Sleeping Beauty (1959 film)

Sleeping Beauty (1959 film)
Sleeping Beauty
Directed by Clyde Geronimi
Les Clark
Eric Larson
Wolfgang Reitherman
Produced by Walt Disney
Written by
Based on "La Belle au bois dormant" by Charles Perrault
Narrated by Marvin Miller
Music by
Studio Walt Disney Productions
Distributed by Buena Vista Distribution
Release date(s) January 29, 1959 (1959-01-29)
Running time 75 minutes
Language English
Budget $6 million[1]
Box office $51,600,000[2]

Sleeping Beauty is a 1959 American animated film produced by Walt Disney and based on the fairy tale "La Belle au bois dormant" by Charles Perrault. Sixteenth animated feature in the Walt Disney Animated Classics series, the film was originally released to theatres on January 29, 1959 by Buena Vista Distribution.



After many childless years, King Stefan and his Queen welcome the arrival of their daughter, Aurora. The newborn Princess is named after the Roman Goddess of the dawn because of how she fills the lives of the King and Queen with sunshine. While still an infant, she is betrothed to the also-young Prince Phillip, son of King Hubert, uniting their respective kingdoms. At her christening, three good fairies - Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather - arrive to bless the child with gifts. Flora gives the princess the gift of beauty, while Fauna gives her the gift of song.

Before Merryweather is able to give her blessing, a wicked witch named Maleficent appears, expressing disappointment of not being invited to the ceremony. As revenge for the insult she curses the princess: before the sun sets on her sixteenth birthday, Aurora will prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and die.

As Maleficent disappears, the distraught King Stefan requests that Merryweather break the curse. Even though Merryweather is unable to undo Maleficent's curse, she is able to weaken it. If Aurora was to touch a spindle, she wouldn't die, but rather fall into a deep slumber that she could only be awoken from by a true love's kiss.

Though King Stefan orders all spinning wheels in the kingdom burned, the three fairies know Maleficent's spell cannot be stopped that easily and devise a plan to protect her. With the King and Queen's consent, they disguise themselves as mortals and sneak Aurora away with them to a woodland cottage.

Sixteen years later, Aurora - renamed Briar Rose - has grown into a gorgeous young woman with the blessings that Flora and Fauna bestowed to her. Sweet and gentle, she dreams of falling in love one day. As Rose gathers berries, while singing, she attracts the attention of Prince Phillip as he is out riding his horse Samson in the woods. When they meet, they instantly fall in love; Phillip believing her to be a peasant girl, and she thinking him a woodsman. Realizing that she has to return home, Rose flees from Phillip without ever learning his name.

Later that day, the fairies reveal the truth to Rose and despite her heartbreak they take her to her parents. Meanwhile, Phillip tells his father about the "peasant girl" he met, adding that he wishes to marry her in spite of his betrothal to Princess Aurora. King Hubert tries to convince Phillip to marry the princess, but fails.

In the palace, Maleficent uses her magic to lure Aurora to a strange room, where an enchanted spinning wheel awaits her. Spellbound, Aurora touches the spindle, pricking her finger and fulfilling the altered curse. The good fairies place Aurora on a bed and place a powerful charm on all the people in the kingdom, causing them to fall in a deep sleep until the spell is broken.

Before falling asleep, King Hubert tells Stefan of his son being in love with a peasant girl, which the fairies overhear and realize that Prince Phillip is the man Aurora has fallen in love with. They set off on a search to find, and convince him to kiss the princess and break the curse. However, the Prince has already been kidnapped by Maleficent and taken to the dungeons on the forbidden mountain after they discover the cottage been ransacked and Phillip's hat in the floor, to prevent him from breaking her spell.

The fairies discover the Prince's whereabouts, sneak into the forbidden mountain, and free the prince. Armed with a magical Sword and Shield, Phillip and the fairies escape from the forbidden mountain. Maleficent places a massive forest of thorns around the kingdom to keep Phillip out. But as Phillip is undeterred, Maleficent calls on the powers of Hell to transform herself into a Dragon. After a long fight, Phillip defeats the dragon, kisses Aurora and restores the kingdom.


