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HTF DVD Review: Sleeping Beauty: 50th Anniversary Edition



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#1 of 14 Neil Middlemiss

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Posted October 04 2008 - 03:23 AM

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Sleeping Beauty 2-Disc Platinum
50th Anniversary Edition




Studio: Walt Disney
Year: 1959
US Rating: Rated G - General Audiences
Film Length: 75 Mins
Aspect Ratio: 2.55:1
Audio: English Spanish & French 5.1 'Disney Enhanced Home Theater Mix plus a Restored Original Theatrical Soundtrack
Subtitles:




US Release Date: October 7th, 2008

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“Sweet princess... if through this wicked witch's trick, a spindle should your finger prick... a ray of hope there still may be in this, the gift I give to thee. Not in death, but just in sleep, this fateful prophecy you'll keep. And from this slumber you shall wake, when true love's kiss, the spell shall break.”


The enchanting fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty is perhaps the greatest and most enduring of all time, existing almost in an untouchable, undiminished paragon of stories that appeal to our childhood sense of wonder and engender such warmth and hope that we treasure it as a staple of innocence.

The tale of Sleeping Beauty has a rich history steeped in elegant ballets, rich classic retellings and intriguing versions by the likes of the Grimm brothers, Robin McKinley’s Spindles End and even Orson Scott Card’s Enchantment. The genesis of the story is often attributed the first tale in Charles Perrault’s Contes de ma Mère l'Oye . It was, however, Tchaikovsky’s ballet which premiered in Saint Petersburg in January 1890, accompanied by his lush and lyrical Opus 66 music, a romantic and empyreal dance of strings, brass and wind instruments that provide the most significant foundation upon which Walt Disney’s monumental animated classic was organically grown. George Brun’s musical adaptation of Tchaikovsky’s ballet, set to a story that draws upon both the original text and elements of the German and Italian variations, unfolds with some of the most truly incredible, whimsical and yet grounded animation that has ever been produced, helping Sleeping Beauty remain ageless and nonpareil.

Sleeping Beauty begins with the opening of the story book and entry into a seemingly idyllic land where King Stefan and his Queen are celebrating the birth of their daughter, Princess Aurora. During the rejoicing of her christening, three good fairies arrive to bestow upon her magical gifts. Flora endows her with the gift of beauty and Fauna confers upon her the gift of song. But, before Merryweather can bequeath her gift, the malevolent Maleficent appears, slyly strutting her terrifically terrifying and insidious self around before unleashing a curse upon the newborn. Her vile curse would have the young princess Aurora die when she pricks her finger upon a spinning wheel before the sun sets on her 16th birthday. Once the evil Maleficent vanishes triumphant, the good fairy Merryweather waves her magic wand to outwit the evil queen, turning the threat of death into peaceful slumber; that should she prick her finger, she will instead sleep until her true love awakens her with true loves kiss. The good fairies choose to take young Aurora under their protective care, hiding as mortal old women among the cover of the forest, a duty they intend to uphold until the sun has set on the young princesses 16th birthday and she can be returned to her royal parents and, from the prearrange marriage, betroth herself to Prince Phillip, the son of a king from a different land.

On the day of her 16th birthday, she meets a stranger and falls in love. But her joy is dashed when she is told she is intended to another because she is in fact not Briar Rose, whom she believed she was all her life, and is actually a princess. But lo and behold, despite the years of protection from the good fairies, the evil Maleficent discovers Aurora’s whereabouts and ensnares her, setting her into an eternal sleep.

We should all know by now how the story ends, but it doesn’t matter. Watching this lush and truly incredible piece of cinema, the good versus evil tale captures you, unfolding with deliberate and graceful pace into an animated triumph of uncommon grandeur.

Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty is splendid art; an epic animated accomplishment that took almost ten years to complete. Its brilliantly distinct animated style was carefully designed to set it apart from the recent animated films from Disney based on traditional fairy tales. Production designer Eyvind Earle painted an incredibly detailed set of backgrounds, created the settings and designed the color palette. This delectable animation style has stood out since its release and grown into one of the most loved, if not the most love animated film in Walt Disney’s incredible library. The style employed was done so under the ingenious eye of Walt himself. And the natural, flowing feel to the animation was accomplished by having every shot filmed using live actors for the animators to model. And the result is art.

