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Disney's Platinum Edition DVDs: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Beauty and the Beast
The Lion King Aladdin Bambi Cinderella Lady and the Tramp The Little Mermaid
Peter Pan The Jungle Book 101 Dalmatians Sleeping Beauty Pinocchio

Sleeping Beauty: Platinum Edition DVD Review

Sleeping Beauty (1959) movie poster Sleeping Beauty

Theatrical Release: January 29, 1959 / Running Time: 75 Minutes / Rating: G

Director: Clyde Geronimi / Writers: Charles Perrault (story), Erdman Penner (adaptation)

Voice Cast: Mary Costa (Princess Aurora), Bill Shirley (Prince Phillip), Eleanor Audley (Maleficent), Verna Felton (Flora), Barbara Luddy (Merryweather), Barbara Jo Allen (Fauna), Taylor Holmes (King Stefan), Bill Thompson (King Hubert), Marvin Miller (Narrator - uncredited)

Songs: "Once Upon a Dream", "Hail to the Princess Aurora", "One Gift", "I Wonder", "Skumps", "Sleeping Beauty"

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Page 1: The Movie, Video and Audio, Disc 1 Bonus Features
Page 2: Disc 2 Bonus Features, Menus and Packaging, Closing Thoughts

Watch the birds and bunnies carefully. You'll have to repeat the sequence or go mad trying in part of Briar Rose's Enchanted Dance Game. Milk, milk, lemonade... eggs. Get talked down to in the "Fun with Language Game." Seen in making-of doc "Picture Perfect", Mary Costa, the voice of Sleeping Beauty, remains proud of her best-known film all these years later.

DISC 2 BONUS FEATURES

Disc 2 gives us the usual kids/grownup breakdown. Here, two games are relegated to a section called The Cottage.

"Briar Rose's Enchanted Dance Game" consists of a few activities, most of which require players to get up and move. One provides step-by-step waltz lessons for leaders and followers in three speeds. Next, your skills are put to the test as you have to keep up with Aurora and Phillip.
In the dance game, the forest animals waltz for you and you've got to repeat the right/left-bunny/bird sequence. It gets increasingly harder and by the second one I felt memorially impaired. I foresee this one yielding many a frustrated child. At least until they recognize the patterns.

The second is a reprisal of every slow-witted extraterrestrial's favorite activity from last March's 101 Dalmatians DVD. It's another "Fun with Language Game"! Actually, there are three games with two levels and instructions offered in three languages (English, French, Spanish), ensuring a multitude of ways to have your intelligence insulted while not having fun with language. One involves cleaning up the cottage with various household items, another has you making a dress for Aurora, and the last entails using ingredients to bake a cake. All are hosted by an hilariously condescending narrator at a speed that makes molasses look breakneck. I may not be the intended audience, but is this really how anyone should learn English?

The Castle gives us the more substantial "Backstage Disney" content, a majority of which was newly created for this DVD.

"Picture Perfect: The Making of Sleeping Beauty" (43:30) is a great, thorough general documentary that includes valuable input from dozens of interview subjects, including archival clips featuring deceased crew members. Tackled here are the context, the unique design and visual style, characterizations and specific animators' contributions, the voice cast, the implementation of Tchaikovsky. Among those interviewed are Sleeping Beauty voice Mary Costa, modern day animators and acolytes Pete Docter and Andreas Deja, living crew members including Don Bluth, and a number of animation/film historians.

Eyvind Earle works on a model of Sleeping Beauty Castle in this photograph from his personal featurette. Don Bluth, the man behind most non-Disney 2D-animated American films, recalls "Sequence 8", the most challenging part of Sleeping Beauty for animators. The villagers rejoice in the alternate opening/deleted musical number "Holiday."

"Eyvind Earle: The Man and His Art" (7:32) profiles the color stylist and background artist largely responsible for Sleeping Beauty's unique visual sensibilities.
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It's a fascinating portrait of a talented, temperamental individual not often paid tribute before.

"Sequence 8" (5:30) lets animators and historians recall the challenges of animating Princess Aurora's costly and ambitious forest stroll.

A new alternate opening (3:25) provides the discarded musical number "Holiday" with newly-recorded vocals and tactfully-livened colorful storyboard sketches. The villagers' song essentially plays out like "Hail to the Princess Aurora", gleefully marking the princess' christening.

Also registering as new inclusions are three other deleted songs departing from the Tchaikovsky score. "It Happens I Have a Picture" (3:40), which seems to supplant or extend "Skumps", lets Kings Stefan and Hubert boast about their respective children as reflections of themselves. It's also presented as a rhyming dialogue exchange (2:55). The three fairies get mathematical while magic's praises in the upbeat "Riddle Diddle" (2:45). They also perform the choral lullaby "Go to Sleep" (2:45), which is laid over the existing film material of the song "Sleeping Beauty." (The other songs are set to storyboard images.) While the cut songs don't qualify as remotely memorable, they're all of obvious interest.

