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HISTORY

The film begins with the image of a book of fairy tales opening and ends with the image of the book closing. Voice-over narration is heard intermittently throughout the picture. According to contemporary studio press materials, Walt Disney originally considered making an animated version of the fairy tale "Sleeping Beauty" in 1950, and in 1953 went into full production but was soon delayed due to the studio’s efforts to develop the Disneyland theme park, television programs and live-action feature films. Disney challenged his artists to make the film look unique and as high-quality as possible, necessitating years of continuous work.
       Although the onscreen credits read "From the Charles Perrault version of Sleeping Beauty ," some reviews, as well as the DVD edition of the film, acknowledge the early nineteenth century, Grimm Brothers version of "Sleeping Beauty" as a source for the story. Disney studio press materials note that numerous story sessions resulted in a new take on the Perrault legend, including the use of three fairies instead of seven, and the renaming of the villain from "Uglyane" to "Maleficent." The film’s music was based on the Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky ballet The Sleeping Beauty , which was first performed in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1890. Although an Aug 1952 HR news item stated that Jack Lawrence was entering his fifteenth week of work on the film’s score, only George Bruns is credited onscreen as music adapter.
       The following information was included in studio press materials and in the extra materials on the film’s 2003 special edition DVD release: The production utilized 300 artists and roughly one million drawings before its completion. Although Eyvind Earle’s opening ... More Less

The film begins with the image of a book of fairy tales opening and ends with the image of the book closing. Voice-over narration is heard intermittently throughout the picture. According to contemporary studio press materials, Walt Disney originally considered making an animated version of the fairy tale "Sleeping Beauty" in 1950, and in 1953 went into full production but was soon delayed due to the studio’s efforts to develop the Disneyland theme park, television programs and live-action feature films. Disney challenged his artists to make the film look unique and as high-quality as possible, necessitating years of continuous work.
       Although the onscreen credits read "From the Charles Perrault version of Sleeping Beauty ," some reviews, as well as the DVD edition of the film, acknowledge the early nineteenth century, Grimm Brothers version of "Sleeping Beauty" as a source for the story. Disney studio press materials note that numerous story sessions resulted in a new take on the Perrault legend, including the use of three fairies instead of seven, and the renaming of the villain from "Uglyane" to "Maleficent." The film’s music was based on the Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky ballet The Sleeping Beauty , which was first performed in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1890. Although an Aug 1952 HR news item stated that Jack Lawrence was entering his fifteenth week of work on the film’s score, only George Bruns is credited onscreen as music adapter.
       The following information was included in studio press materials and in the extra materials on the film’s 2003 special edition DVD release: The production utilized 300 artists and roughly one million drawings before its completion. Although Eyvind Earle’s opening credit reads “Color styling,” he provided the entire overall design and artistic concept for the animation of Sleeping Beauty . Earle (1916--2000) began his career as a painter, became a Disney background artist in 1951 and went on to become a modernist painter noted for developing the style of “designed realism.” Disney appeared in a promotional short for Sleeping Beauty in which he termed its animation “the art of painting in lifelike motion.” Earle consulted many ancient artworks, including medieval paintings and architecture, gothic art and Persian tapestries, to create the stylized, modernist background and character design, which went on to inspire many animation artists.
       Press materials specify which artists were responsible for each part of the film, as follows: Marc Davis created and animated both "Aurora" and Maleficient. He conceptualized Maleficent’s design as containing the goat horns of a devil figure, a bat-wing-like collar and a robe that evokes both flames and reptilian scales. Wolfgang Reitherman directed the prince vs. dragon duel, which was animated by Eric Cleworth. Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston animated the three fairies, while Milt Kahl crafted "Prince Phillip."
