing a brief sleepy conversation between the two kings realize that it is Philip with whom Aurora fell in love in the forest. The fairies rush to find him but discover that he is abducted by Maleficent. The witch shows the sleeping princess to Philip and tells him that she will lock him away until he becomes old and on the verge of death. Only then she will release him and his love would have not aged a bit. 

The fairies manage to rescue Philip using the magical Sword of Truth and Shield of Virtue. This enrages Maleficent who using thorns surrounds the castle but fails to stop Philip. As a result, Philip and Maleficent come face to face while she appears as a black dragon. Philip strikes her heart using the sword, killing Maleficent. 

Philip then awakens Aurora and the entire kingdom by sharing a kiss. The royal couple descends to the Ballroom where Aurora meets her parents. And while Flora and Merryweather still argue over Aurora’s gown, the couple lives happily ever after. 

Critical Reception

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Although the movie received a positive response from the critics but some criticized its similarity with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Furthermore, it was also stated that the adults would find the movie hardly entertaining due to its similarity to the Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs movie. Aurora’s character was more or less the same as well as the movie’s plot. 

However, it was not all negative. Some of the positive reviews praised the singing voices of Bill Shirley and Mary Costa. Additionally, other positive responses mentioned that the movie is going to charm the young and tickle the adults at the same time. 

Legacy

Sleeping Beauty throughout its running duration was able to collect several major awards such as Academy, Grammy, and Young Artist Award. In addition to that, the film is also recognized by the American Film Institute in categories such as AFI’s 10 top 10, AFI’s Greatest Movie Musicals, and AFI’s 100 Years…100 Heroes & Villans. 

Apart from the awards and several other honors, the film left a forever-lasting legacy. For instance, Walt Disney came up with a Sleeping Beauty board game while Theme parks were also created to promote the movie. 

Since Sleeping Beauty was made when Disneyland was being built, Walt Disney utilized the opportunity to promote Sleeping Beauty by naming the park’s icon “Sleeping Beauty Castle”. However, it was shot down shortly afterward due to the 9/11 attacks. 

Final Word

With the release of Sleeping Beauty, it was proven that Walt Disney was Picasso of animated films. The animation was top-notch due to animators coming up with the perfect characters, colors, and themes, etc. On top of that, the musical scores were splendid, adding to the overall charm of the movie. Considering its success, Sleeping Beauty goes down in the history as one of the best-animated films for all the right reasons.