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When an enchanted kingdom and the most fair princess in the land falls prey to the ultimate mistress of evil, the fate of the empire rests in the hands of three small fairies and a courageous prince's magic kiss. Their quest is fraught with peril as the fellowship must battle the evil witch and a fire breathing dragon if they are to set the Beauty free. From spectacular action to the breathtaking pageantry of the princess and her kingdom, Sleeping Beauty has something to charm every member of your family. Disney's first Large Format animated film. Made in Technirama.
For more about Sleeping Beauty and the Sleeping Beauty Blu-ray release, see Sleeping Beauty Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on October 1, 2014 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Directors: Clyde Geronimi, Les Clark, Eric Larson, Wolfgang Reitherman
Writers: Milt Banta, Winston Hibler, Bill Peet, Erdman Penner, Joe Rinaldi, Ted Sears
Starring: Mary Costa, Bill Shirley, Eleanor Audley, Verna Felton, Barbara Luddy, Barbara Jo Allen
» See full cast & crew
Sleeping Beauty Blu-ray Review
A terrific release... if you don't already own the 2008 Platinum Edition Blu-ray.
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, October 1, 2014
Sleeping Beauty was originally made available in 2008 by way of a 50th Anniversary Platinum Edition Blu-ray release. Of the film, former reviewer Lindsay Mayer writes, "Such grand treatment on Blu-ray is only befitting of the labor of love that Sleeping Beauty became at the studio in the 1950s. The film's production spanned almost the entire decade, beginning with story concept work in 1951 and ending in 1959 with the film's theatrical bow. Sleeping Beauty was a strain on the studio's resources, from its time to its manpower, and certainly to its money. It cost so much, in fact, that even though it was a box office success upon its release, the film still did not recoup its production costs on its initial run. Since then, however, Sleeping Beauty has become a most profitable property for the Walt Disney Company, as its nearly 50-year legacy has touched generations of filmgoers...
Sleeping Beauty is, admittedly, a bit light on story. It is a faerie tale in the truest sense, built upon a short fable about four paragraphs long. The film's main inspiration is the first section of Charles Perrault's La Belle au Bois Dormant; it is one of several tales published in Perrault's 1697 book "Les Contes de ma mère l'Oie," or "The Tales of My Mother Goose." Perrault was a significant figure in founding a new literary genre - the faerie tale; he predates the famous Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm by almost a century. Of course, Perrault's version of the dormant princess is not the first occurrence of such themes, but it is arguably the most well-known. As such, it provided a mere template for the Disney staff, who filled in some gaps generously, omitting and augmenting as they went along. The end result, as noted already, is a straightforward, none-too-intricate story where, ironically, the faeries seem more human than the humans themselves.
This is understandable however, given that the main emphasis of the film is in its artistic and technical marvels. It is common knowledge among most film fans and historians that the era of television, sweeping into private residences post World War II, struck a blow to the film industry. With entertainment available for hours at a time, every day, from the comfort of your own home, why bother getting gussied up to head to the cinema? To combat this, films underwent a metamorphosis in style and tempting gimmickry. From stereoscopic 3D experiences to bargain priced double features, studios were trying everything. One of the most interesting and successful adjustments was the size of the film itself, stretching from the norm of 35 millimeters to 70 and beyond. Sleeping Beauty was one of these features, filmed with a 70mm technology sensationally named "Technirama." In addition, the film's music, consisting almost entirely of Peter Tchaikovsky's 1889 ballet score, was recorded in Germany with the best technology available, in a cutting-edge 6 channel stereophonic sound mix. Everything about the film exuded opulence, carried out and promoted in a fashion that only Walt Disney could achieve.
The story itself centers around the plight of one fair maiden by the name of Aurora. The daughter of the good King Stefan, she is cursed as a newborn by the scornful dark faerie Maleficent. Fated to die from pricking her finger on a spinning wheel's spindle, Aurora is buffered by the blessings of the three good faeries Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather. The three vow to protect the princess by hiding her away from Maleficent's watchful goons, deep in the forests bordering Stefan's kingdom. The faeries raise the child as their own for several years, until the evening of her sixteenth birthday when she supposedly outlives the curse and is returned to the castle. They tell the girl nothing of her royal heritage, and name her Briar Rose as an extra precaution. Rose has a surprise in store for them however - she has fallen in love with a wonderful stranger while out picking berries. Though none of them know, this stranger is Prince Phillip, son of the neighboring King Hubert. The two young heirs are coincidentally betrothed to one another, but being that this is a faerie tale, the two fall in love without knowing anything about the other, including such silly formalities as - oh, I don't know - names? Hence, Rose cum Aurora is heartbroken when she discoveries her royal responsibilities dictate she never sees that "stranger" again.
Meanwhile, a frustrated Maleficent finally gets her chance to fulfill the curse when her loyal raven Diablo locates Aurora at last. Entrancing the princess into touching a spindle, Maleficent is not perturbed when the girl does not die. Indeed, she delights in increasing the misery for the kingdom by capturing the prince and preventing him from rescuing the maiden with love's first kiss. Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather counteract by enchanting the population to sleep indefinitely until their princess awakens. They realize Phillip is the only hope for lifting Maleficent's oppressive evils off the land, and combine their magic to aid the prince in a harrowing fight to the death against the dark faerie... and all the powers of hell!!
