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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Filmmaking > Industry > Studios > Animation > Waking Sleeping Beauty (2010/Disney DVD)

Waking Sleeping Beauty (2010/Disney DVD)


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: B     Documentary: B+



The producers of this wonderful film said they wanted the viewer to live the Disney experience as they had.  That meant no talking heads and no commentaries from experts or celebrities who were not actually there.  Some names the viewer will recognize, many you they won’t; but the information they divulge is extraordinary.


They film essentially takes the audience on a three decade journey through Disney animation.  The ups, the downs and everything in between are all there, without prejudice.  It is admirable to think that a studio that has been so dead set on making their endeavors to have surmounted by magic alone; that now they can pull back the curtain to reveal the turmoil from within.  Waking Sleeping Beauty is a passion piece that shows how the studio found its magic again.  Walt Disney made the house of mouse using boat loads of creativity and innovative animation; but somewhere between live action flicks and theme parks, the animation part was benched.  So this film focusing on the hard truth that in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s Disney animation was in bad shape, simply going through the motions and producing uninspiring films.  Times had gotten so bad that the animators were actually kicked out of their studio and moved to an off lot facility, composed of dingy trailers and dusty cubicles.  The fact of the matter is that Disney had lost its way and it would take something big to bring it back.  In 1985, Disney’s the expensive Black Cauldron was beat out by The Care Bear Movie (by millions) and in the end was a big blow to both the animators and the studio heads.


Don Hahn directed this film as an insider who chronicles the transformation Disney began to take after the Black Cauldron.  There is no sugar coating here, the film is blunt and uses old ‘home video’ footage, studio exclusives, publicity reels (rather than talking heads) to recreate the experiences of the time.  It was an uncertain and somewhat hostile time for the studio and it took a variety of new faces and faith the recreate the magic Walt started 50 years earlier.  The introduction of studio heads Frank Wells, Michael Eisner, Jeffrey Katzenberg was a major change for the studio; something that Roy E. Disney welcomed and was guarded about at the same time.  Peter Schneider was also brought in at this time at the creative/managerial end, something the animators weren’t always the most comfortable with.


Interestingly, younger audiences forget the “bad times” Disney had and can only remember successes like The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin; but it was actually a much slower progression than most realize.  After Black Cauldron there was The Great Mouse Detective, then Oliver and Company before Disney decided to take a leap of faith with the Broadway inspired Little Mermaid.  Disney suddenly had a winning formula that they were going to run with; and suddenly the world had Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King.  It wasn’t without fights, emotion, or heartache; but in the end it was a success.


The film admirably doesn’t make it seem that Disney’s Renaissance period was something of pure magic or something that came easy.  Even the Renaissance itself came to a plateau as unsustainable box office numbers and awards inflated egos and created tensions within Disney Studios.  Waking Sleeping Beauty is beautifully frank as it paints a candid picture of survival for a wavering studio.  Any Disney lover should view this film and treasure it for its insight, wisdom, and ability to document a less than perfect time for a seemingly perfect studio.


The technical features on this DVD are not perfect due to the heavy use of ‘home video’ and ‘vault footage,’ but pass as satisfactory.  The picture is a 1.78 X 1 Anamorphic Widescreen that doesn’t hide the fact that the variety of footage sources may have hindered the quality.  The picture quality is never horrible, but switching between film, analog video tape, and digital sources there is an undeniable amount of color changes, grit/grime, and quality that has some major ups and downs.  The audio is a 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound that comes mainly from the front and like the picture varies in quality.


The extras are actually very nice and include the following:


Feature Length Commentary

Don Hahn and Peter Schneider give a nice commentary track, offering factoids about why they made the film and the decisions they made along the way.

Deleted Scenes

“Why Wake Up Sleeping Beauty?”

Discusses why the film was even made and why it was done in such a candid manner

“The Sailor, the Mountain Climber, the Artist, and the Poet”

          A nice eulogy for four men who helped recreate a studio that was floundering

“A Reunion

“Studio Tours

Randy Cartwright’s ‘home videos’ that were used to make the film are collected here for everyone’s full viewing pleasure


          Briefly discusses the man who created the empire and the legacy he left.



-   Michael P. Dougherty II


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