“Sleeping Beauty,” one of the very best and most beloved films in the Disney animated canon, tells the story of Princess Aurora (Voice of Mary Costa), daughter to King Stefan (Voice of Taylor Holmes) and Queen Leah (Voice of Verna Felton). On the day of her birth, three good fairies, Flora (Voice of Verna Felton), Fauna (Voice of Barbara Jo Allen), and Merryweather (Voice of Barbara Luddy), bestow their gifts on her. The first two give to her the gifts of beauty and song, but before Merryweather can give hers, the celebration is interrupted by the evil Maleficent (Voice of Eleanor Audley). She places a curse on the child, saying that Aurora will prick her finger on a spinning wheel on her 16th birthday and die.
Merryweather, unable to counteract the curse, instead changes it so that Aurora will merely sleep if she should prick her finger, an effect that can only be reversed by true love’s kiss. However, to ensure that this does not happen either, the king orders that every spinning wheel be burned, while the fairies enact their plan of hiding Aurora deep in the woods for 16 years to keep her safe. Throughout the years, the fairies take care of her, but it eventually comes time to tell her of her heritage, return her to the castle, and carry out her marriage to a prince, something she strongly objects to after she falls in love with a stranger in the forest. Meanwhile, Maleficent has not stopped her search, determined to carry out the curse she put on the child all those years ago.
When it comes to Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty,” there really isn’t a single bad thing that can be said about it. This is an animated masterpiece that still holds up wonderfully today, featuring gorgeous animation that continues to dazzle audiences even 55 years after its release. However, what has truly helped it endure for so long is its classic story, based on the Grimms’ fairy tale and the ballet by Tchaikovsky. Featuring an unforgettable mix of drama, romance, comedy, action, adventure, and music, this is a tale that has a little something for everyone. Rewatching it for the first time in what must have been over 15 years, I found it incredibly easy to get swept right up in it all over again, marveling at how well drawn it is, smiling at the goofiness of the good fairies, enjoying the thrills of the Prince fighting the evil Maleficent, and getting pulled back into childhood with the playing of the classic song “Once Upon a Dream.”
“Sleeping Beauty” is the product of a time when Disney’s animated films still felt magical. Not that they haven’t given us some great animated films in more recent years, but they just don’t have the same feel, the same ability to sweep you away into an incredible journey the way “The Sword in the Stone,” “Robin Hood,” “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, “Cinderella,” “Pinocchio, “Alice in Wonderland” and others could. “Sleeping Beauty” remains one of the great pinnacles of animated features to look up to, one that has stood the test of time and will continue to do so for many years to come.
“Sleeping Beauty” arrives for the second time on Blu-ray in a 2.55:1, 1080p High Definition transfer that makes the film look absolutely brand new. The animation has been meticulously restored, making the colors of each and every frame look radiant, but such a description hardly begins to do it justice. I was expecting the picture to look nice, at least in comparison to the old VHS tape I had as a kid, but I wasn’t prepared for just how jaw-droppingly incredible it was going to turn out. The 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio has also undergone extensive restoration from the original recording sessions, resulting in an absolutely flawless soundtrack that allows the Oscar-nominated score to shine. The film has simply never looked or sounded better in its 55-year existence.
3 Deleted Scenes
The Art of Evil: Generations of Disney Villains
@DisneyAnimation: Artists in Motion
Once Upon a Parade
Picture Perfect: The Making of Sleeping Beauty
The Sound of Beauty: Restoring a Classic
Eyvind Earle: A Man and his Art
Audio Commentary by John Lasseter, Andreas Deja, and Leonard Maltin
This release comes with an excellent selection of extras including a fascinating “Making of,” featuring interviews with several knowledgeable experts (as well as some of the original animators), as well as a look at restoring the film’s soundtrack from the original recording sessions in Germany. Also of interest are three deleted scenes, two of which are alternate versions of the curse being fulfilled and Maleficent’s entrance, with the third involving Aurora visiting a fair from a different version of the film. Overall, they’ve done a great job with these special features, giving fans lots of in-depth and informative extras to pour through.
I’ve already mentioned that there isn’t really a bad thing you can say about the film itself, but as it turns out, the same goes for this entire release. “Sleeping Beauty” is a masterpiece that looks and sounds better than ever on Blu-ray, and with an outstanding selection of fascinating special features, this is a release that is easily labeled a must-own. Disney has done a marvelous job with this restoration, making this animated classic more than worthy of a spot on any Blu-ray shelf.