Overview and art direction

Sleeping Beauty spent nearly the entire decade of the 1950s in production: the story work began in 1951, voices were recorded in 1952, animation production took from 1953 until 1958, and the stereophonic musical score, mostly based on Tchaikovsky's ballet of the same name, was recorded in 1957. The film holds a notable position in Disney animation as the last Disney feature to use hand-inked cels. Beginning with the next feature, One Hundred and One Dalmatians, Disney would move to the use of xerography to transfer animators' drawings from paper to celluloid. Its art, which Walt Disney wanted to look like a living illustration and which was inspired by medieval art, was not in the typical Disney style. Because the Disney studio had already made two features based on fairy tales, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Cinderella, Walt Disney wanted this film to stand out from its predecessors by choosing a different visual style. The movie eschewed the soft, rounded look of earlier Disney features for a more stylized one. Since Super Technirama 70 was used, it also meant the backgrounds could contain more detailed and complex artwork than ever used in an animated movie before.

While Disney's regular production designer, Ken Anderson was in charge of the film's overall look, Disney artist Eyvind Earle was made the film's color stylist and chief background designer, and Disney gave him a significant amount of freedom in designing the settings and selecting colors for the film. Earle also painted the majority of the backgrounds himself. The elaborate paintings usually took seven to ten days to paint; by contrast, a typical animation background took only one workday to complete. Disney's decision to give Earle so much artistic freedom was not popular among the Disney animators, who had until Sleeping Beauty exercised some influence over the style of their characters and settings.

It was also the first time the studio experimented with the Xerox process. Woolie Reitherman used it on the dragon as a way to enlarge and reduce its size, but due to the primitive equipment available in this early test, the Xerox lines were then replaced with traditional ink and paint.[3]

Of interesting note is the fact that Chuck Jones, who gained fame as an animation director with Warner Bros. Animation, did some work on the film. He worked with the studio during a brief period when Warner Bros. closed its Animation department, anticipating that 3-D film would replace animation as a box office draw. When the studio was re-opened following the failure of 3-D, Jones ended his work at Disney and returned to Warner Bros. His work on Sleeping Beauty, which he spent four months on, remained uncredited. Ironically, during his early years at WB, Jones was a heavy user of Disney-style animation.

Characters and story development

The name given to the princess by her royal birth parents is "Aurora" (Latin for "dawn"), as it was in the original Tchaikovsky ballet. This name occurred in Perrault's version as well, not as the princess's name, but as her daughter's.[4] In hiding, she is called Briar Rose, the name of the princess in the Brothers Grimm variant.[5] The prince was given the princely name most familiar to Americans in the 1950s: "Prince Phillip", named after Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. The evil fairy was aptly named Maleficent (a Latin-derived adjective meaning "harmfully malicious").[6] Sleeping Beauty's mother is never named in the film itself or the character reference sheets but according to Disney legend around the studio she was meant to be called Queen Leah, but is otherwise always referred to as "the queen," whereas both her father and that of the prince are given names that are used several times, both in dialogue and narration.

Walt Disney had suggested that all three good fairies should look alike, but veteran animators Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston objected, saying that three identical fairies would not be exciting. They chose to have the fairies in different personalities, looks, and colours just like the famed Disney duck trio Huey, Dewey and Louie. Additionally, the idea originally included seven fairies instead of three, as there are seven fairies in the story's main reference, Perrault's version. In determining Maleficent's design, standard depictions of witches and hags were dismissed (as it would too closely resembled the Wicked Queen's guise in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs) for animator Marc Davis opted for a more elegant look. In his research of the period and artwork of the Medieval times he came across a picture of a woman of a religious nature but was dressed elegantly devilish with flowing capes and clothes resembling flames. With this image in his head he centered around the appearance of flames, ultimately crowning the villain with "the horns of the devil." He even went as far as to give Maleficent bat-looking wings for her collar. In the final production the individual character of the three good fairies and the elegant villain proved to be among the film's strongest points.

Several story points for this film came from discarded ideas for Disney's previous fairy tale involving a sleeping heroine: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. They include Maleficent's capture of the Prince, as well as her mocking him and the Prince's daring escape from her castle. Disney discarded these ideas from Snow White because his artists were not able to draw a human male believably enough at the time[citation needed], although they were incorporated into the comic book version of the film. Also discarded from Snow White but used in this film were the ideas of the dance with the makeshift prince (also used as "Prince Buckethead" in the Snow White comic book), and the fantasy sequence of the prince and princess dancing in the clouds, which was also considered but dropped from Cinderella.

Live-action reference footage

Before animation production began, every shot in the film was done in a live-action reference version, with live actors in costume serving as models for the animators. The role of Prince Phillip was modeled by Ed Kemmer, who had played Commander Buzz Corry on television's Space Patrol five years before Sleeping Beauty was released. For the final battle sequence, Kemmer was photographed on a wooden buck. Among the actresses who performed in reference footage for this film were Spring Byington, Frances Bavier, and Helene Stanley.

