Sleeping Beauty (1959)

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This movie has become the bane of my existence. I know it’s a classic. I know it’s a masterpiece. I know a lot of people really like this movie. I don’t. I really really don’t. I REALLY REALLY want to like this movie more than I really do, but I can’t bring myself to do so. It’s my mother’s favorite, and I think I’m going to have to pick her brain as to WHY.

Nevermind. I know why. The same aspects I like about this movie are why everyone seems to adore it. Maybe that’s my problem. I can’t just focus on the good. Because to me, this movie has a lot of issues. There are things about this movie that I just can’t move past. To me, this movie jumps between freaking cool to watch to incredibly boring to frustrating. Let’s find out why.

Everyone knows the story of Sleeping Beauty. A Princess is born. There’s a big “party” where the three good fairies, Flora, Fauna, and Merrywheather bestow upon the Princess Aurora gifts. Flora gives her beauty, Fauna gives her song, but before Merryweather can bestow her gift, an evil sorceress, Maleficent, curses the baby, saying that before the sun sets on her 16th birthday, she will prick her finger on a spinning wheel and die. Not able to completely counteract the spell but able to fix it, Merryweather changes the curse so that Aurora will not die when she pricks her finger, but simply sleep until true loves kiss awakes her. Terrified still, the King has all the spinning wheels burned on that very day, and the three fairies take Princess Aurora to a cottage in the woods where they raise her as mortals, change her name to Briar Rose, and hide her.

16 years passes, and Rose is out in the woods, dreaming of her true love when she meets him. They dance, then promise to meet later that night. Unbeknownst to her, this man is Prince Phillip, the man she is betrothed too. She’s excited to tell Flora, Fauna and Merryweather, but instead, they tell her it can’t happen, because she’s the princess and she’s betrothed. Meanwhile, the same thing happens to prince Phillip when he returns to the castle. The fairies return Rose/Aurora to the castle, but go figure, Maleficent has had spies in the woods, her crow finds that Rose is Aurora, and she puts her plan into motion. Under some sort of spell, Aurora pricks her finger and falls asleep. The fairies put the rest of the kingdom under a sleeping spell, and Flora learns from Phillip’s father that Phillip is in love with Rose. Knowing Maleficent was on her way to the cottage to steal her true love, the three fairies visit her castle, rescue phillip, and help him battle the Maleficent dragon and the Briar patch to reach Aurora and kiss her, awaking in the kingdom and everyone lives happily ever after.

I’m going to say the things I like about this movie first, because I feel once I start ranting I won’t be able to stop. First of all, this movie is known for it’s amazingly unique and beautiful backgrounds. Walt didn’t want it to look like any of his other movies, and I’ve heard each background took 7-10 days to complete, where with the others it was more like 3-4. It pays off. The angularity of the movie is beautiful, but at the same time you don’t think it’s too weird. Somehow, the square bushes and the completely straight trees work with this movie. The characters themselves aren’t too angular, but the details are put into them as well, such as sharp elbows (that’s always something I’ve noticed with this movie). I would watch this movie strictly to see the backgrounds and the designs of the characters and the settings.

I love love LOVE that this movie used music from the Ballet. This was one of the first movies to ever produce a soundtrack that people could buy, and it is great. The music from the ballet fits SO well, it’s amazing. We all know the music when they’re in the castle rescuing Phillip. We know the slurred notes that mean trouble is brewing. I’m humming it right now, and if you’ve ever watched this movie, you know the music. Music is behind every scene throughout this movie, and it’s beautiful. I also love the song “Once Upon A Dream.” Not only is it a great song to sing but it’s animated beautifully with Aurora and Phillip. It’s great.

The last thing I LOVE (yeah there’s only 3) is Maleficent. She seriously makes this movie for me. Voiced by the same woman who did Lady Tremaine in Cinderella (Eleanor Audley), she is evil, vile, smart, and incredibly wicked. Just being in the same room with this woman would make me pee my pants. She is Disney’s first REAL Villain, and she does it well. She has a huge presence, they actually give her a personality, and she has her own story arc. She has her own henchmen. She’s the first fully fleshed out Disney villain, and I enjoy every minute that she is on screen. Her character design is unbelievable, and that ending with the dragon? awesome. The work they put into her paved the way for other great Disney villains. Just like true love and silly things have become associated with the Disney name, I think good villains have as well. Maleficent is the original good villain.

Alright, so that’s what I love about the movie. That’s what a lot of people love about this movie, and those things really ARE enough for it to be called a classic and for it to have a ton of fans. But this movie has issues. Issues that for me completely change the movie, and are things I just can’t seem to get over. Ready? Let the torches come out!