Under the guiding eye of Clyde Geronimi, supervising director, Sleeping Beauty was carefully crafted over nearly 10 years by directors Les Clark, Eric Larson, Wolfgang Reitherman, a team of writers and the painstaking artistry of an army of animators. An arduous and expensive journey to bring this film to fruition. With story work beginning at the start of the decade, the vocal performances recorded in 1952 and the actual work of animation taking five years until 1958 before being released on January 29, 1959. The production was estimated to cost $6,000,000. An enormous sum that, because returns upon the film’s initial release only amounted to approximately $3,000,000, almost bankrupt the studio. Clearly, however, the investment turned out to be wise as it has returned for Walt Disney untold fortunes through the years having been re-released theatrically in 1970, 1979, 1986 and 1995. This of course, in addition to its appearance on VHS and DVD.

The vocal talent is strong and steady throughout this lavish production. The characters of the three good fairies, the humorous and warm soul of the film, are voiced by Verna Felton (Flora), Barbara Luddy (Merryweather) and Barbara Jo Allen (Fauna). Delightful performances that capture that sense of a Grandmothers caring, with a loving and always cuddly quality. The befuddlement element of the three good fairies brings about many smiles and their likeable and nice nature is endearing. Princess Aurora/Briar Rose is voiced by Mary Costa with a sweet, innocent performance and Prince Phillip’s valiant character is voiced by Bill Shirley. The delicious, regal yet evil Maleficent is voiced by Eleanor Audley with a larger than life sinister wickedness, even frightening at moments. This character defined malevolence for evil characters for generations after with the devil horns, snaking fire and a levitating presence that came alive with Audley’s splendid vocal performance.

Signature moments in this film resonate as much today as in years past. The delightful song “Once Upon A Dream” is gentle, lighthearted, sweet, soft and playful all at once. By contrast, the ferocious dragon sequence is bold, exciting and impressive in a way that has inspired sequences in films ever since.

Walt Disney has delivered one of the greatest animated films with a release of unquestionable high standards. A remarkable restoration of an ageless classic. Congratulations Disney!



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Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty was originally released to theaters with both standard 35mm and large format 70mm prints. It was produced in the Super Technirama 70 widescreen 70mm film process and, quite honestly, looks so incredibly grand, detailed and vivid in this 50th anniversary release that it has never looked better. I recall picking up the limited time VHS release of this film years ago and enjoying the colors and smooth flowing animation. That was the dark ages compared to the industrial revolution that this edition represents. Presented here in an expanded version, revealing more image information than ever before with a 2.55:1 aspect ratio, enhanced for widescreen televisions.

As the film begins, the sublime green, blue, red and gold-yellow of the title cards catch your attention. But once we enter the land of Aurora and Maleficent, Sleeping Beauty shows off the magnificence of Eyvind Earle artistry. The details in this utterly dust and debris free restored version are striking. The wholly clean print delivers details that are uncovered here, lines in the brickwork of the castle, subtlety in the depth of field work of the layered backgrounds and an almost 3-D effect at times that is remarkable for a film nearly 50 years old.

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The solid blacks are deep, the contrast with the purples and greens that surround the evil Maleficent are crisp and the warmer, richer colors of the castle and the forest contain such clarity that you will be wowed. This is among the finest restorations I have witness for a film of this age.

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The scene in which the captured Prince Phillip is surrounded by the Maleficent’s goons is a ripe example of light/dark contrast, detail in shadow and the effective use of color to set a scene and mood.

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In the scene where the forest animals playfully take the Prince’s robe and boots, demonstrates the vivacity of colors – leaping off the screen. Outstanding!



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This 50th Anniversary edition of Sleeping Beauty comes with an all new 5.1 ‘Disney Enhanced Home Theater Mix’ (DEHT), with accompanying French and Spanish versions. But most importantly for enthusiasts and completist’s, Walt Disney has provided a restored original theatrical soundtrack.

