"Sleeping Beauty: 50th Anniversary Edition" DVD Review
October 15, 2008 by Zach Demeter
Disney is perhaps one of the most impressive companies when it comes to the digital disc format. With nearly their entire library of animated feature length films having seen the star treatment via their Platinum Edition line, Disney is now going back and revisiting the films that weren’t so lavishly treated. While some may complain that this is just Disney double dipping, if their efforts are anything as extravagant as their new two-disc platinum edition of Sleeping Beauty, then I welcome as many re-releases as they can manage. With all new bonus features and a video and audio transfer that brings t he film to life like never before, Sleeping Beauty – Two-Disc Platinum Edition is one to own.
Awaken your sense to the majesty of Sleeping Beauty, Walt Disney’s classic fairy tale. See more than you’ve ever seen before through the magic of state-of-the-art technology, and experience this groundbreaking film restored beyond its original brilliance, in a way Walt envisioned it – pristine, beautiful, utterly breathtaking. Sleeping Beauty will transform your home into a fantastic world your family will want to experience again and again.
Although not regarded as the definitive animated Disney outing, Sleeping Beauty is reminiscent of its title in more ways than one. With a wonderful little story packed into its short runtime of seventy-five minutes, the film is able to take you away to a world that is unlike other Disney films. Perhaps it’s just the new video transfer that’s causing me to fawn over the incredible animation that this film has, but I never really paid much attention to it before. Granted, I haven’t seen the film since I was about twelve, so it goes without saying that back then I could care less how awesome the fire breathing dragon looked…I just cared he was breathing fire.
I can’t say that the film was a huge hit in my house, although it was my sister’s favorite of the animated Disney films. I suppose at its core the film is a bit more female-centric, what with the leading lady and main villainess taking up the majority of the screen time, although the same could be said about The Little Mermaid which was my childhood favorite…so I don’t really know where the disconnect came. Perhaps since it was “older” I didn’t appreciate it as much back then…but man, I do now. I cannot believe how beautiful this film is, in more ways than one.
Sleeping Beauty manages to be more than simply a children’s film, which is where I think the disconnect came from when I was younger. Sure, there was action to behold, but as I watch it now I realize that it is really just a lot more adult in nature. Not just that, but the use of character names and writing in the film just are just a step above the usual generic Disney outing. To this day you don’t hear Princess Aurora nearly as much as you hear Jasmine or Cinderalla and I think it has to do with this film simply being more at the adult end of the spectrum. Yes, Sleeping Beauty merchandise is everywhere and always has been, but if you’ve never noticed that the Princess is simply referred to as “Sleeping Beauty” rather than Aurora directly. In any case, my main point is that while Sleeping Beauty is all ages, you’re going to enjoy it so much more as an adult—as odd as that is to hear.
All told the animation, storytelling and characters in Sleeping Beauty are wonderfully handcrafted and each fit together remarkably well. I am amazed at the depth that was hiding inside of this film all along, something that remained completely unbeknownst to me the entire time the VHS release remained housed in our TV entertainment drawer. There isn’t another film quite like Sleeping Beauty and this newest release of the film shows that off in ways that were previously unseen. Highly Recommended.
Not only did Disney revisit this film on DVD, but they made it their first ever Blu-ray release of one of their animated classics. Sadly I was only sent a DVD copy of the film to review, but it is still quite an impressive release nonetheless, although after seeing stills from the Blu-ray release I have to say that, straight away, if you have the opportunity to get the Blu-ray edition, then spring for that. Not only does it contain a DVD version of the film itself, but if you have a Blu-ray player to watch the full 1080p transfer on you’ll likely be dropping your jaw in short succession. As far as this DVD edition goes it comes with a fully reflective foil embossed slipcover that is really quite impressive to look at. Upon sliding it off you get the same art underneath and inside the casing we have the two discs as well as a handful of inserts to check out. The obligatory DVD guide is included, as are the Movie Rewards code and a coupon booklet, complete with $10 rebate offer if you decide to upgrade to the Blu-ray edition after purchasing this DVD edition.
So how does the new video transfer fair? Well those with the original release of this film will note that while its transfer was great, once you set your eyes on this one you may just break down in tears. The film has been opened up a bit more, sporting its native 2.55:1 aspect ratio. This does mean that, yes, you will have thicker bars on top and bottom but with the bonus of new animation and just an overall feeling of openness floods the picture as you watch it. Not to mention the color levels have been lightened and detail has been heightened, so you’re not only going to see extra animation on the sides but you’re going to see the animation itself in a way you’ve never seen before. As I said before I’ve seen what the Blu-ray transfer looks like, but this DVD is no slouch either; the 480p transfer here does manage to impress still, with minimal compression hindering the film. In addition, Disney’s new 5.1 “Enhanced Home Theater Surround Sound” mix is just as impressive. With a level of clarity that is once again a step above the old release, Sleeping Beauty sounds absolutely fantastic with the right set up. I don’t think you’ll find a better mix of this film anywhere, as it brings the voices through with such clarity that everything about it sounds newly recorded. In fact, just about everything about this film screams “new”, as if they’d completely redone it from scratch—it really does look that clean.
First in the extras department we have an audio commentary with John Lasseter, Critic Leonard Maltin, and Lead Animator Andreas Déja. This track seems to be a mixture of the commentary from the old release along with some new elements mixed in. No matter which way you cut it, however, it’s a fantastic listen with plenty of insight into the film and kind comments from all involved about the film itself. Next we have “Peter Tchaikovsky” an episode from the old Disneyland series, “Grand Canyon”, an Oscar-winning short set to the music of Ferde Grofe's Grand Canyon Suite. Closing out the first disc is a new rendition of “Once Upon a Dream” by Emily Osment as well as a song selection for the movie itself, complete with on-screen lyrics.
Moving onto disc two we have a mixture of new and old, with plenty of new content as well as a mixture of goodies from the original 2003 Special Edition. Returning from the 2003 release we have “Storyboard Sequences”, “Live-Action References” and “Sleeping Beauty Art Galleries.” Each one of these pieces gives us a glimpse into the production of the film itself, whether it be video sequences with the storyboard and life-action references or still galleries that include storyboard art, character designs and production photos. A trio of trailers in the “Publicity” area and finally “Four Artists Paint One Tree”, a nearly twenty-minute featurette that shows how four different artists came together to…well, paint a single tree. It may not sound exciting, but it is really quite interesting to see the amount of effort that can go into such a common object as a tree.
“Picture Perfect: Making of Sleeping Beauty” replaces the older making-of documentary with a vast array of new interviews and a generous helping of behind-the-scenes footage. There is plenty here to enjoy, especially for fans of the film, as interviews with the animators, cast and more are all brought into this forty-five minute featurette. “Eyvind Earle: The Man and His Art” takes a specific look at the background artist for the film, while "Sequence 8" dissects difficulty in getting the big forest scene animated.
An “Alternate Opening” is included, which consists of storyboards and sketches, while three “Deleted Songs”, again represented by sketches, are included as well. A quick “Castle Walkthrough” of the Castle Attraction is included and we close the disc with two different games, “Briar Rose's Enchanted Dance Game” and “Sleeping Beauty: Fun With Language Game.” Oddly enough for such an adult style film, I’m not sure why they even bothered with these games. Do kids really play them?
Overall Sleeping Beauty astounds on DVD and this edition easily replaces the previous 2003 DVD. Don’t even hesitate to upgrade this one—it’s well worth it. Highly Recommended.
Sleeping Beauty 50th Anniversary Platinum Edition is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.