Sleeping Beauty may have a plain story, but its strengths are in its spectacle and its select memorable moments and characters. Maleficent is superbly designed, and brought to smooth, scheming life by the excellent voicework of Eleanor Audley. Even her raven sidekick has a pronounced personality, becoming a creature the viewer just loves to hate. Aurora and Phillip's initial meeting and courtship in a highly stylized forest setting is probably the film's most memorable sequence. If not that, then certainly the thrilling climactic battle between Phillip and Maleficent, transformed into an awesome and gorgeously evil dragon. Every turn of a head is carefully drawn and choreographed, and every corner of the screen is filled with luxuriant detail. All of it, down to the last leaf, tapestry, or rocky crag, shines through in high definition. It is truly a sight to behold."
Sleeping Beauty Blu-ray, Video Quality
Despite early marketing blurbs suggesting the latest Blu-ray release of Sleeping Beauty would boast "exquisite new picture and sound" and a video presentation that was "fully restored with revolutionary technology," Disney's Diamond Edition appears to repurpose the same 2.55:1 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode featured on the 2008 50th Anniversary Platinum Edition BD. Screenshot comparisons only confirm matters, as no discernible alterations or improvements in color, contrast or clarity are apparent. So, question of the day: is that really such a bad thing? As double dips go, sure. As must-have Blu-rays go, though, absolutely not. Sleeping Beauty's video presentation remains exquisite, even some six years later, and the film has been fully and gorgeously restored, utilizing a methodology not unlike some of Disney's more recent, highly regarded remasters. That restoration simply took place some time ago. "Revolutionary" no longer applies either, but hyperbole is as hyperbole does.
Short version: if the Platinum Edition Blu-ray is sitting on your shelf, put away your wallet. You already own the Diamond Edition AV presentation. (Not to mention a substantially larger supplemental package. But more on that in a moment.)
Long version: If you don't already own the 50th Anniversary Platinum BD, prepare to be most pleased with the results. Lindsay Mayer awarded Sleeping Beauty with a 5.0 video score in October 2008, declaring it "stellar" and describing it as being as close to perfect as possible without using the word "perfect." I'm not going to go quite that far -- hints of negligible aliasing do creep in here and there, even if they're difficult to spot when the film is in motion -- but I have no problem sticking with Mayer's 5.0. It's just that good. Colors are lush and stunning, with impressive richness and stability. Contrast is vibrant and consistent, without artificially cranking or boosting black levels to an even remotely troubling degree. Crush is never a factor, noise is all but non-existent, and artifacting and banding are held at bay. Moreover, detail is excellent, with crisp line art, striking backgrounds and painted textures, and next to nothing in the way of disappointments or distractions. There is a fair amount of softness scattered throughout, but it's strictly of the optical variety and traces back to the original photography and elements. Otherwise, print damage and, really, any significant sign of age has been eliminated. The image is pristine, yes. Some will say too pristine. Sans grain. But there's no indication (at least none of which I'm aware) that detail has been compromised in any way. Sleeping Beauty's video presentation may be six years old, but it's tough to make the case that it needed a second high-dollar overhaul.
Sleeping Beauty Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Diamond Edition Blu-ray recycles the DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround track from the 2008 50th Anniversary Platinum Edition BD, yes, but I doubt anyone is about to complain. As Mayer writes in her original review, "Going back to the original score recordings from Germany, sound technicians like Randy Thornton and Terry Porter restored every last note, word, and foley effect to remove hisses, pops, and other artifacts to get a clean, smooth sound. The restored audio was then mixed into an engulfing 7.1 channel mix that really lends a superior experience to the film. Tchaikovsky's score is beautiful and highly infectious. You'll find yourself humming the waltz-like main theme for days after. Dialogue is crystal clear and follows the characters across the "stage" of sound; it's never muddled or hard to distinguish. Rears are used frequently for residual score and ambient effects like the many birds and other wildlife in Briar Rose's forest. LFE is used to dramatic effect in the score, as well as lending a good amount of "oomph" to scenes like Phillip and Maleficent's good versus evil showdown. For purists, Disney provides the film's original 4-channel stereophonic track as well. The Blu-ray's sound rates second to nothing, and it is a fitting complement to the film's excellent picture."
Note: the 2008 Blu-ray release didn't include any foreign language audio tracks. The 2014 Diamond Edition BD offers four: a French DTS-HD High Resolution 7.1 track, and a trio of Spanish, Portuguese and Russian Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes. Also included: English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Russian subtitles.
Sleeping Beauty Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Brace yourselves. Disney's new 1-disc Diamond Edition supplemental package is far from comprehensive. It includes several new extras, sure. But aside from three never before seen deleted scenes, the new content doesn't amount to much. Worse, numerous special features from the 2-disc 50th Anniversary Platinum Edition Blu-ray (originally released in October of 2008) are nowhere to be found; unceremoniously left on the cutting room floor. And not just little bits and pieces either. The following is a list of missing extras, the vast majority of which were presented in high definition:
Previously Released Bonus Features
Sleeping Beauty Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The 2014 Diamond Edition release of Sleeping Beauty features the same outstanding AV presentation as its 2008 Platinum Edition counterpart. The differences? A small selection of new bonus content is available (the only thing of any substance being a trio of never before seen deleted scenes), numerous extras have been jettisoned altogether (some hardly missed, some whose absence is felt), and several foreign language audio tracks are included. If you already own the 2008 Platinum Edition Blu-ray, I'd suggest skipping the Diamond Edition. If you're a supplemental completist, double dip to your heart's content. If you have yet to pick up a copy of Sleeping Beauty, though, there's no shame in buying this latest version... unless extras add significant value, in which case -- back to square one -- you may want to track down the 2008 BD.
Sleeping Beauty: Other Editions
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