The new DEHT audio track is wonderful. The adaptation of Tchaikovsky’s music exists throughout the speakers with warmth. The trumpets blare, the strings delight with clarity and dynamic surround sound delivers. The mix is enveloping and there is surprising energy in the bass. Hints of the original audio are present, however, when the sound is just a little thinner than the surrounding scenes. The operatic voice of Briar Rose in the forest scene echo through the surround speakers with crispness; impressive in the softer moments, superb in the darker moments, and notable throughout.




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Disc One

Backstage Disney
Audio Commentary with John Lasseter, Andreas Deja & Leonard Maltin – A film director, film critic and animator introduce the film and provide a thorough, anecdote filled commentary that, while a little slow beginning becomes a great listen. Maltin provides wonderful context for the time; the era that this film premiered. Sound quotes are featured throughout, with original comments from Walt Disney and others pulled in to accentuate a point and further elaborate the historical information.

Princess Fun Facts - Watch the entire feature with fun little information snippets popping up throughout. The information isn’t always forthcoming and it appears a little pixilated on screen, but could be of value to patient young children.

Grand Canyon - (28:56) – This “pictorial interpretation of Ferde Grofe’s ‘ Grand Canyon Suite’” , photographed in cinemascope, features images of the beautiful Arizona landmark set to expressive and lyrical music. It’s and incredibly simple idea, but peaceful to sit back and take time to enjoy.

The Peter Tchaikovsky Story - (49:23) – As the title card indicates for this bonus feature, this show originally aired on January 30, 1959 and was the first to be broadcast in with some widescreen images and the first stereo simulcast on TV. Also explained is the availability of two versions, both available here in color where the footage is still around. Walt explains how the viewer can achieve ‘stereophonic’ sound by listening to the TV in addition to a radio or radios before we are treated to reenactments of the composer’s life in true Disney form.

Music & More
”Once Upon A Time” Music Video - (3:38) – An updated version of the film’s signature song (based on Tchaikovsky’s romantic piece) performed by Hanna Montana’s Emily Osment with footage of the film spliced into a simple music video.

Disney Song Selection Jump directly to any of five songs from the film with optional onscreen lyrics to sing along to.
”Once Upon A Dream” – Main Title - (00:55)
”Once Upon A Dream” - (2:31)
”Hail To Princess Aurora” - (1:21)
”Sleeping Beauty” - (1:48)
”I Wonder” - (1:20)

Disc Two

Games & Activities
Briar Rose’s Enchanted Disney Game - Play a dancing game with the animals or learn how to waltz with this cute feature.

Sleeping Beauty Fun with Language Game – The instructions are delivered in what sounds like slow-motion, and are clearly intended for the very young and only the very young need play this.

Backstage Disney
Art Galleries – Presented here are art galleries for a variety of areas of the production. Numerous images are available as thumbnails that can be selected to enlarge the image. The impressive work here reminds of just why Sleeping Beauty is the reference for great animation. Galleries available are:
Visual Development
Character Design
Storyboard Art
Live Action Reference
The Sleeping Beauty Storybook
Layouts and Backgrounds
Production Photos
Publicity

Original Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough Attraction – Available here are three options, Two 3D walkthroughs and a 10 minute look back at the history of the attraction. First up is the original walkthrough (auto mode), then you have a walkthrough with guided tour by Walt Disney Imagineer Tony Baxter and finally a history of the Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough Attraction. Customizable options allow you to select an icon of one of the three good fairies for a more detailed look during the tour.

Sequence 8 (Forest Scene) - (5:30) – A look at the expensive forest sequence, a passion of Walt’s to be completed, and how it became notorious among animators.

Take a look at this bonus feature here: Sequence 8 (Bonus)


Publicity – Available here is the Original Teaser trailer, the Original Theatrical Trailer and the Re-Release trailer from 1995.

Take a look at the trailer here: Trailer


Four Artists Paint One Tree - (16:08) – This “Walt Disney Adventure In Art” has Walt Disney discussing artistry, influence and compromising personal stylistic choices for the benefit of the picture. We get to see different painted interpretations of the same tree with four different distinct styles.

