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Once Upon A Dream
The three good fairies and Maleficent are the best in this Disney movie!
At the time of writing this review, I saw a re-release of ‘Sleeping Beauty’ at the cinema in Nantgarw, Cardiff for January 2019. It was nice to watch this Disney film at the cinema, having seen it before on VHS and DVD. My parents and I enjoyed this quaint animated Disney film from 1959 on the big screen.
‘Sleeping Beauty’ is based on the classic fairy tale by French author, Charles Perrault. I don’t know much about how the original fairy tale works as it’s the Disney version that’s most popular in my mind. The Disney version of ‘Sleeping Beauty’ has become a well-beloved classic over the years since it was made.
It was the 16th animated classic made in the run of animated Disney movies. My Dad purchased the 2-disc Collector’s Edition of ‘Sleeping Beauty’ on DVD when it was released in January 2003. Disc 1 contains the movie whilst Disc 2 contains special features as is usually the case with these 2-disc DVD sets.
‘Sleeping Beauty’ of course has had many DVD/Blu-ray releases over the years. There has been a live-action remake of ‘Sleeping Beauty’ (sort-of) called ‘Maleficent’ starring Angelina Jolie. I’ve never seen that live-action movie and from what I’ve gathered it doesn’t stay true to the spirit of the original film.
The story of ‘Sleeping Beauty’ is straight-forward. In a far-away kingdom during the medieval ages, King Stefan and Queen Leah happily have a daughter after many childless years. They name their daughter, Aurora, before they have their daughter blessed by the whole kingdom including the three good fairies.
But soon the evil witch-like Maleficent comes and curses the young princess that ‘before the sun sets on her sixteenth birthday, she shall prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and die’. This is something the three good fairies, Flora, Fauna and Merryweather, hope to stop from ever happening.
They do this by taking the baby princess far away from King Stefan’s kingdom and raising the girl herself as one of their own, as well as disguising themselves as mortals, to prevent Maleficent from ever finding her. But this isn’t as easy as the fairies think. It is soon bound that Maleficent will find her.
What I noticed about this Disney film, especially from watching it on the big screen, was the unique style of animation it used. In the opening sequence of people arriving to welcome the king’s daughter into the world, the characters and the scenery are static in appearance, making it seem medieval-like.
When it comes to the main characters like the three good fairies; Maleficent; Aurora and Prince Philip, whom Aurora falls in love with, they seem decently Disney animated. It was surreal to watch the various animation techniques used in this Disney film. It’s something I personally don’t notice so often.
As I indicated in my tagline for this review, the three good fairies and Maleficent are what’s most memorable about this film. The fairies, Flora, Fauna and Merryweather are like the main heroes of the film compared to the Prince and the Princess, yet they are meant to be the supporting characters here.
Flora, Fauna and Merryweather are very likeable as characters. Flora is the leader of the group whilst Fauna and Merryweather follow behind her and support her in saving the young princess’ life from Maleficent. The three good fairies each give a gift for the baby princess. A bit like the Three Wise Men. 😀
Flora gives the baby Aurora the gift of beauty whilst Fauna gives the baby the gift of song. But Merryweather’s gift to Aurora is of most significance. After Maleficent curses the child with death, Merryweather the gift of true love’s first kiss for the death-like spell put on by Maleficent to be broken.
The three fairies must cope without using their magic wands to raise the baby princess Aurora, whom they name Briar Rose, in their woodcutter’s cottage in the forest for sixteen years. This is something Merryweather struggles to do especially towards the end of the sixteen-year wait on Aurora’s birthday.
It was amusing how Fauna bakes a cake and Flora with Merryweather’s help makes a ball gown for Aurora’s birthday without their magic. It fails of course and soon Merryweather fetches the magic wands so that they can bake the cake and make the ball gown properly before Aurora has come home.
I also found it amusing when Flora and Merryweather fight over what the colour of Aurora’s ball gown should be. Flora wants it pink but Merryweather wants it blue. They soon fight it out with their magic wands, catching the attention of Maleficent’s raven that gets sent out to look for the Princess Aurora.
