Sleeping Beauty (1959)
Once again, we begin a month of Disney animation recapping, starting with 'Sleeping Beauty' - one of the Disney Animated films I tend to have in the back of my head somewhere, as the idea has never appealed to me much. I remember renting this a very long time ago, when Disney Vault Limited Edition VHS tapes were all the rage. I pretty well just shrugged it off as something neat, but not really my thing. I gotta say, my opinion hasn't changed a whole bunch.
Princess Aurora is born to King Stefan and Queen Leah. A holiday is proclaimed to pay homage to her, where she is betrothed to Prince Phillip at her christening in an effort to unite kingdoms with King Hubert, and is given gifts from the good fairies, Flora, Fauna and Merryweather. The fairies all come bearing gifts; Flora gifts her with beauty, Fauna with song, but Merryweather's gift is interrupted by the evil fairly, Maleficent, who's all pissed off about not being invited to the party.
Maleficent curses Aurora by proclaiming that on her 16th birthday, Aurora would prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and drop dead before sunset. This causes Merryweather to rethink her gift, and she uses her magic to make it so that instead of dying, Aurora will just fall into a deep sleep, until "true love's kiss" breaks the spell. The fairies soon take Aurora under their protection, knowing that Maleficent will not rest until Aurora is killed. The child grows up with them in a hidden forest cottage, awaiting the day she turns 16. So, the main plot of this story is a pretty weird one, considering that it's a 16-year event that all stems back from not being invited to a party.
That said, it's pretty damn incredible how much of a love/hate relationship I have with this movie. For a good chunk of it, i see it pretty much the same way I see 'Cinderella' - it's not really my cup of tea, but there's nothing really wrong with it, per se. However, this does have a lot that stands out about it, starting with Maleficent. Her motivation for revenge is absolutely ridiculous, but that's kind of what makes her such a great villain. Imagine not inviting someone to a house party, and just because of that, that person plots a 16-year revenge that will lead to your first-born's eventual death. Thus far, I'd consider her the single most evil Disney villain, at least as far as I've recapped - the Queen from 'Snow White', a close second, with her motivation being jealousy over beauty.
Speaking of 'Snow White', there are quite a few similarities here. This is almost like they took the very basics of 'Snow White' (as in curse causes deep sleep that can only be broken by a kiss, and the villain's motivation is just jealousy) and made it better. Among other things I really like about it include the interaction between the three fairies, the beautifully painted backgrounds, artwork and animation, and about the last half hour or so of the movie which includes a pretty awesome chase/fight between Prince Phillip and a dragon version of Maleficent where she even tells Phillip he's about to face "all the power of Hell" - pretty badass for a Disney villain, and again, she's one of the best parts about this movie, even if her motivation is laughable.
Of course, I have to go back to what I said about comparing it to 'Cinderella' as far as personal taste goes. There's a lot I didn't like about this movie, and the biggest beef i have about it is that Aurora just plain doesn't allow you to give a damn. She is there to look pretty, sing with her lovely voice, and befriend woodland critters. She is the cardboard cutout version of a Disney Princess, and I can't really wrap my head around why we care about what happens to her, other than Maleficent's plan being extremely cruel. While I put the villain here up high on the villain list, Aurora's pretty damn low on the Princess list - maybe one step above Snow White, because at least Aurora wasn't dishing out terrible female stereotypes at the time... well, other than helplessness.
This is pretty well balanced between what's good about it and what's bad about it, but I'd probably go out on a limb to say that the good somewhat outweighs the bad. I'd probably say there's more to like here than dislike, and if nothing else, it's sort of a perfect example of what "Disney Magic" is all about. It's very "fairy tale", takes you to a beautiful fantasy land, and uses literal magic throughout its entirety. It's my understanding that the original 'Sleeping Beauty' was a ballet production, so a lot of the music, though I find it very bland, does fit quite well. This is another Disney movie I can't help but meet in the middle. It's good for what it is, but I don't see a whole lot of repeat viewings in the future.
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