Storyboard Sequences - Storyboards for two sequences, “The Fairies Put The Castle To Sleep” (1:49) and “The Capture of the Prince” (2:15) are introduced by supervising animator Andreas Deja. The split screen comparison allows an appreciation of the value of storyboards and how the final product mirrors the framing of the storyboard quite often.

Picture Perfect: The Making Of Sleeping Beauty - (43:32) – Great ‘making of’ documentary interviewing film historians, animators and many others discussing the delight and impact of Sleeping Beauty. Here are absorbing discussions of this film that confer great appreciation on the fleshing out of the simple story and the historical influence and crafting of the remarkable animation style. The struggle between the animators on Sleeping Beauty and the man Walt put in charge of delivering the unique style of the picture is fascinating.

Eyvind Earle: The Man And His Art - (7:33) – A short reflection on Eyvind, his upbringing, his temper and how he reclaimed his passion for painting, which gave him the opening to work for Disney.

Take a look at this bonus feature here: Eyvind’s Beginnings (Bonus)


Alternate Opening - (3:28) – Storyboards for an alternate opening sequences. Some images are in color and others black & white. A more subdued opening than the one used, less a fanfare of celebration and more a happy sing-song celebration.

Live Action Reference - (2:11) – A look at the footage of actors shot for animators to use as reference for their drawings.

Deleted Songs
It Happens I Have A Picture Version 1 - (3:44) – This version has the two kings singing about the virtues of their children.
It Happens I Have A Picture Version 2 - (2:51) – This version has the lyrics used as dialogue.
Riddle Diddle - (2:45)
Go To Sleep - (2:47)

Sneak Peaks



Final Thoughts

Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty is a timeless fairytale and, not only one of Disney’s greatest accomplishments, but one of the most eternal of any film. With its sophisticated animation, universal appeal and simple joy for such an ambitious undertaking, Sleeping Beauty is a must own. This tremendous 50th Anniversary edition salutes the fine cinematic accomplishment, paying it due reverence and providing for children, families and enthusiasts alike many treats to satiate our love of this wonderful, wonderful film.


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Neil Middlemiss
Kernersville, NC
"Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure Science" – Edwin Hubble
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#2 of 14 MatthewA

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Posted October 04 2008 - 11:10 AM

Great review, but I must raise one issue:

I don't recall the film getting any theatrical exposure (on a national level) after 1986. The only 1990s reissues I can recall (and I went to all of them) were The Jungle Book in 1990, 101 Dalmatians in 1991, Pinocchio in 1992, and Snow White in 1993. Perhaps there were plans to reissue SB in theaters but they were scrapped?

Enough is enough, Disney. No more evasions or excuses. We DEMAND the release Song of the South on Blu-ray along with the uncut version of Bedknobs and Broomsticks on Blu-ray. I will not support anything your company produces until then.


#3 of 14 Stephen_J_H

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Posted October 04 2008 - 11:31 AM

Sleeping Beauty enjoyed an international rerelease in 1995 and a limited US rerelease in 2002.
"My opinion is that (a) anyone who actually works in a video store and does not understand letterboxing has given up on life, and (b) any customer who prefers to have the sides of a movie hacked off should not be licensed to operate a video player."-- Roger Ebert

#4 of 14 Lord Dalek

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Posted October 04 2008 - 11:33 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by MatthewA
Great review, but I must raise one issue:

I don't recall the film getting any theatrical exposure (on a national level) after 1986. The only 1990s reissues I can recall (and I went to all of them) were The Jungle Book in 1990, 101 Dalmatians in 1991, Pinocchio in 1992, and Snow White in 1993. Perhaps there were plans to reissue SB in theaters but they were scrapped?
Sleeping Beauty received a very limited reissue in 1995 (it was originally scheduled for '93 but got delayed two years).

