Sleeping Beauty is considered to be one of Walt Disney’s greatest fairy tales. The film is set apart by a modern art style, which was revolutionary for a Disney animated film at the time. But how does the film stand up today nearly 50 years later? Is the Sleeping Beauty Diamond Edition the release we’ve all been waiting for?
Sleeping Beauty tells the story of a princess who is cursed at her christening by an evil fairy Maleficent. Maleficent, jealous that she wasn’t formerly invited, bestows a “gift” on the babe, prophesying that she will die after pricking her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel. While everyone is shocked and horrified, one good fairy alters the curse, saying that instead be in a sleep from which she can only be awakened by “true love’s first kiss.” The king and queen are somewhat comforted by this, however, burn every spinning wheel in the kingdom and allow the princess Aurora to be taken away by the three good fairies and raised as a peasant girl in the forest. Sixteen years pass, and just before sunset Maleficent lures Aurora to touch the accursed spindle. It seems that all is lost and now the kingdom’s fate is up to the Prince, who Aurora met in the forest earlier that day.
Some complain that the story is thin, but I personally have no qualms with it. Aurora was a product of her time and I appreciate her grace and femininity. Prince Phillip is arguably one of the best Disney princes around, he’s really got it all: looks, charm, humor–what more could you want? With the interaction between these two, in addition to the three good fairies and Maleficent, there is plenty of plot to go around.
You may not agree about the complexity, but one thing you can’t argus is about how the film is a splendor to look at. The iconic, angular, stylized design set this film about from other Disney films at the film and is still breathtaking today. The two leads Aurora and Maleficent were both animated by legendary animator Marc Davis, showing us what the hand of the master can really do for both a princess and villain.
The HD restoration is the same from the 2008 Platinum Edition Blu-ray release. But that’s a good thing because the restoration was beautiful. Everything is crisp, clean, bright, but not overly corrected like Cinderella or The Sword in the Stone.
Sleeping Beauty was previously released on Blu-ray in 2008, so a Diamond Edition re-release seemed a bit redundant. However, many of the bonus features from that release (18 in total) were actually left on the cutting room floor for the Diamond Edition release. There are a few that remain, in addition to new ones created; however, it seems like a real missed opportunity to leave the previously created Blu-ray features off.
Regarding new features, there are three deleted or alternate scenes. “The Fair” depicts a completely different version of the story, where instead of escaping to hide in the forest, Aurora is imprisoned and protected inside the palace walls. One day, she switched places with her hand maiden to go outside and visit the fair. But Maleficent and her crony, a fast-talking vulture, aren’t far behind. The clip is taken from old storyboards and give more theatricality by making it move like a motion comic. It’s fascinating to see how different the direction of the film was at one point. Other deleted scenes include “The Curse Is Fulfilled” and “Arrival of Maleficent”, which consist of alternate version of scenes from film.
Art of Evil: Generations of Disney Villains is a segment that discusses the development and importance of Disney villains in animation. Lino DiSalvo (head of animation for Frozen) and Andreas Deja (animator on Gaston, Jafar, and Scar) lead the discussion talking about Marc Davis’ work on Maleficent and other villains and how that influenced their work on modern-day Disney
Next up is @DisneyAnimation: Artists in Motion (Extended Edition), which continues the @DisneyAnimation series of showing inside the world of Walt Disney Animation Studios today. This featurette talks about visual development artist Brittney Lee (who has worked on Frozen and Wreck-It Ralph), whose famously known for her medium of choice: paper. We see a time lapse of her creating a 3D Maleficent paper sculpture, while also hearing her own insights about the process. If you’ve never seen Lee’s work, then you’re in for a real treat.
Other “classic” bonus features (AKA from the 2008 Platinum Edition Blu-ray) include an audio commentary by film historian Leonard Martin, John Lasseter and Andreas Deja; a featurette called The Sound of Beauty: Restoring a Classic, which discusses the process to remaster the sound; a class making-of featurette called Picture Perfect: The Making of Sleeping Beauty and a quick featurette called Eyvind Earle: A Man and His Art, which talks about the Sleeping Beauty‘s art director who was solely responsible for the film’s iconic look.
If you don’t own Sleeping Beauty on Blu-ray, then you better snatch up the Diamond Edition before it gets put back into the Disney Vault. The HD restoration is beautiful and the bonus features, for the most part, are new, interesting and informative. While I’m disappointed dozens of featurettes got cut, I’m still satisfied with the new stuff they put together for the release. That being said, if you already own the 2008 Platinum Edition, then this one definitely is worth skipping.