Princess Aurora is cursed upon her birth by the evil Maleficent – who declares that before Aurora reaches her 16th birthday she will prick her finger on a spinning wheel and will fall into a deep sleep. To prevent this happening, the king places her in hiding with three good natured fairies until she is past her 16th birthday. Yet fall foul to the spell she does, and into such a sleep that only can be revived by true love’s kiss.
Never one to miss a good cross promotional tie-in, Disney have re-released Sleeping Beauty on Blu Ray to mark the theatrical release of Maleficent – The origins story of the wicked fairy from Sleeping Beauty and how she became so nasty. Walt Disney was a man who would dare to dream, but nothing could be quite so bold as the thought a of mixture of Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty ballet, the classic fairytale by Charles Perrault and also the Brothers Grimm version of the same tale. Yet Walt pulled off a masterstroke by making one of the most lavish spectacles ever seen on the big screen.
Watching it today, and by today’s modern animated films standards, it’s a remarkable piece of work. Sumptuous visuals which must have had hours and hours of hand drawn work put into making such beautiful background animation, most of it vibrant thanks to the vivid colours chosen. Widescreen was made for animated films like Sleeping Beauty. These achingly wonderful visuals really do make us yearn for Disney to revert back to hand drawn animation rather than continue on the CGI path.
The story itself is so well known that it has been endlessly copied and parodied for years, which is the sign of a true classic. The main character – Aurora – actually doesn’t offer much to proceedings, rather is the catalyst for everything happening around her. We do get to watch her formative years spent in a house far away from anyone apart from her fairy guardians and as she grows we are shown how her life becomes too big to be held back in the tiny house. What makes Sleeping Beauty such an iconic film is the relentless pursue of wickedness by Maleficent, as she seeks to destroy all that is good in the kingdom. Ultimately a battle of good against evil, this tug of war is whole hearted entertaining as we love to hate Maleficent and what she stands for.
Now times have changed and we enjoy watching these Disney villains be evil, mainly due to the way the characters have been written that we can’t help but delight in their appearances on screen. Maleficent’s silent, stealth-like quality to appear and then disappear in a puff of smoke is nothing short of amazing trickery. It’s difficult not to like Maleficent, even after everything she represents. Thrown in a dashing prince, a fire breathing dragon and some true love and it’s a tale that has all angles covered for entertainment.
Sleeping Beauty is the film that made Disney be the bearer of princess fairy-tales the world through. It’s a timeless classic that has lost none of its magic in the past half a decade.