#5 of 14 cafink

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Posted October 04 2008 - 05:33 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by MatthewA
I don't recall the film getting any theatrical exposure (on a national level) after 1986. The only 1990s reissues I can recall (and I went to all of them) were The Jungle Book in 1990, 101 Dalmatians in 1991, Pinocchio in 1992, and Snow White in 1993. Perhaps there were plans to reissue SB in theaters but they were scrapped?

Wasn't The Little Mermaid also re-released in theaters in the late '90s?
 

 


#6 of 14 James 'Tiger' Lee

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Posted October 04 2008 - 11:43 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by cafink
Wasn't The Little Mermaid also re-released in theaters in the late '90s?

it was in the uk for sure

#7 of 14 MatthewA

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Posted October 05 2008 - 08:15 AM

Yes, I forgot about The Little Mermaid reissue in 1997. Also Oliver & Company in 1996.

Enough is enough, Disney. No more evasions or excuses. We DEMAND the release Song of the South on Blu-ray along with the uncut version of Bedknobs and Broomsticks on Blu-ray. I will not support anything your company produces until then.


#8 of 14 Will_C

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Posted October 05 2008 - 08:44 AM

Is this new Platinum Edition worth upgrading to from the '03 Special Edition? Are the extras that much better?


Never mind. I just found a thread on this topic. Sorry.
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#9 of 14 Lord Dalek

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Posted October 05 2008 - 09:45 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by MatthewA
Yes, I forgot about The Little Mermaid reissue in 1997. Also Oliver & Company in 1996.
You also forgot the retitled "Adventures of The Great Mouse Detective" in 1992, but I'm not complaining.

#10 of 14 Bill Thomann

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Posted October 05 2008 - 01:21 PM

Great review. Sounds like Disney hit one outta the park on this release. I'll be picking it up early Tuesday morning.

#11 of 14 BCGHR2

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Posted October 06 2008 - 08:43 AM

Actually.....

SLEEPING BEAUTY was photographed in the Technirama format which runs 35mm film sideways (like VistaVision) resulting in a negative frame that is 8 sprocket holes wide as opposed to 4 sprocket holes tall. In addition the system used a 1.5 anamorphic squeeze and then Technicolor would add an additional squeeze to make the 35mm prints compatible with conventional CinemaScope. The 70mm blow-up prints (un-squeezed) were known as Super Technirama 70. There was never a photographic system branded as Super Technirama 70. In fact, a better description would be "Photographed in Technirama - Presented in Super Terchnirama 70."

I attended a screening and they said that this new Blu-ray came from 4K scans of the original 35mm Successive Exposure Technirama negative. Because Disney started with this negative they did not have to deal with the secondary optical step that was always necessary and they could also present everything that was on the negative

#12 of 14 Neil Middlemiss

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Posted October 08 2008 - 11:00 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by BCGHR2
Actually.....

SLEEPING BEAUTY was photographed in the Technirama format which runs 35mm film sideways (like VistaVision) resulting in a negative frame that is 8 sprocket holes wide as opposed to 4 sprocket holes tall. In addition the system used a 1.5 anamorphic squeeze and then Technicolor would add an additional squeeze to make the 35mm prints compatible with conventional CinemaScope. The 70mm blow-up prints (un-squeezed) were known as Super Technirama 70. There was never a photographic system branded as Super Technirama 70. In fact, a better description would be "Photographed in Technirama - Presented in Super Terchnirama 70."

I attended a screening and they said that this new Blu-ray came from 4K scans of the original 35mm Successive Exposure Technirama negative. Because Disney started with this negative they did not have to deal with the secondary optical step that was always necessary and they could also present everything that was on the negative


Thanks for the information! Have you had the chance to spin this at home?
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#13 of 14 Michael Osadciw

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Posted October 08 2008 - 03:35 PM

I can retire my laserdisc! I'll pick up the BD tomorrow. Thanks for the review.

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#14 of 14 Simon Caleb

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Posted October 14 2008 - 03:16 AM

Finally they have corrected the large amount of vertical picture info cropped from the laserdisc and previous sd-dvd transfers.
This classic now has head and leg room to breath!
It's a 'need to know' situation, Paramount need to know we want F13th 2-8's restored and uncensored. No amount of talking head extras will do.





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