Check out the situation! Prince Phillip is attacked by goons in both storyboards and the final film. The real life Prince Phillip attacks a dragon in this live-action reference footage. Early visions of Maleficent are seen in her Character Design gallery.

A pair of Storyboard Sequences use split screen to compare about a minute of footage from the final film with the drawings that foresaw it. Each of the sequences ("The Fairies Put the Castle to Sleep", "The Prince's Capture") is preceded by a 45-second introduction by Andreas Deja that probably could have been included just once like last time.

"Live-Action Reference" (2:10) provides three short video clips of costumed models acting out scenes for animators.
Performed here are Aurora's forest dance, Prince Phillip's dragon fight, and a discussion between the queen and fairy. It's very cool to see this material, which includes 20 seconds of Prince Phillip film not on the old DVD.

Eight Sleeping Beauty Art Galleries follow. Boasting the fastest and smoothest navigation I've encountered on a Disney DVD gallery, they're a joy to browse and far more practical than the flashy yet often cumbersome design of the Special Edition. First is Visual Development (159 stills), which provides the most abstract, artistic, and evocative paintings. Character Design divides its 163 stills into five sections. Storyboard Art (80 stills) provides the gist of the movie with minimal color and detail, while Live Action Reference (70) covers nearly the entire film chronologically with black & white photos of costumed models. The Sleeping Beauty Storybook (25) shows off the ornate golden book photographed for the film's live-action opening and closing. Closing out the section are Layouts & Backgrounds (55 stills of uninhabited wide locations, most of which seen in full color); Production Photos (51 stills mostly depicting animators and story men at work); and Publicity (34 stills of international poster designs and premiere decorations).

Though exhaustive, the galleries here definitely appear to lose some of the images from the old DVD's galleries and scrapbook section, especially those depicting Disneyland Paris' Sleeping Beauty Castle.

The Three Good Fairies make a sparkly descent amidst regal banners in this Visual Development still. Get a taste of the Original Disneyland Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough Attraction with this tour of a computer-animated rendering. Imagineering VP Tony Baxter shows off his attraction souvenir book while Chris Merritt looks on in their introductory Guided Tour video.

The last of the new features is "Original Disneyland Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough Attraction." Like the recent park-related bonus section on The Nightmare Before Christmas, this one offers two ways to experience the attraction and a companion featurette. The Auto Mode (7:38) moves you slowly around this admirable computer-generated recreation of the castle interior attraction launched in 1957, retooled in the 1980s and '90s, shuttered in 2001, and soon to reopen. Along the way, you stop for looks at expository storybook pages and assorted animatronic scene displays. The narration is offered in English, French, and Spanish; strangely only the Spanish is in Dolby 5.1.

The Guided Tour is introduced and narrated by Disney Imagineering VP Tony Baxter, who sheds light on the elements seen. Experiencing the attraction this way, you're given the option to stop and admire sights and to extend the trip by going behind-the-scenes with Baxter and Chris Merritt for short video discussions of the area's various aspects and tricks.

"The History of the Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough" (9:51) lets Baxter and other Disneyland vets discuss the attraction's development, design, details, history, and virtual resurrection, with plenty of complementary imagery keeping talking heads to a minimum.

Princess for a Day Shirley Temple helps Walt Disney open up a Sleeping Beauty attraction well before the film's release in this photo from the History of the Castle Walkthrough featurette. Don't get our hopes up or anything, Walt Disney. (Sleeping Beauty's teaser trailer) See Eyvind Earle paint a tree in "4 Artists Paint 1 Tree."

"Publicity" holds a text-based teaser (1:40) and theatrical trailer (3:10) from Sleeping Beauty's 1959 release plus the dramatic trailer (1:25) from its evidently limited 1995 reissue (which I can't find any record of).

Finally, "4 Artists Paint 1 Tree" (16:05) is an excerpt of a 1958 Disneyland episode that details the collaboration that yielded Sleeping Beauty's designs.
Or at least it starts that way before allowing said artists (Marc Davis, Eyvind Earle, Josh Meador, and Walt Peregoy) to talk dryly about their visual interpretations of a tree. Picture quality here improves upon the feature's appearance on the Special Edition DVD.

Though the Platinum Edition adds quite a bit, Disney both giveth and taketh away here. A number of supplements from the 2003 Special Edition fail to resurface here. The biggest casualties are the somewhat promotional 16-minute making-of featurette "Once Upon a Dream" from the 1990s and the previous audio commentary. Hosted by historian/author Jeff Kurtti from a script, that one was comprised largely of interview sound bites from Mary Costa, Sleeping Beauty's animators, and contemporary artists. Also gone along with THX Certification are the THX Optimode tests.

