I’ll be upfront: Sleeping Beauty is one of my favorite Disney movies. It’s in the top ten. Actually, it’s in the top five, #4 to be exact. Sources tell me this is the first Disney movie to be filmed in 70 mm film and in CinemaScope, and honestly, I have no idea what any of that means. All I know is that this movie is freaking gorgeous, and that it’s my favorite of the pre-Renaissance Disney movies.
Visually, this movie is a masterpiece. Every inch of space is used to perfection. Look at those woods. Aren’t those the most beautiful woods you’ve ever seen in your life? This whole movie is an argument for widescreen. Don’t you dare watch it in full-screen. Walt Disney will know, and he will JUDGE YOU. Aurora’s hair alone is enough to make me wax rhapsodic on how beautiful this movie is. The colors! The shadows! The lighting! Gorgeous, I tell you.
And then there’s the music! Well, I mean, it’s adapted from Tchaikovsky’s ballet, so of course it’s not only beautiful, but also perfectly suited for the subject matter. I have to give props to the people who adapted the music. Take, for example, that haunting and eerie music that plays when Maleficent lures Aurora to the spindle. I think that music alone has given several children nightmares. But in the original ballet, that same music is set to a comedic scene of cats playing. That baffles my mind. I would never have believed that that particular piece of music was meant for anything but evil.
Okay, but what about the storytelling? We have a new princess, and in the tradition of Snow White and Cinderella, our princess is very beautiful and not terribly interesting. The thing about Sleeping Beauty that everyone knows is that it’s really about the fairies, not Aurora. She does have great hair and a beautiful voice, both singing and speaking, thanks to Mary Costa, but she’s not even in the movie all that much, and she’s asleep for half of it.
But here’s the thing. I…still love Aurora, and I find her short screentime pretty interesting. She has the two most memorable songs in the movie (the only other major song being sung by two drunken kings), so it’s not like her scenes are boring or pointless. They’re lovely, and dammit, so is she. I love that she’s a princess who would rather be a peasant girl. I love that she runs around barefoot in the woods. I love that even though she’s lonely, she’s still pretty happy overall. Until, of course, she finds out that she’s a princess. And yes, I know that she’s mostly sad because she won’t get to keep her new boyfriend, but consider a) that he’s probably the ONLY person she’s ever met other than her three fake aunts and b) that she’s being tossed into a new life very suddenly with new parents she doesn’t know, and she’s expected to adapt to that instantly. Even her name isn’t really her name. What’s she going to go by for the rest of her life–Aurora or Rose? Also, I love the moment when she first sees her parents at the end of the movie and goes rushing into her mother’s arms. It just gets to me.
Okay, so I love Aurora, but I do admit that this isn’t her movie. Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather are the stars of the show, and they are freaking awesome. They’re badass, competent older women who do most of the work in the movie and serve as the comic relief at the same time. They’re sidekicks who take over and do things their own way, thus cutting out a lot of stupid decisions that heroes and heroines usually make. (Except for, you know, forgetting to plug up the chimney.) And for the record, I do think the dress looks very pretty in pink, but the blue undoubtedly suits Aurora better. Point goes to Merryweather.
Oh, but there’s one more fairy that I’m not foolish enough to forget. She doesn’t like being forgotten. Let’s talk about Maleficent, who is without a doubt my Favorite Disney Villain. She is so awesome, I kind of sort of completely root for her while I’m watching the movie. And maybe that’s wrong, but she’s so awesome. She has fantastically snarky lines (“A most gratifying day”) and the most amazingly epic lines ever spoken by a Disney villain (“And now shall you deal with me, O Prince, and all the powers of Hell!”). Eleanor Audley, who voiced Lady Tremaine, makes Maleficent cold and calculating, but also so terrifying when she’s angry. She’s just the best. No question.
I blame my adoration of Maleficent on Disney’s Halloween Treat, a Halloween special the Disney Channel used to air every year (and of course, I watched it every year). At one point, the Magic Mirror does a little run-through of various Disney villains, introducing their scenes and adding some commentary. He brought it to my young attention that Prince Phillip is laaaaame. I do give him points for having way more personality than the princes who came before him, and for defying his father to marry the girl he loves, but my goodness, is he incompetent. The only thing Phillip does to save the day is kiss Aurora. Everything else–escaping the dungeon, getting to the castle in one piece, defeating Maleficent–is the work of the fairies. They get him out of the dungeon, they change arrows to flowers so he doesn’t get killed while escaping, and finally, they enchant the sword (that they GAVE him) so it will “fly swift and sure” to kill Maleficent. I think it would have been easier for the fairies to just defeat Maleficent first, and THEN break Phillip out to go wake Aurora. They wouldn’t have to keep saving his ass that way.
The Mirror put it best, though:
“Now here’s a part I can’t stand. Unable to face Maleficent alone, the brave young prince has to get help from three little old ladies with magic wands. I mean, really, that’s four against one!”
I maybe shouldn’t have watched that Halloween special quite so many times. His logic makes perfect sense to me.
This is, perhaps, a movie I have thought too much about, so I’ll end here. Except that I need to mention that this movie ends with more dancing in the clouds. It should tell you how much I adore this movie that I’m willing to forgive this.
Favorite Scene: Aurora Touches the Spindle
Because the eerie music and green lighting set the mood perfectly. Because it’s gloriously creepy. Because Maleficent is awesome. Because it’s Aurora’s moment of rebellion when she’s devastated. Because it’s the only point in the movie when an adult Aurora and Maleficent are in the same scene. …And because even though I couldn’t find a full version in English, this scene doesn’t lose any of its power in a different language.
Next time: One Hundred and One Dalmatians!