Sleeping Beauty (Two-Disc Platinum Edition Blu-ray/DVD Combo + BD Live) [Blu-ray]
Disney's 1959 animated effort was the studio's most ambitious to date, a widescreen spectacle boasting a gorgeous waltz-filled score adapting Tchaikovsky. In the 14th century, the malevolent Maleficent (not dissimilar to the wicked Queen in Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs taunts a king that his infant Aurora will fatally prick her finger on a spinning wheel before sundown on her 16th birthday. This, of course, would deny her a happily-ever-after with her true love. Things almost but not quite turn out that way, thanks to the assistance of some bubbly, bumbling fairies named Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather. It's not really all that much about the title character--how interesting can someone in the middle of a long nap be, anyway? Instead, those fairies carry the day, as well as, of course, good Prince Phillip, whose battle with the malevolent Maleficent in the guise of a dragon has been co-opted by any number of animated films since. See it in its original glory here. And Malificent's castle, filled with warthogs and demonic imps in a macabre dance celebrating their evil ways, manages a certain creepy grandeur. --David Kronke
On the Blu-ray
Sleeping Beauty was the last and most lavish of Walt Disney's animated fairy tales. He told the artists not to hurry and to give him "a moving illustration": The film required almost four and one-half years and one million finished drawings. Instead of the 19th century storybook illustrations that had influenced the look of Snow White and Pinocchio, the artists adapted the flattened perspective and jewel-like colors of 15th century French illuminated manuscripts. The results remain unmatched for sheer visual opulence. However, Sleeping Beauty suffers from a weak story: the vision of an ageless princess slumbering in a vine-shrouded tower was replaced with elements of Snow White and a boy-meets-girl musical. The evil Maleficent and the three Good Fairies (Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather) dominate the film, rather than Princess Aurora and Prince Philip. Sleeping Beauty was originally released in 70mm, and the Blu-ray edition restores the film to its original splendor. (Many earlier releases trimmed the wide-screen images and/or muted the glowing palatte.) The Bonus DVD looks good on a flat screen monitor, but it pales in comparison to the richness of the Blu-ray. In addition to the commentaries and a making-of documentary, the set includes myriad extras that vary widely in quality. Nostalgia buffs will enjoy the recreation of the old Sleeping Beauty's Castle attraction in Disneyland, and the TV program "Four Artists Paint One Tree" provides a welcome showcase for key talents from the film. But the CG animation of the dragon and the voice imitations of the Good Fairies fail to capture the magic of the originals in the "Dragon Encounter"; the "Maleficent's Challenge Game"--a hi-tech Twenty Questions--sounds only vaguely like the redoubtable sorceress. The BD-Live features require an awful lot of bother: after wading through (or ignoring) 130 screens of legalese, participants must enter their Social Security number or other personal information in the drawn-out sign-on process. Once that's finally done, viewers can send special messages to pop up during the film, chat online with others who are watching, and view it in synch with others. The question is whether or not you want to. (Rated G: violence) --Charles Solomon
Stills from Sleeping Beauty (Click for larger image)
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Director: Clyde Geronimi
Company: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
List Price: $35.99
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