Helene Stanley was the live action reference for Princess Aurora. The only known surviving footage of Stanley as Aurora's live-action reference is a clip from the television program Disneyland, which consists of the artists sketching her dancing with the woodland animals. It was not the first or last time Stanley worked for Disney; she also provided live-action references for Cinderella and Anita from One Hundred and One Dalmatians,[7] and portrayed Polly Crockett for the TV series Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier. An episode of The Mickey Mouse Club television series features Stanley re-enacting scenes from the Sleeping Beauty for the Mousketeers to watch (a clip from this episode is included as a special feature on the Cinderella Platinum Edition DVD).

All the live actors' performances were screened for the animators' reference as Walt Disney insisted that much of Sleeping Beauty's character animation be as close to live action as possible.[8]

Release and later history

Theatrical release

Disney's distribution arm, Buena Vista Distribution, originally released Sleeping Beauty to theaters in both standard 35mm prints and large-format 70mm prints. The Super Technirama 70 prints were equipped with six-track stereophonic sound; some CinemaScope-compatible 35mm Technirama prints were released in four-track stereo, and others had monaural soundtracks. On the initial run, Sleeping Beauty was paired with the short musical/documentary film Grand Canyon which won an Academy Award.

During its original release in 1959, Sleeping Beauty earned approximately $7.7 million in box office rentals.[9] Sleeping Beauty's production costs, which totaled $6 million,[1] made it the most expensive Disney film up to that point, and over twice as expensive as each of the preceding three Disney animated features: Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, and Lady and the Tramp.[10] The high production costs of Sleeping Beauty, coupled with the underperformance of much of the rest of Disney's 1959-1960 release slate resulted in the company posting its first annual loss in a decade for fiscal year 1960,[1] and massive layoffs were done throughout the animation department.[11]

The film was met with mixed reviews from critics, often citing the film being slowly paced and having little character development.[8] Nevertheless, the film has sustained a strong following and is today hailed as one of the best animated features ever made, thanks to its stylized designs by painter Eyvind Earle who also was the art director for the movie, its lush music score and its large-format widescreen and stereophonic sound presentation.

Like Alice in Wonderland, which was not initially successful either, Sleeping Beauty was never re-released theatrically in Walt Disney's lifetime. However, it had many re-releases in theaters over the decades. The film was re-released theatrically in 1970, 1979 (in 70mm 6 channel stereo, as well as in 35 mm stereo and mono), 1986, 1993, and 1995. Sleeping Beauty's successful reissues have made it the second most successful film released in 1959, second to Ben-Hur,[12] with a lifetime gross of $51.6 million.[2] When adjusted for ticket price inflation, the domestic total gross comes out to $478.22 million, placing it in the top 30 of adjusted films.[13]

Home video release

Sleeping Beauty was released on VHS, Betamax and Laserdisc in 1986 in the Classics collection, becoming the first Disney Classics video to be digitally processed in Hi-Fi stereo. The film underwent a digital restoration in 1997, and that version was released to both VHS and Laserdisc again as part of the Masterpiece Collection. The 1997 VHS edition also came with a special commemorative booklet included, with brief facts on the making of the movie. In 2003, the restored Sleeping Beauty was released to DVD in a 2-disc "Special Edition" which included both a widescreen version (formatted at 2.35:1) and a pan and scan version as well.

A 50th Anniversary Platinum Edition release of Sleeping Beauty, as a 2-disc DVD & Blu-ray Disc, was released on October 7, 2008 in the US, making Sleeping Beauty the first entry in the Platinum Edition line to be released in high definition video. This release is based upon a new 2007 restoration of Sleeping Beauty from the original Technicolor negatives (intrapositives several generations removed from the original negative were used for other home video releases). The new restoration features the film in its full negative aspect ratio of 2.55:1, wider than both the prints shown at the film's original limited Technirama engagements in 2.20:1 and the CinemaScope-compatible reduction prints for general release at 2.35:1. The Blu-ray set features BD-Live, an online feature, and the extras include a virtual castle and multi-player games.[14][15] The Blu-ray release also includes disc 1 of the DVD version of the film in addition to the two Blu-ray discs. The DVD was released on October 27, 2008 in the UK. The Blu-ray release is the first ever release on the Blu-ray format of any Disney feature produced by Walt Disney himself.

