Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty: 50th Anniversary Platinum Edition DVD

Ushering in the new era for Walt Disney Studios animation as the last feature with hand-inked cells, Sleeping Beauty became the first film to be both created and released exclusively for the 70mm format. Now in 2008, nearly fifty years later, it makes history once again as “the first-ever Disney Classic animated feature in high definition.” Awakening on shelves in a stunning digitally re-mastered 50th Anniversary Platinum Edition on October 7 (as always for a limited time) on both 2-disc DVD and Blu-ray formats, it has the tremendous and unprecedented distinction of offering fans without Blu-ray players the chance to purchase that format as it comes with a bonus standard edition playable DVD.

Tchaikovsky’s music and acclaimed, international operatic singing sensation Mary Costa (who voiced Princess Aurora) sound better than ever in Dolby Digital Surround that more than equals the crisp definition of the animation. Deliberately advised by Walt Disney himself to model the look of Beauty on medieval architecture and paintings, the film made the most of the brand-new 70mm format to craft “elaborate backgrounds” that took an average of seven to ten days to painstakingly ink by hand.

Legendary Disney artist and Sleeping Beauty production designer Eyvind Earle was given “a significant amount of freedom,” in granting Disney’s wish to present Beauty with an entirely “different visual style,” as opposed to the “soft, rounded look of earlier” features in the Disney collection. And in doing so, the visual scope of the film offered a more “detailed and complex” range of artwork than viewers had ever seen “used in an animated movie before.”

A mixture of the Brothers Grimm fable source material as well as Perrault’s version and Tchaikovsky’s original ballet, Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty tells the story of the newborn Princess Aurora who is cursed at her christening by the wicked Maleficent (which translates to “evil-doer”).

Charged that she will die after pricking her finger on a spinning wheel when she turns sixteen, Aurora is quickly taken under the wing of three tiny good fairies—Flora (dressed in pink), Merryweather (blue), and Fauna (in green)—who whisk her away to live in the woods. Raising her in hiding and giving her the new name of Briar Rose, the young princess grows into a stunning blonde beauty (modeled after Audrey Hepburn), entirely unaware of her background.

After she falls in love with the handsome Prince Philip, her unknowingly betrothed husband-to-be since birth as they dance to “Once Upon a Dream” in the forest, Aurora/Briar Rose is cruelly tricked by the sinister magic employed by Maleficent and falls into a deep sleep, out of which only true love’s kiss can she awaken.

One of Disney’s most famous works, Beauty was the impressive product of a seven year intensive production. In fact, Disneyland Castle was even named for the one in the film which was released four years after the theme park opened its doors.

Yet, despite this, upon closer inspection Aurora is one of the dullest Disney princesses ever created. Raised in an era of feisty Disney heroines like Little Mermaid’s Ariel, Beauty and the Beast’s Belle, Aladdin’s Princess Jasmine, Pocahontas, and Mulan, as I watched from an adult’s perspective, I realized this time around that although Aurora is the titular character, the film is essentially more about the secondary cast like the fairies, Maleficent (who is never thoroughly explained), Prince Philip, and their families.

Upon further research, I discovered that, “second only to Dumbo (who didn’t speak at all)… [Aurora] has very few lines of actual dialogue throughout the entire film. Her first line comes 19 minutes into the film and her last line comes 39 minutes into the film.” Thus it may come as a slight shock to children of today used to far more fast-paced Disney offerings where the women have more to do than simply wait for a rescue and hope to avoid morning breath.

Despite the fact that Aurora is hands-down the most submissive and quietest character whose title-reflected beauty and helpless state propel the film along-- as a DVD, Beauty is an absolute knockout. The third film, following Snow White and Pinocchio to “undergo painstaking computer restoration,” both devotees and fans will be amazed by the presentation which offers the film as it was originally meant to be seen with both enhanced picture and sound. Additionally, you can view exclusive video clips from the bonus features along with a movie still photo gallery by clicking here to learn more in anticipation for its Tuesday release.

Filled with endless featurettes and bonus footage taken right from the Disney Vault that’s sure to excite viewers of all ages, the Sleeping Beauty set includes an all new making-of documentary. Plus, it takes you further inside the pre and post-production process, serving up an alternate opening, a DVD game for kids, four deleted songs, the original Oscar winning short that aired with the film in its theatrical release, a celebration of Tchaikovsky as well as the Disney artists, along with countless other snippets that have never been seen. Thus, the 50th Anniversary Platinum Edition is a veritable set that’s “once upon a dream” for lovers of all things Disney.

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