For a movie called Sleeping Beauty, our titular character is so NOT in this movie it really bugs me. She has a grand total of 18 lines, the last of which comes only 38 minutes into the movie. Now I understand she’s asleep for half of the movie, but still! Most people argue that this movie is really about the fairies, and I do believe that’s true: they’re more fleshed out characters with personalities. And that’s fine. THAT BEING SAID, it doesn’t mean our secondary characters have to be as dull as bricks. Especially our titular princess. I swear, this movie is probably the driving force behind why people think Disney Princesses don’t do anything. She has no personality. They just show her crying as she comes to terms with the fact she’s a princess, but it’s silently. She doesn’t fight back, she doesn’t do anything. She doesn’t even express her feelings besides crying and standing there with a glazed look over her face. After a Princess like Cinderella, I feel this was a giant step backwards. I understand if you don’t want her to be the main character. You at least have to give her something besides beauty and a pretty voice (I guess that’s all they gave her…).

Then theres PRINCE PHILLIP. oh dear sweet lord. I was ranting to my husband right after watching this movie about Prince Phillip, and he really just wanted me to rant on here. By the end of it he was laughing his butt off about how serious I was getting. Well, I’m going to try my best, but I probably will rant a bit about this. You’ve been warned.

The reason I think this whole thing really bugs me, why this whole movie really bugs me, is because I can see what it could have been. I’m willing to forgive Aurora’s lack of personality and lines because she’s really not the focus. But Prince Phillip? This character could have been SO great. He’s in more of the movie than Aurora is, and he arguably has more of a role in the movie than any other character besides the fairies and Maleficent. He could have been Disney’s first fully realized prince that actually did something. We saw in lady and the Tramp that they had the capacity to make a good male character lead in a love story. But for some reason – they didn’t.

Prince Phillip got the really short end of a stick in this movie. Despite being a central part of the last half hour, he NEVER SAYS A WORD. Even when Maleficent tells him her plan of keeping him in there for 100 years and finally letting him out when he’s old, he doesn’t say anything. He just leans forward angrily in his shackles. You can’t tell me he wouldn’t be yelling at the evil old sorceress. Seriously?? If my true love had just been put to sleep and was waiting for me, I would be pissed. I would try anything to get out of the situation I was in. Instead, he just sits there and waits to be rescued by the fairies. He’s as bad as a freaking Disney Princess girls!! Sure he defeats a dragon by the end and has the urge to rescue her once he’s out, but really? The shackles scare you and stop you more than a dragon does?

He could have been an awesome character. Really, he could have. The potential was there to make him incredibly interesting. They made him snarky in the beginning with his horse! There was potential there. He had personality! I love when he tells his father about the girl he’s going to marry, and it’s NOT the princess. He dances around in love, acting like an idiot. Why couldn’t they just keep that up?? why why why??? It’s like they just gave up and decided to take away his personality at a time when it was most needed. WHY!?!?

Ok… mini rant over. I honestly could go on and on, but I won’t. I’ll just move on.

This movie is also, to me, a bit boring in places. It has some strange art sequences that are just… blah. With the music that goes along with it, it’s a wonder I didn’t fall asleep. Seriously. Luckily those sequences last at most 30 seconds.

A lot of people like this movie, and I can understand why. This movie is beautiful and has a lot going for it. It gives us our first really great Villain, as well as some memorable moments, both musical, comical, sweet, and scary. In a lot of aspects, it is one of the most classic Disney movies. But… I just can’t get over what they did to some of the characters. As I’ve said before, characters for me equal a lot in a movie. The plot can be crap but if it has good characters, I’ll love it. What it is with Sleeping Beauty and me is that is that it just seems like they developed some of the characters, then just got lazy and said “screw it” on the rest. The ones they did develop are great. I just don’t understand why we couldn’t have enjoyed Aurora and Phillip as secondary characters as well as say, the kings.

It’s definitely worth a watch. Despite my issues with it, it is, as I’ve said, one of the classics. My rating is going to be lower for this movie because this is my opinion, but I know many who would rank it much higher than I will.

I give Sleeping Beauty a 3 out of 5.

Up Next: 101 Dalmatians (1961)

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2 thoughts on “Sleeping Beauty (1959)

  1. I like this movie a lot, but don’t love it. And I can understand your feelings of dislike towards it, especially Prince Philip’s lack of speech for the last half of the movie. I wonder if the voice actor was just out of town or something!

    I actually love Aurora, mainly because I think she’s the most beautiful of the Disney Princesses and quite sweet, so she doesn’t really bother me.

    But, I am like the only person in the world who DOESN’T LOVE Maleficent! Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate her, but I don’t understand why everyone is like “OMG! MALEFICENT IS AWESOME AND THE BEST DISNEY VILLAIN EVER!!!”. I personally prefer many other Disney villains over her, but that’s just me.

  2. katejohns619 says:

    Aurora IS sweet and beautiful, and I agree with you that she is the most beautiful Disney Princess, hands down.

    And don’t get me wrong, Maleficent, to me, is one of the saving graces of this movie, but in no way is she my favorite or the best Disney villain. There are SO many better ones. She was just the first real villain, in my eyes, and that’s worth noting that given who came before her, she was a remarkable step in the right direction to interesting and maniacal villains.

    If people really do love her, it will be interesting to see how the movie Maleficent does. I hate what Disney’s been doing with all those movies, btw. It looks so bad.

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