Disney Animated Features
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Release Date: 29 January 1959
For the studio's next animated feature film, Disney turned once again to a traditional fairy tale and added a new princess to the studio's 'royal court' (after Snow White and Cinderella, of course).
The story: In a peaceful kingdom, a baby girl (Aurora) is born to the reigning monarchs. An evil witch places a curse on her, condemning her to die from the prick of a spinning wheel. A good fairy manages to commute this sentence to a long, deep sleep. Still, to avoid their daughter's fate, the King and Queen place her in the care of three good fairies, who raise the girl, now known as Briar Rose, anonymously in the forest. But of course, one cannot change one's destiny...
The Princess Aurora is perhaps the least known of Disney's princess heroines. The music was mostly adapted from a Tchaikovsky work based on the same tale; the only notable additional song is "Once Upon a Dream." Perhaps the lack of hummable songs contributes to its relative obscurity.
Another factor may be the flatness of the characters. The main villainess, Maleficent, seems to have as her only motive revenge for not being invited to a party. Aurora herself is the typical pretty heroine, and doesn't add much flavor outside of her singing voice.
The prince, Phillip, however, is a welcome departure from the previous two 'princess' films, in that he actually has some decent lines. Plus, he actually gets to defeat the film's antagonist! A significant change from Snow White's unnamed prince and Cinderella's Prince Charming.
For his work adapting the Tchaikovsky music, George Bruns was nominated for the Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture Academy Award, breaking a multi-year drought by Disney's animated features.
Sleeping Beauty is a good film. It's solid in nearly every respect, but not outstanding in any, and so is often -- unfairly -- overlooked.
Information for the Disney Animated Features series of nodes comes from the IMDb (www.imdb.com), Frank's Disney Page (http://www.informatik.uni-frankfurt.de/~fp/Disney/), and the dark recesses of my own memory.