       As with previous animated Disney features, some scenes were first photographed using live-action models, which the artists used to create their sketches. Helene Stanley, who had earlier served as the model for "Cinderella," acted as a live-action model for Princess Aurora; Ed Kemmer was Prince Phillip’s model; Jane Fowler and Eleanor Audley modeled Maleficent; and Spring Byington, Frances Bavier and Madge Blake provided modeling for the fairies. Verna Felton, who provided the voice of “Flora,” was also the voice of such Disney characters as "Lady," "Thumper’s mother" and Cinderella’s fairy godmother. Although studio press materials referred to Sleeping Beauty as Mary Costa's feature-film debut, she first appeared in the 1953 RKO picture Marry Me Again (see above). The film marked the last feature film appearance of long-time character actor and silent star Taylor Holmes, who died on 30 Sep 1959.
       Sleeping Beauty marked the first animated feature to be shot in Technirama 70mm, a technique that exposes images onto double 35mm frames, which are then processed on a 70mm print. As noted in the Var review, the film was printed on special printer lenses developed for Disney by Panavision. The format, which allows the film to move horizontally through the camera instead of vertically and provides a greater range of vision, required the artists to move the characters through a large field of action via intricate mathematical calculations, and to create new color schemes.
       According to press materials, the film took six years to complete, at a cost of $6 million. On 30 Apr 1958, the Disneyland television program broadcast a promotion for the film consisting of a short entitled "An Adventure in Art." A Nov 1958 LAT article conjectured that the “prohibitive cost” might make it the last animated fairytale feature ever produced, and, in fact, the film did not recoup its cost in its first domestic release. It was re-released several times, however, including in 1971 and 1979, and an Oct 1979 DV article noted that that year’s re-release was expected to bring in $5 million, raising the total profits to $10 million. Upon the initial release of Sleeping Beauty , reviews were very favorable, although Bosley Crowther of NYT remarked that the film was strikingly similar to Disney’s 1938 film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ). Crowther later wrote an article ( NYT 22 Feb 1959) that questioned whether or not the film contained too much frightening violence for children, concluding that the answer was up to the children’s parents.
       Although a Mar 1959 ^DV article noted that the president of the Independent Exhibitors and Drive-In Association of New England registered a complaint that the 70mm format limited the exhibition of the film, the reviews stated that the film would first be shown in Technirama but then would be adapted to 35mm CinemaScope screens. The image from the film of Sleeping Beauty's castle was subsequently used as the model for the entrance to Fantasyland in the Disney theme parks, and a drawing of the castle was incorporated into one of the company's logos.
       A 1903 silent feature produced by Pathé Frères marked the first of many film and television versions of Sleeping Beauty (see AFI Catalog. Film Beginnings, 1893-1910 ). The Disney version was first released on home video on 14 Oct 1986, adding significantly to its earnings. Sleeping Beauty received a nomination for a 1959 Academy Award for Best Music (Scoring Musical Picture), George Bruns. The 2003 DVD release featured a digital restoration of the original film, supervised by Aaron Dem. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Beverly Hills Citizen
26 Jan 1959.
---
Box Office
26 Jan 1959.
---
Box Office
16 Feb 1959.
---
Daily Variety
16 Jan 59
p. 3.
Daily Variety
4 Mar 1959
p. 3.
Daily Variety
19 Oct 1979.
---
Film Daily
16 Jan 59
p. 6.
Filmfacts
11 Mar 1959
pp. 25-27.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Aug 1952
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Dec 1955
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Mar 1957
p. 24.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Apr 1957
p. 16.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Oct 1958
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Jan 1959
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Jan 1959
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Jan 59
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Oct 1959
p. 2.
Life
22 Dec 1958.
---
Los Angeles Mirror
17 Jan 1959.
---
Los Angeles Times
17 Nov 1958.
---
Los Angeles Times
18 Jan 1959
p. 1, 3.
Los Angeles Times
4 Aug 1986.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
31 Jan 59
p. 133.
New York Times
18 Feb 59
p. 36.