The entirety of the Special Edition Disc 2's "Games, Music & Fun" section has been dropped, losing: two creative Disney's Art Project instructional craft videos, a fun princess personality profile quiz, the Rescue Aurora adventure game, the music video for girl group No Secrets' "Once Upon a Dream" cover, a frustrating Ink and Paint Studio activity, a "Once Upon a Dream" sing-along (which would be rendered redundant by Disney Song Selection). Since the two new Games/Activities leave plenty to be desired, that makes this Platinum Edition a significant downgrade in this capacity.

Three short 1-3-minute featurettes that covered topics from the big documentary in different ways are also axed: "Music" with Mary Costa and Leonard Maltin, "The Design" with Maltin and assorted animators, and "Creating the Backgrounds" with the late Eyvind Earle. Another short featurette on the restoration is also gone, though that makes sense since it referred to the previous DVD's digital efforts. More disappointingly, the Andreas Deja-introduced Widescreen to Pan-and-Scan comparison has vanished. While the studio has had the wisdom not to waste disc space on a heavily-cropped 1.33:1 version, ignorant customers (you know, the ones that Disney apparently caters to on its releases of obscure live-action films from the '60s through '90s) have the right to know why this was a smart move. As a memorably unique bonus, its disappearance is sorely noted.

Finally, ten fascinating text screens on the fairy tale's history and various incarnations in print and ballet have been dropped. So has a 23-minute reading of a 1951 story outline that diverged from the final film in a number of ways. That would have been more welcome and easy to fit as plain text screens, but I guess Disney's DVD department has adopted Walt's reluctance to repeat himself.

Some birds flying by is the liveliest Disc 1's serene main menu gets. Disc 2's Backstage Disney menu flips the large border and turns it purple, but the idea is the same. The Three Good Fairies supply the animation here as they approach the castle at dusk.

MENUS and PACKAGING

For a Platinum Edition, the DVD's menus take an unusually low-key approach. Animation is kept to a minimum and only on the main menu and top bonus features menus.
At least the static backgrounds showcase the film's lush imagery. All the menus are decorated with a large border on one side and accompanied by one of a few excerpts of score.

Per long-held tradition, Sleeping Beauty comes in a black standard-width keepcase that's housed in a requisite embossed cardboard slipcover. This one stands out for providing more than half a dozen little spots that reflect the person holding it. Three items are found inside the case. A Disney Movie Rewards booklet provides a code and information on a Sleeping Beauty-themed sweepstakes. A smaller but thicker booklet holds a number of product ads and coupons, some PSAs, Blu-ray touting, and a short-lived $10 rebate for Sleeping Beauty Platinum DVD/Blu-ray double dippers. The final and most standard insert provides a navigational overview of the set, a scene selections list, and some words on the major bonuses and the Platinum Edition line as a whole. It's good the studio's current aversion to inserts hasn't affected this release.

So that's why the movie's called Sleeping Beauty! Princess Aurora's indefinite doze is seen in the middle of dark clouds. Prince Phillip clings to a cliff while fighting the enormous dragon that once was Maleficent.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Sleeping Beauty is a delightful film and probably Walt's most skillful animated fairy tale. Without considering historical significance, most might agree it's his best princess movie.
It demands a spot in any DVD collection that numbers in the hundreds and is one of the classic Disney cartoons that really all should own for routine revisits. (Chronological canon sorters, place between Lady and the Tramp and 101 Dalmatians.)

As has been the case for practically every Platinum Edition, picture and sound quality here are top-notch and each improves upon the prior DVD's solid presentation. It is unfortunate that so many of the 2003 Special Edition's bonus features have been dropped, but the new additions and extensions are welcome.

Those who don't already own Sleeping Beauty on DVD should pick this up and be satisfied by it. Those who do own the 2003 set would get a better feature presentation and several worthwhile new extras. Even if I can't call it an absolute upgrade, there's enough in this Platinum Edition to make a low-priced release week purchase plenty attractive. If you're a big fan of Sleeping Beauty, then you probably already own the Special Edition and need little encouragement to buy it again here. Should you fall into that class, though, you'll probably want to hold onto the original DVD for its unported goodies.

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Related Reviews:
Cinderella: Platinum Edition The Little Mermaid: Platinum Edition Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: Platinum Edition
Peter Pan: Platinum Edition 101 Dalmatians: Platinum Edition Lady and the Tramp: Platinum Edition Bambi: Platinum Edition
Beauty and the Beast: Platinum Edition Aladdin: Platinum Edition The Lion King: Platinum Edition The Jungle Book: Platinum Edition
Sleeping Beauty: Special Edition The Sword in the Stone (45th Anniversary Edition) Disney Princess Enchanted Tales: Follow Your Dreams



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UltimateDisney.com | DVD and Blu-ray Reviews | Disney Animated Classics Page | DVDizzy.com: DVD/Blu-ray Schedule | Search This Site

Page 1: The Movie, Video and Audio, Disc 1 Bonus Features
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Reviewed October 7, 2008.