Jeffrey Katzenberg gets drawn as the evil witch in "Waking Sleeping Beauty."

Jeffrey Katzenberg gets drawn as the evil witch in “Waking Sleeping Beauty,” a work of corporate self-congratulation masquerading as a look at Disney animation from 1984-94. Vaguely focusing on the business rather than the art of the Mouse House’s kiddie fare, the docu has but one revelatory insight — that “The Lion King” can be read as an allegory of the territorial peeing match between big cats Michael Eisner, Roy Disney and, least flatteringly, Katzenberg. Beyond that, there aren’t even enough animated clips to sustain one’s interest, although Disney plans a theatrical release in April.

A segment devoted to a margaritas and Mexican food party — the animators’ break from “hideous” meetings with Katzenberg — typifies the irrelevance of the pic, narrated and directed by “Lion” producer Don Hahn. Though a glimpse of a humorously depressed-looking Tim Burton (an animator in the “Fox and the Hound” days) begs for a follow-up that never comes, late lyricist Howard Ashman gets his due in the docu’s least egregious passages. Alas, even the failed films of the period are more interesting than they appear to Hahn, whose vocal excitement over “Little Mermaid” toy sales seems telling.

Waking Sleeping Beauty


A Walt Disney Motion Picture Studios release of a Stone Circle Pictures, Red Shoes production. Produced by Peter Schneider, Don Hahn. Directed by Don Hahn. Written by Patrick Pacheco.


Camera (color/B&W, DV), Steve Green; editors, Ellen Keneshea, Vartan Nazarian, John Damien Ryan; music, Chris Bacon. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Real to Reel), Sept. 12, 2009. (Also in Telluride Film Festival.) MPAA Rating: PG. Running time: 86 MIN.


Ron Clements, Roy Disney, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Peter Schneider, Rob Minkoff, Michael D. Eisner, Lisa Keene, George Scribner, Gary Trousdale. Narrator: Don Hahn.
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