Wednesday, January 29, 2014

55 Things in Honor of the 55th Anniversary of Sleeping Beauty

On this day, 55 years ago, the Walt Disney animated film Sleeping Beauty was released in theaters. It's hard to imagine a time when such a big film would be released at the end of January, but I guess back in 1959 they figured people wanted to see good films throughout the entire year (Oh, how times have changed). Thanks to its gorgeous animation and perhaps the best villain to come out of the studio, Sleeping Beauty holds a place as my favorite animated film from the classic era (or pre-The Little Mermaid). It also takes on a new life this summer with the live-action film version starring Angelina Jolie as Maleficent. In honor of this anniversary, I'm celebrating with 55 factoids, fun-filled tidbits, or just random observations concerning the film. Hail to the Princess Aurora!

  1. The film was only the 3rd Disney animated feature based on a fairy tale (Snow White and Cinderella being the other two). The next fairy tale inspired film wouldn't come until 30 years later.
  2. It is also the last fairy tale inspired film that Walt Disney himself was involved with.
  3. Sleeping Beauty was Disney's 16th animated film
  4. Production on the film started in 1951 and lasted nearly a decade
  5. As the years past, Walt became more and more concerned and involved with the creation of Disneyland and took a hands-off approach toward the film.
  6. The look of the film was a departure from the previous films and was intended to look like a medieval storybook brought to life
  7. Artist Eyvind Earle was the color stylist and in charge of the backgrounds
  8. The backgrounds were so intricate that a single background painting would take from 7 to 10 days. A normal background usually took a single day to complete.
  9. Walt actually stole the kiss story element from the story of Sleeping Beauty to be used in Snow White. In the original Grimm fairy tale, Snow White has the piece of apple stuck in her throat. As the prince has the glass casket carried away with him, it gets dropped and the apple dislodges itself and it awakens her. What, food falling out of your mouth isn't a romantic enough way to break a spell, Walt?!?
  10. The film was shot in Super Technirama 70 mm film as opposed to 35 mm
  11. Despite being the titular character, the Sleeping Beauty only appears in about 18 minutes of the film–less than any other Disney Princess
  12.  The music for the film was adapted from Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty ballet by George Bruns (as a kid I always thought it said George Burns. He's so talented!)
  13. The film's only Oscar nomination came for the score. It lost.
  14. Walt originally wanted the three good fairies to be exactly the same.
  15. Animators Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston thought it would be better to give each their own personality and color (Thank goodness. How else would we have had the famous Pink/Blue dress color fight?)
  16. Although Aurora is one of the rare Disney characters to have both parents, her mother is never named in the film. Notes suggest it was supposed to be Leah and now the studio just goes with that.
  17. The Queen also has exactly two lines in the entire film: "And you're not offended your excellency" and the poignant and complex, "Oh, no!"
  18. There's also debate on who actually provided that voice. Some sources say that it was never written down and others think that Verna Felton (who voiced the fairy Flora) provided the Queen's voice as well.
  19. Eleanor Audley provided Maleficent's wicked voice. She also provided the voice of Lady Tremaine (Cinderella's stepmother). So does this mean that Angelina and Cate Blanchett (currently filming a live-action Cinderella as the stepmother) are the same actress as well? 
  20. It's rumored that the animators used Audrey Hepburn as an inspiration for the look of Aurora. It sounds more like a nice story as she looks absolutely nothing like Audrey. Because they both have thick eyebrows? This is like that rumor that Tinker Bell was modeled after Marilyn Monroe. Lies! It just sounds good.
  21. Flora's gift to the baby princess is the gift of Beauty.
  22. Fauna's gift is the gift of Song
  23. Haven't you always wondered what Merryweather was actually going to give as a gift to Aurora? Hopefully some intellect to go along with that pretty face and awesome singing voice.
  24. In the original fairy tale, the princess sleeps for 100 years before she is awakened. Disney's princess sleeps for about 8 hours or so. Or what doctors recommend as a good night's sleep.
  25. Marc Davis was responsible for animating both Aurora and Maleficent. The latter's design was so complicated that he pretty much animated her for the entire film.
  26. Prince Phillip was the first Prince to actually have a name...and a personality
  27. A flame-thrower was used to make the sound of fire being shot out when Maleficent changes into a dragon
  28. Castanets were used to make the sound of the jaw snapping. Olé!
  29. Live-action references were used extensively on the film as the human characters were intended to move more realistically than in any other previous film.
  30. My favorite part of the entire film is after Aurora is awakened and she and Phillip come down the stairs. But the reason it's my favorite is because I love the way her dress falls behind her as she walks down. It's so beautiful and elegent. Something that the plastic looking clothes in CGI have yet to master. 

  31. Apparently Maleficent's raven is named Diablo. 
  32. How come Maleficent's raven–I mean, Diablo–doesn't change to pink and blue when he spies on the fairies and gets hit with the colorful magic?
  33. The cookies that Merryweather makes appear with her wand are shaped like Mickey Mouse
  34. Even though it was opened 4 years before the film, the castle in Disneyland is named Sleeping Beauty's Castle and was used to garner interest in the film. The original plans were to make it Snow White's castle.
  35. Maleficent is actually an evil fairy (not a witch) and the self-proclaimed Mistress of All Evil.
  36. She resides in the Forbidden Mountains. You know, just a relaxing get-away spot.
  37. The design of Maleficent's goons were based on gargoyles
  38. The goons also make an appearance in Toontown in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
  39. Sleeping Beauty was the last film to use hand-inked cels. Starting with 101 Dalmatians they started using Xerox. 
  40. When Maleficent transports herself from her castle to stop Phillip from reaching Aurora, she turns  into a firework–taking the Katy Perry song quite literally.
  41. The "Once Upon a Dream" sequence was created 4 different times and was so costly that it nearly bankrupt the studio.
  42. Barbara Luddy provided the voice of Merryweather. She had previously provided the voice for Lady in Lady and the Tramp. 
  43. I remember being so impressed as child that Maleficent curses, "Now shall you deal with me, O Prince, and all the powers of HELL!"
  44. To this day, whenever I'm baking something, I still pronounce teaspoon as tsp. Oh, Fauna, you're my baking spirit animal.
  45. Aurora is named for the dawn, but that was also her name in the ballet.
  46. The Brothers Grimm version of the story has her named Briar Rose, which is the name used when she goes into hiding.
  47. The part where Maleficent taunts Prince Phillip in the dungeon was originally supposed to be a scene in Snow White but the animators were not confident with the animation of the Prince which is why he appears in that film so little.
  48. To defeat Maleficent, Prince Phillip is gifted the Sword of Truth and Shield of Virtue by the three good fairies. Those sound like fancy condom names...
  49. Mary Costa, who provided the voice of Aurora, also worked as a professional opera singer. She was asked by Jackie Kennedy to sing at the memorial service for JFK in LA in 1963 and also performed at the inaugural concert at the Kennedy Center in DC.
  50. If there's one take-away from the film, it's this: spinning wheels are evil. Don't touch them!
  51. At its release, the film barely made enough to cover the 6 million dollars it cost to make the film.
  52. Because of all the times it has been re-released, it is now the second highest grossing film of 1959 (behind Ben-Hur)
  53. The film was only the second Disney animated film released on VHS (the first was Pinocchio)
  54. For the record, the last shot of Aurora's dress is pink. Flora wins.
  55. But, I think everyone is in agreement that blue is better. Team Merryweather!

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