May 8, 2012

Sleeping Beauty (1959)

RECENTLY, JACK-JACK’S kindergarten class went on a field trip to see a children’s play.

But when I heard the play was Sleeping Beauty, I grew concerned. I’ve documented my boys’ track record of anti-princess sentiment, so I was worried he may not care for the play. Turns out, he really liked it.

Hoping to capitalize on this, I showed Jack-Jack my pristine, barely used, 50th anniversary DVD of Sleeping Beauty I bought from our local library for $3 (that’s not a typo). He was fascinated, carrying it around the house for several days, staring at the box art.

Yet as the whole family sat down to watch Sleeping Beauty, I wondered if it could capture the attention and imagination of two young boys more than half a century after its release…

Sleeping Beauty follows 16-year-old Princess Aurora, who’s put in the care of three bumbling fairies to avoid the curse of being cast into a deep sleep by the evil witch Maleficent – a curse that can only be broken by true love’s first kiss.

Some of the plot developments in Sleeping Beauty are a bit odd by today’s standards…
  • When Maleficent declares, during Aurora’s infancy, that she will curse the princess on her 16th birthday, the king and queen give her to the three fairies to raise until she turns 16 (though parents of teens may agree with this technique).
  • On the eve of Aurora’s 16th birthday, the fairies send her out into the woods – unchaperoned – so they can plan her birthday party. (What could possibly go wrong?)
  • Prince Phillip, who’s destined to wed Aurora in an arranged marriage, may want to check the statutes in his kingdom concerning his plans to wed a 15-year-old minor.
What’s interesting is that while Sleeping Beauty (aka Princess Aurora) gets top billing, it’s the three fairies who carry the film. In fact, Aurora is virtually a bit player in her own movie; she’s more of a plot device than a fully developed character.

Is this movie old? Yes, it is. But thanks to an amazing transfer full or rich, vibrant colors, it looks very new. And the animation is classic Disney in every way possible: fluid character movements surrounded by gorgeous set pieces and backdrops.

Aside from the antics of the fairies, the wickedness of Maleficent, and the climactic battle, Sleeping Beauty plays a bit quiet. However, the last ten minutes are truly exciting as Prince Philip faces off against Maleficent in the form of a fire-breathing dragon (her, not him).

With Sleeping Beauty, there’s not much more you could ask for from a classic Disney movie: a prince, a princess, cute and funny animals, comedic relief, an evil queen, and a fairytale ending.

So did it capture the attention and imagination of my boys? The answer is yes. Maybe not a resounding yes…let’s call it a confident, admirable yes.


What did Dash and Jack-Jack think?
Sleeping Beauty was a tougher sell for Dash than Jack-Jack. He almost declined to watch it with us, but finally agreed. While he did sit through it without protest (and actually seemed to enjoy it), I doubt he’ll ask for a second viewing.
For his part, Jack-Jack did like Sleeping Beauty. But due to my hard sell of the dragon, he asked “Where’s the dragon?” or “Is the dragon coming soon?” several times.

Is it suitable for your kids?
Sleeping Beauty is rated G, and is largely appropriate for all ages. Some minor concerns for small children: Maleficent can be menacing at times; one of the king's servants gets tipsy on wine; Maleficent declares that she is summoning “all the powers of Hell;” a dragon is stabbed by a sword, with some blood coming from the wound.

Will your FilmMother want to watch it?
Hmm...does she like Disney? Does she like princesses? Do you know I’m asking these questions rhetorically?


Sleeping Beauty
* Director: Clyde Geronimi
* Screenwriter: Erdman Penner
* Stars: Mary Costa, Bill Shirley, Eleanor Audley, Verna Felton, Barbara Luddy, Barbara Jo Allen, Taylor Holmes, Bill Thompson, Marvin Miller
* MPAA Rating: G

Rent Sleeping Beauty from Netflix >>


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