“Walt Disney would be proud,” Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences prexy Sid Ganis said at the start of Friday night’s screening of the digitally remastered version of the 1959 animated masterpiece “Sleeping Beauty.”
Ganis noted how nice it was to see so many young people attending the sold out event at the fancy theater at the Academy’s headquarters in Beverly Hills. Host Leonard Maltin reiterated what a treat it was to see this incredible example of the artistry of the Disney studios in a classic fairy tale story that was produced in the widescreen format that was popular in the 1950s.
Maltin noted that “Sleeping Beauty was the last full ink-and-paint production at the Disney studios, meaning that it was the last Disney production where every bit of every frame was drawn or painted by a man or a woman, instead of making copies of drawings to achieve the animation effect.
And in “Sleeping Beauty,” boy does it show. The people who made this this film were very hard workers. And some of them were even in the audience on Friday night. Maltin singling several of them, including Alice Davis, widow of legendary Disney animator Marc Davis, out for applause before the movie unspooled.
Maltin also got a laugh out of the audience when he noted the movie’s 75-minute running time — a hallmark of classic Disney animated movies. They never run too long or get boring, like some movies today that run way more than two hours.
“We could watch this film twice and they’d still be watching ‘The Dark Knight,'” Maltin observed.
The restored “Sleeping Beauty” is a wonder to behold. Every detail of in the crowd scenes; every leaf in the forest, every crumbling stone in the dark, scary dungeon in Maleficient’s castle — it is captivating, and awe-inspiring when you think about men and women working for seven years to complete the movie. Pretty amazing all right.
Maltin further noted that there would be another screening of “Sleeping Beauty” coming up at Hollywood’s El Capitan theater on Aug. 28. That’s good news for the dozens of people who could not buy tickets to Friday’s sold-out event.
And a special guest at that screening will be actress Mary Costa, who provided the voice of Princess Aurora, or Briar Rose as she was also known.
It’s hard to believe watching the movie now, but when it was first released in 1959, many critics gave it lukewarm or even bad reviews. Critics at the time felt the movie was “cold” and didn’t have the usual Disney touches. The art style in “Sleeping Beauty” is very different from previous Disney movies, so that was probably one reason it felt like such a surprise to movie-goers back then.
But boy, does it hold up as a classic. The story is really interesting, there’s great songs and great singing, and it is very romantic. As Maltin observed, “What was all the carping about?”
After the screening, Maltin and three other men who work for Disney talked about how hard they worked to clean up the movie to make it look as good as possible. They spent a lot of time on this. There was even a bonus announcement from Tony Baxter, the Walt Disney Imagineer who has created so many cool rides for the Happiest Place on Earth — Disneyland! Baxter was also at the theater on Friday night enjoying the special screening.
Baxter gave the crowd really good news. To mark the 50th anniversary of the film, Disneyland has decided to reopen the walk-through part of Sleeping Beauty’s castle at Disneyland. It was a favorite of park-goers for many years, with a staircase leading guests through windows, props and other displays that tell the story of Sleeping Beauty. Baxter said the new version of the castle walk-through should be open by this fall.
To sum it all up — “Sleeping Beauty” is a one of a kind example of good art work. And to see it on the big screen at the fancy Academy theater was quite a treat. In fact it was “once upon a dream.”
(Cynthia Littleton contributed to this report.)