New York Times
22 Feb 1959.
---
Variety
21 Jan 59
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Supv dir
Seq dir
Seq dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
Story adpt
Addl story
Addl story
Addl story
Addl story
Addl story
Addl story
ART DIRECTORS
Col styling
Prod des
Prod des
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
MUSIC
Mus adpt
Choral arr
Mus score
SOUND
Sd supv
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec processes
Spec processes
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod supv
Casting dir of anim artists
ANIMATION
Character syling
Dir anim
Dir anim
Dir anim
Dir anim
Backgrounds
Backgrounds
Backgrounds
Backgrounds
Backgrounds
Backgrounds
Backgrounds
Backgrounds
Backgrounds
Backgrounds
Character anim
Character anim
Character anim
Character anim
Character anim
Character anim
Character anim
Character anim
Character anim
Character anim
Character anim
Character anim
Character anim
Character anim
Character anim
Eff anim
Eff anim
Eff anim
Eff anim
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the fairy tale "La belle au bois dormant" in the compilation Histoires ou contes de temps passe by Charles Perrault (1697) and the fairy tale "Dornröschen" in Kinder und Hausmärchen , collected by Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm (Germany, 1812--15).
MUSIC
Music adapted from the ballet The Sleeping Beauty by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky.
SONGS
"Once Upon a Dream," words and music by Sammy Fain and Jack Lawrence
"Hail the Princess Aurora" and "Sleeping Beauty Song," words and music by Tom Adair and George Bruns
"I Wonder," words and music by Winston Hibler, Ted Sears and George Bruns
+
SONGS
"Once Upon a Dream," words and music by Sammy Fain and Jack Lawrence
"Hail the Princess Aurora" and "Sleeping Beauty Song," words and music by Tom Adair and George Bruns
"I Wonder," words and music by Winston Hibler, Ted Sears and George Bruns
"The Skump Song," words and music by George Bruns, Erdman Penner and Tom Adair.
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
January 1959
Premiere Information:
World premiere in Los Angeles: 29 January 1959
Production Date:
1953--1958
Copyright Claimant:
Walt Disney Productions
Copyright Date:
30 December 1958
Copyright Number:
LP13782
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound Recording
Color
Technicolor
Animation
Widescreen/ratio
Technirama 70mm
Lenses/Prints
process lenses by Panavision
Duration(in mins):
75
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
19062
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In a faraway kingdom during the 14th century, King Stefan and his wife yearn for a child, and finally their wish is granted with the birth of Princess Aurora. During a holiday declared in her honor, they announce the betrothal of Aurora to Prince Phillip, the young son of neighboring King Hubert. At the celebration, the kingdom’s three fairies, Flora, Fauna and Merryweather, arrive to bestow their presents on the baby, beginning with the gifts of great beauty and song. Just then, however, Maleficent, the mistress of all evil, appears to protest the fact that she has not been invited, and proclaims a curse on the girl: Before her sixteenth birthday, Aurora will prick her finger on a spinning wheel spindle and die. After Maleficent disappears in a burst of fire, Merryweather, whose powers are limited to doing good, does her best to counteract the curse, decreeing that Aurora will not die but instead will sleep until the kiss of true love awakens her. Stefan remains terrified, however, and burns all the spindles in the kingdom. To help ease his fears, the fairies come up with a plan to hide Aurora by posing as peasant women raising a foundling child deep in the woods. The king and queen are despondent to lose their child but, desperate to save her, agree. The years pass, during which Maleficent searches fruitlessly for the girl, until the day of Aurora’s sixteenth birthday, when the sorceress sends her trusty raven to find her. Having been raised under the name “Briar Rose” in the secrecy of the forest, Aurora knows nothing of her heritage, but longs for a wider world to inhabit. The fairies plan ... +


