Rewind Reviews – Disney’s Sleeping Beauty (1959)

Posted on 17 October 2019
By Andrew Siddall
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Once upon a dream, in 1959, Walt Disney and his team of animators introduced us to one of their most iconic stories, taking influence from the Grimm’s fairy tale of the same name. In this Rewind Review, we take a look back at Disney’s Sleeping Beauty.

Taking place in the 14th Century, Sleeping Beauty tells the tale of the young princess Aurora, who, after the day of her birth, is cursed by the evil Maleficent to die on her sixteenth birthday by pricking her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel, so she is forced to live in hiding with three good fairies in an attempt to avoid the curse.

Princess Aurora aka Rose is voiced by Mary Costa, who, although not the most fleshed out of characters, is a good protagonist for everyone to gravitate towards. She is instantly recognisable and properly establishes herself as one of Disney’s iconic princesses.

One of Disney’s greatest and most iconic villains of all time, Maleficent, makes her debut here, voiced by the terrific Eleanor Audley. She makes quite an impression in a short amount of time with an epic entrance reminiscent of the Wicked Witch of the West. She is a fierce presence who isn’t to be messed with and dominates the screen whenever she appears, whether in human form or as a dragon.

Prince Phillip voiced by Bill Shirley is a likable presence and his relationship with his trusty horse Sampson provides some of the laughs. He is similar to Disney’s two previous princes in Snow White and Cinderella, but is a lot more active and gets a pretty epic battle sequence against Maleficent.

Surprisingly taking up most of the screen time are the three good fairies, Fauna, Flora and Merryweather, who arguably are the main characters. Voiced by Barbara Jo Allen, Verna Felton and Barbara Luddy, they really add something extra to the plot with most of their actions having a direct effect on the rest of the characters. They are funny and colourful and add a genuine sense of magic and fantasy to the story.

The story takes its inspiration from the Grimm fairy tale of the same name, albeit with a MUCH lighter outcome. It’s a simple tale that gets straight to the point and doesn’t get too sidetracked. It’s effective and manages to weave in a few songs and bursts of Disney’s anarchic slapstick.

The hand-drawn animation is fantastic and ranks among the best Disney has developed. It feels realistic but allows a few rules to bend in order to unleash the cartoon and fantasy side, such as an escalating battle over the colour of a dress with Flora and Merryweather changing it behind each other’s backs.

The artwork is simply gorgeous with highly detailed environments and backgrounds that ground the movie in a medieval time and really pop on screen. The movie spent almost seven year in production, and it truly shows and pays off.

It’s nice to also see the traditional Disney storybook opening again, with a real jewel studded book letting the audience know what the film is based on before inviting everyone into its world.

Adding to the fantastical feel is George Bruns’ iconic soundtrack, which is near impossible not to think of whenever the movie is brought up. Even the shortest songs are catchy with lyrics by Tom Adair, Winston Hibler and Ted Sears, but the one that most will remember is the beautiful Once Upon a Dream by Sammy Fain and Jack Lawrence. It’s a brilliant selection of songs and music that gives the movies an almost timeless feel.

Overall, this is an enchanting tale for the whole family that will capture the imagination of its youngest and oldest viewers. It has all the hallmarks of a Disney classic and is easily one of their best most memorable feature length animations.

Purple Revolver rating: 4/5. A true Disney classic.