Other appearances

Aurora is one of the seven Princesses of Heart in the popular Square Enix game Kingdom Hearts (although her appearances are brief), and Maleficent is a villain in all three Kingdom Hearts games, and as a brief ally at the third game's climax. The good fairies appear in Kingdom Hearts II, giving Sora new clothes. Diablo appears in Kingdom Hearts II to resurrect her defeated mistress. The PSP game Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep, features a world based on the movie, Enchanted Dominion, and characters who appear are Aurora/Briar Rose, Maleficent, Maleficent's goons, the three faires and Prince Phillip, the latter serving as temporary party member for Aqua during her battle against Maleficent and her henchmen.

She is also a playable character in the game Disney Princess.

Princess Aurora, Prince Phillip, Flora, Fauna and Merryweather were featured as guests in Disney's House of Mouse and Maleficent was one of the villains in Mickey's House of Villains.

Maleficent's goons appear in the Maroon Cartoon studio lot in the film Who Framed Roger Rabbit. The Bluebirds from the film also appear as "tweeting birds" that fly around Roger Rabbit's or Eddie Valiant's heads in two scenes, after a refrigerator fell on top of Roger's head and while Eddie Valiant is in Toontown, the birds are seen again flying around his head until he shoos them away.

The first all-new story featuring the characters from the movie appeared in Disney Princess Enchanted Tales: Follow Your Dreams, the first volume of collection of the Disney Princesses. It was released on September 4, 2007.

Various characters from the film also appear in the board game of the same name.

Aurora is featured in a PSA for wildfire prevention with Smokey Bear.

Flora, Fauna and Merryweather have a brief computer animated cameo appearances in Shrek as well as Aurora, who also appeared in Shrek 2 and Shrek the Third but looks different than her appearance in the Disney film.

In the upcoming American fantasy drama series Once Upon a Time, Maleficent will be a recurring regular, as she will be a adversary of the Evil Queen, and is also sinister. Her role will be played by Kristin Bauer.


Awards and nominations

Academy Awards[16]

Grammy Awards[17]

Young Artist Award[18]

  • Best Musical Entertainment Featuring Youth - TV or Motion Picture
American Film Institute Lists
  • AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes and Villains:
    • Maleficent - Nominated Villain[19]
  • AFI's 10 Top 10 - Nominated Animated Film[20]

Media and merchandise

Board game

Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty Game (1958) is a Parker Brothers children's board game for two to four players based upon Sleeping Beauty. The object of the game is to be the first player holding three different picture cards to reach the castle and the space marked "The End".[21]

The Disney film retains the basics of Charles Perrault's 17th century fairy tale about a princess cursed to sleep one hundred years, but adds three elderly fairies who protect the princess, a prince armed with a magic sword and shield, and other details. The Disney twists on the tale are incorporated into the game, and Disney's "stunning graphics"[21] illustrate the game board. In addition to the board game, the film generated books, toys, and other juvenile merchandise.

The equipment consists of a center-seamed game board, four tokens in various colors, four spinners, four magic wands, and a deck of picture cards.

The first player moves the number of spaces along the track according to their spin on their dial. If they land on a pink star, their turn ends. If they land on a yellow star, they draws a card and follows its instruction. If they draw a picture card, they retain it face down at their place. If a player spins a 6, they have the choice of moving 6 spaces or taking a magic wand. They may play the wand at any time during the game and in doing so draws 2 cards, following their instructions. A player must hold three different picture cards before entering the Path of Happiness. If they do not hold 3 picture cards, they continues around the Deep Sleep circle until they attains the required 3 picture cards. Should a player land on a purple Maleficent space, they returns one of their picture cards to the deck.

Theme parks

Princess Aurora as a character at Walt Disney World

Sleeping Beauty was made while Walt Disney was building Disneyland (hence the four year production time). To help promote the film, Imagineers named the park's icon "Sleeping Beauty Castle" (it was originally to be Snow White's).[citation needed] An indoor walk-through exhibit was added to the empty castle interior in 1957, where guests could walk-through the castle, up and over the castle entrance, viewing "Story Moment" dioramas of scenes from the film, which were improved with animated figurines in 1977. It closed shortly after the September 11, 2001 attacks, supposedly because the dark, unmonitored corridors were a risk.[citation needed] After being closed for seven years, the exhibit space underwent extensive refurbishment to restore the original 1957 displays, and reopened to guests on November 27, 2008. Accommodations were also made on the ground floor with a "virtual" version for disabled guests unable to navigate stairs. Hong Kong Disneyland opened in 2005, also with a Sleeping Beauty Castle, nearly replicating Disneyland's original design.

Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant at Disneyland Paris is a variant of Sleeping Beauty Castle. The version found at Disneyland Paris is much more reminiscent of the film's artistic direction. The Château features an animatronic dragon, imagineered to look like Maleficent's dragon form, is found in the lower level dungeon - La Tanière du Dragon.[22] The building also contains la Galerie de la Belle au Bois Dormant, a gallery of displays which illustrate the story of Sleeping Beauty in tapestries, stained glass windows and figures.[23]

Princess Aurora (and, to a lesser extent, Prince Phillip, the three good fairies, and Maleficent) makes regular appearances in the parks and parades.

Maleficent is featured as one of the villains in the nighttime show Fantasmic! at Disneyland and Disney's Hollywood Studios.

Stage Adaptation

A scaled-down stage musical version of the film with the title Disney's Sleeping Beauty KIDS is often performed by schools and children's theaters.[24]

Soundtrack listing

  1. "Main Title"/"Once Upon a Dream"/"Prologue"
  2. "Hail to the Princess Aurora"
  3. "The Gifts of Beauty and Song"/"Maleficent Appears"/"True Love Conquers All"
  4. "The Burning of the Spinning Wheels"/"The Fairies' Plan"
  5. "Maleficent's Frustration"
  6. "A Cottage in the Woods"
  7. "Do You Hear That?"/"I Wonder[disambiguation needed ]"
  8. "An Unusual Prince"/"Once Upon a Dream"
  9. "Magical House Cleaning"/"Blue or Pink"
  10. "A Secret Revealed"
  11. "Skumps (Drinking Song)"/"The Royal Argument"
  12. "Prince Phillip Arrives"/"How to Tell Stefan"
  13. "Aurora's Return"/"Maleficent's Evil Spell"
  14. "Poor Aurora"/"Sleeping Beauty"
  15. "Forbidden Mountain"
  16. "A Fairy Tale Come True"
  17. "Battle with the Forces of Evil"
  18. "Awakening"
  19. "Finale"

The Classic Disney: 60 Years of Musical Magic album includes "Once Upon a Dream" on the green disc, and "I Wonder" on the purple disc. Additionally, Disney's Greatest Hits includes "Once Upon a Dream" on the blue disc.

No Secrets performed a cover version of "Once Upon A Dream" on the album Disneymania 2, which appears as a music video on the 2003 DVD. More recently, Emily Osment sang a remake of "Once Upon A Dream", released on the Disney Channel on September 12, 2008, and included on the Platinum Edition DVD and Blu-ray.


  1. ^ a b c Thomas, Bob (1976). Walt Disney: An American Original (1994 ed.). New York: Hyperion Press. pp. 294–295. ISBN 0-7868-6027-8. 
  2. ^ a b Sleeping Beauty Lifetime Releases at
  3. ^ Disney animator Burny Mattinson talks Sleeping Beauty"
  4. ^ Heidi Anne Heiner, "The Annotated Sleeping Beauty"
  5. ^ Jacob and Wilheim Grimm, Grimm's Fairy Tales, "Briar Rose"
  6. ^ Maleficent | Define Maleficent at
  7. ^ "Cinderella Character History". Disney Archives. 
  8. ^ a b Maltin, Leonard (1980, rev. 1987). Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons. New York: Plume. p. 74. ISBN 0-452-25993-2.
  9. ^ Barrier, Michael (2008). The Animated Man: A Life of Walt Disney. Los Angeles: University of California Press. p. 268. ISBN 0-520-25619-0. 
  10. ^ Barrier, Michael (1999). Hollywood Cartoons: American Animation in Its Golden Age. New York.: Oxford University Press. pp. 554–559. ISBN 0-19-516729-5. 
  11. ^ Norman, Floyd (August 18, 2008). "Toon Tuesday : Here's to the real survivors". Jim Hill Media. Retrieved February 13, 2010. 
  12. ^ Movies: Top 5 Box Office Hits, 1939 to 1988
  13. ^ All Time Box Office Adjusted for Ticket Price Inflation
  14. ^ Sleeping Beauty Blu-ray release
  15. ^ Jungle Book, the first platinum title for DVD, not sleeping beauty
  16. ^
  17. ^ Internet Movie Database
  18. ^ Young Artist Awards
  19. ^ AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes and Villains Nominees
  20. ^ AFI's 10 Top 10 Ballot
  21. ^ a b Chertoff, Nina, and Susan Kahn. Celebrating Board Games. Sterling Publishing Co., Inc., 2006
  22. ^ Tanière du Dragon, Disneyland Paris
  23. ^ Galerie de la Belle au Bois Dermant, Disneyland Paris
  24. ^ Disney's Sleeping Beauty KIDS

External links

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