Even during the film’s closing scene, Flora and Merryweather fight it out over which colour Aurora’s ball gown should be when she’s dancing with Prince Philip – whether it should be pink or blue. Me personally, I would’ve gone with blue. Blue’s my favourite colour, you see. Why couldn’t it be blue? 😀
The villain is of course Maleficent and she’s amazing! She combines both charm and menace in her character. She can have her outbursts at times but she can also be calm and quiet in her evil moments. She’s well-calculated how she delivers her scheme to see the princess dead on her sixteenth birthday.
It’s not entirely clear why Maleficent would want to curse the baby daughter and why she wasn’t invited on the special holiday to welcome the princess. The movie ‘Maleficent’ might have those reasons, but I guess it might be something very different in Maleficent’s relationship with the kingdom.
Maleficent lives in her own castle inside the Forbidden Mountain and of course uses her magic powers for evil purposes. She also keeps a pet raven who’s loyal to her as well as army of pig-like soldiers. Maleficent also has the ability to turn herself into a dragon. This is really terrifying to watch in the film.
The action-packed climax of the movie where Prince Philip fights Maleficent as the dragon with the magical Sword of Truth and the Shield of Virtue given to him by the three good fairies was exciting to watch. I imagine kids watching the film when it was released at cinemas must have found it terrifying.
As for Princess Aurora herself, I didn’t find her interesting as a character really. She is essential in being the beautiful princess with the best singing voice that gets cursed and goes into a death-like sleep for her prince to wake her up with a kiss. But aside from that, there was not much in terms of a character.
I did like that scene where Princess Aurora/Briar Rose interacts with the animals of the forest including the birds; the squirrels and the owl (who is my favourite). This is before she meets Prince Philip in the forest and easily falls in love with him, which is something that happens a lot in Disney animated films.
Prince Philip likewise isn’t given much character development, despite having a little comic relief with his horse Samson when he hears Briar Rose’s singing voice in the forest. Philip tells his father, King Hubert, about the peasant girl he met in the forest, which shocks his father as he’s already betrothed.
I did enjoy the scene between King Stefan and King Hubert where they toast the return of Princess Aurora on her sixteenth birthday. They sing this wine song with the word ‘skumps’ in it. What that word means, I don’t know. 😀 There’s also the lyre player who gets drunk when taking the kings’ wine. 😀
The music and the songs are pretty good in the film, mostly done by George Bruns who adapted from Tchaikovsky’s ‘Sleeping Beauty Ballet’. The song ‘Once Upon A Dream’ is what people most remember about ‘Sleeping Beauty’ when it comes to music, especially when it’s played during the movie’s climax.
The DVD special features of the 2-disc Collector’s Edition of ‘Sleeping Beauty’ are as follows. On Disc 1, there’s ‘The Making of Sleeping Beauty’ documentary; the ‘Rescue Aurora Adventure Game’; the ‘Ink and Paint Studio’ and ‘Art Attack: How To Make A Magic Castle’.
On Disc 2, there’s the ‘Story’ section which contains ‘The History of the Story’; ‘The 1951 Outline’ and two storyboard sequences. There’s the ‘Production’ section which contains ‘The Music of Sleeping Beauty’; ‘The Design’; ‘Creating the Backgrounds’; three live action reference features; ‘The Restoration’ and a widescreen to pan and scan comparison. There are virtual galleries including a layouts and background gallery; the ‘Sleeping Beauty’ storybook gallery; a posters gallery; a Disneyland walkthrough gallery; a concept art gallery; a character design gallery and a storyboards gallery. There’s also a ‘Scrapbook’ gallery including behind-the-scenes; publicity; merchandise and theme parks. There’s also ‘Four Artists Paint One Tree’; ‘Grand Canyon’ and ‘The Peter Tchaikovsky Story’.
‘Sleeping Beauty’ is a charming Disney film with some unique animation styles. It has three likeable good fairies who are like the main heroes and a superb villain in Maleficent. The love story between Princess Aurora and Prince Philip isn’t the greatest on film, but it’s decent to watch for a Disney movie.
I enjoyed watching it again on the big screen at the cinema when it was re-released for a short time in Nantgarw, Cardiff in January 2019. It’s not one of my favourite Disney movies, but it’s a film worth having. The film is also worth watching for its action sequence especially when Maleficent becomes a dragon.
‘Sleeping Beauty’ rating – 7/10
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