Sleeping Beauty (1959): A Fairy Tale Elevated by the Villain


My reason for choosing to review “Sleeping Beauty,” is for preparation in regards to reviewing “Maleficent,” later and I wanted to see Disney’s take once more on the Fairy Tale since “Maleficent” was also created by them (and I haven’t watched it for years). The film was originally created in 1959 and is most famous for the fact that each scene is painted and that it was Disney’s first Fairy Tale adapted to animation until “The Little Mermaid,” years later.

The premise of “Sleeping Beauty,” is King Stefan hosts a party for the birth of his daughter….the whole kingdom shows up except for Maleficent (the evil fairy who wasn’t invited) and out of spite arrives and curses the child that on her sixteenth birthday she will get pricked by the spindle of spinning wheel and die (a bit of an overcomplicated curse). The Blue Fairy Merryweather who comes up with an equally overly complicated counter-curse that she won’t die…she’ll just be asleep until she’s kissed by her true love. From there the story unfolds.

Here is the assessment:

Pros: The animation – Is beautiful. Each scene is hand painted and it shows…I kind of miss movies being done like this…later ones where beautiful too, but this type of art form is nearly lost. I would love to find more stories done this way.

Merryweather the Blue Fairy – She has sas and is the only smart one of the three faeries. Flora and Fauna are not very smart at all. They don’t know simple thing like tsp means teaspoon or how to use their magic in an undercover competent fashion. She was the only of the three I cared about…the other two felt like unaware comedic relief verses Merryweather who could sass against Maleficent even (and was the only active one – voice and beauty (Flora and Fauna’s gift are passive traits except voice), Merryweather’s gift actually makes the story possible…even if it isn’t a very good plan (true love, really?) She also isn’t good looking but is a major minor character who actively fights against Maleficent.

The Rescue – Seeing the Three Good Faeries be active is awesome when they infiltrate Maleficent’s Forbidden Mountain.

The Battle – The fight with Maleficent between the 3 Good Faeries and Phillip is fantastic. That dragon scene! The fact that Maleficent is so awesome is that her power is active and powerful, the last battle shows this too from her green bolts of fire and turning into a dragon.

Maleficent’s Crow – The crow is awesome! It is the only one of her minions to actually find Aurora and besides being her eyes and ears and alarm system actively takes part in the final battle and causes Merryweather to use dark magic (turning it to stone). Seriously, this minion rocks.

Maleficent – She’s evil and she knows it. Every scene she is in is gold. She doesn’t sing and everything she does actually has a higher purpose. By killing Aurora she leaves the Kingdom in ruin making her the top dog. By releasing Phillip as an old man unable to have heirs he pretty much ends the relationship in regards to the Kingdom’s line. Also, she can change into a dragon, cast powerful spells and has a fortress called “The Forbidden Mountain.” She is brilliant, powerful and haunting. I can see why Disney uses her as one of the biggest bads for most of their games and stories where all their villains meet. Can’t wait to see what the new movie does with her, considering she is the best thing about this film.

Okay: The music – When there isn’t any singing it is quite beautiful. The soundtrack is epic but the singing brings it down, most of the songs are so incredibly simple and shallow that I’m not all surprised this film failed at the box office.

Prince Phillip – He isn’t fleshed all that much even though he is active. He falls in love with the princess who he thinks is a peasant girl and is ready to risk his kingdom for her. He is active but only in the most superficial version of love ways. Besides Aurora’s voice and looks he has no reason to care about her…and likewise. His voice and looks…oh the cons of early Disney Fairy Tales…

The story – There is the recipe here for a great story. Aurora fighting against destiny as Phillip is and them united in rebellion against fate and maybe even choosing something different. There is the seed of a good story here, so I won’t make it a con, but the story is in no way good. Not enough active characters…the heroes are either stupid or passive if they aren’t evil (with the exception of Merryweather).

Cons: Aurora – She is completely passive and has no control over her destiny. She isn’t trusted with her destiny (would she have pricked her finger if she knew?), she is there to fall in love with Phillip…weak. She isn’t allowed to fight the villain who harmed her when she was a child and she never goes against the 3 Good Faeries, she just accepts their idiocy. Phillip wasn’t the smartest of heroes but he at least acted.

Flora an Fauna – The Pink and Green fairy are only good in that they are funny and not aware of it. They set up so many of the problems and propose some pretty horrible solutions (so Aurora doesn’t have the curse happen…turn her into a flower). Not to mention the fight that Flora starts with Merryweather that causes Maleficent to find Aurora in the first place. Seriously…who trusted these people? Merryweather should have left them and worked more closely with the kingdom to actually fight Maleficent like the fairies end up doing when Phillip finally fights Maleficent.

The Romance – “Do I know you?” -Aurora

“Of course, we’ve met before?” -Phillip

“Where?” -Aurora

“Once upon a dream.” -Phillip

Haha, No. Seriously Phillip, you come off as a creeper. Don’t, just don’t do that crap. The Romance is fairy tale romance in the worst way possible. Love at first sight is a difficult trope to pull off and it is not pulled off in this film. They are teenagers and it comes off as more of hormones than anything else. So glad Disney gets romance right later in films further into the future.

This film has a lot of problems and would be an average Disney film (with Disney’s common misogyny and passivity problems they had early on in regards to their heroes who were women), thankfully they had a good baddie in this or else I’d be giving it a 4 or 5. Maleficent makes this film. Everyone anything does is a direct reaction to the things she sets in motion. She is larger than life and far more interesting than any of the heroes (even Merryweather). She has an agenda that she never says but can seen…she shows you, she doesn’t tell you it. She is destruction, the Mistress of all Evil…she is awesome and besides the animation and Merryweather and her crow…the only reason to see this film.

I’m giving this film a 6.5 / 10. An addition of 1.5 entirely because of Maleficent, without her this film is forgettable.


Malificent Sleeping Beauty

3 thoughts on “Sleeping Beauty (1959): A Fairy Tale Elevated by the Villain

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