In a faraway kingdom during the 14th century, King Stefan and his wife yearn for a child, and finally their wish is granted with the birth of Princess Aurora. During a holiday declared in her honor, they announce the betrothal of Aurora to Prince Phillip, the young son of neighboring King Hubert. At the celebration, the kingdom’s three fairies, Flora, Fauna and Merryweather, arrive to bestow their presents on the baby, beginning with the gifts of great beauty and song. Just then, however, Maleficent, the mistress of all evil, appears to protest the fact that she has not been invited, and proclaims a curse on the girl: Before her sixteenth birthday, Aurora will prick her finger on a spinning wheel spindle and die. After Maleficent disappears in a burst of fire, Merryweather, whose powers are limited to doing good, does her best to counteract the curse, decreeing that Aurora will not die but instead will sleep until the kiss of true love awakens her. Stefan remains terrified, however, and burns all the spindles in the kingdom. To help ease his fears, the fairies come up with a plan to hide Aurora by posing as peasant women raising a foundling child deep in the woods. The king and queen are despondent to lose their child but, desperate to save her, agree. The years pass, during which Maleficent searches fruitlessly for the girl, until the day of Aurora’s sixteenth birthday, when the sorceress sends her trusty raven to find her. Having been raised under the name “Briar Rose” in the secrecy of the forest, Aurora knows nothing of her heritage, but longs for a wider world to inhabit. The fairies plan an elaborate birthday party and try hard to create a dress and cake without the aid of magic, which they have avoided over the past sixteen years so as not to alert Maleficent. Meanwhile, Aurora wanders into the woods, with only the woodland animals for friends, to sing about her desire to meet her true love. Nearby, Phillip hears her lovely voice and, entranced, follows the melodic tones. When the animals spot handsome Phillip, they lure him closer to Aurora, where he is able to sweep her into a dance. Although she is startled, their immediate attraction is too strong for her to resist, and before slipping away, she invites him to her cottage that evening. Meanwhile, the dismal state of the handmade birthday gifts spurs Merryweather to convince the others that they should, this once, use their wands. They lock all the windows and doors to prevent the escape of the magic, but when Merryweather and Flora argue over the color of the dress, their competing charms send sparks of fairy dust shooting through the chimney, and Maleficent’s raven is able to locate the source as he flies by. When Aurora returns, lovestruck, the fairies finally reveal that she is the princess and must return to the kingdom, now that she has safely reached the age of sixteen. Although eager to meet her real parents, Aurora is crushed to lose her love, whose name she still does not know. In the kingdom, the two kings rejoice about Aurora’s imminent return, toasting her health until Phillip arrives, revealing in secret to his father that he has fallen in love with a peasant girl. While Hubert worries over how to inform Stefan, the fairies sneak Aurora into the palace tower. There, Maleficent, tipped off by her raven, transforms into a disk of light and enchants Aurora into pricking her finger on a poison spindle, after which the princess falls into unconsciousness. When the fairies find her, they realize that the grief over her fate will ruin the kingdom, and so place the whole realm into a deep sleep. Only Phillip, headed to the cottage in the forest, remains awake. There, however, he is captured by Maleficent, who holds him prisoner in her dungeon while her goons dance in celebration of her victory. The fairies make themselves as small as possible and, risking great personal danger, enter the dungeon, where they are able to free Phillip and bestow on him a magical shield of virtue and sword of truth. The raven shouts a warning to Maleficent, but Phillip, with the help of the fairies, is able to fight off the goons and escape on his steed, Sampson. Maleficent throws bolts of lightning at him and places a spell on the castle to surround it with thorny briars so Phillip cannot gain entrance. Then, as he tries to cut his way through the thorns, the sorceress summons “all the powers of hell” to transform herself into a mighty dragon, igniting the brush with her fiery breath. Phillip’s shield helps him deflect the fire, but her breath soon knocks the shield from his hands. In a final effort, the fairies charm Phillip’s sword, proclaiming “Oh sword of truth, fly swift and sure, that evil die and good endure.” With one thrust, the sword pierces the dragon’s breast, and Maleficent dies in a cloud of smoke. Within moments, all spells are broken, and the kingdom awakens as Phillip confers the kiss of true love on Aurora, rousing her from her sleep. They enter the throne room arm in arm, amazing Hubert and thrilling Stefan and his queen, who joyfully welcome their daughter. Flora and Merryweather continue to bicker over the color of Aurora’s dress, changing it back and forth from blue to pink while the happy couple dances, oblivious. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.