Blu-Ray & DVD Versions Covered In Review
Cover Art and Menus: 8/10
The cover for the 50th Anniversary edition of Sleeping Beauty is nicely done. The cover is a Hodge-Podge of images from the fantastical tale, and it is what Disney is good at. You have a fire breathing dragon, the princess, the castle, and the prince on a horse with a sword. Pretty much sums up the movie. I normally do not really like Hodge-Podge covers, but this is Disney, and this is a cartoon. It is colorful and vivid, just like the film, and it works.
The menus are also quite good. The main menu features a shot of the magical kingdom with a bird flying across the screen. Then the menu actually unfolds from the top of the screen, with a beautiful shot of the castle in the background. Nicely done, and great use of the old school animation. Perfect for what this movie is about. The only thing that would make these better is if they were a bit less static.
The Movie: 9/10
Sleeping Beauty is a Disney classic, and one that I had not visited in quite some time. I admit I was a bit hesitant about watching a movie that somehow as a child I seemed to skip over. I know that I watched it, but it never resonated with me for some reason. I am not sure why, because it is a phenomenal story and it is presented in such a magical way that I can’t believe that as a child I did not love this. Perhaps I did and I have forgotten.
Anyways, for those of you who have lived under a rock, or like me had kind of forgotten, Sleeping Beauty is the tale of Princess Aurora, who is born to a King and a Queen in a magical kingdom of old. Things look great until Maleficent, the local evil fairy, shows up uninvited and in a bit of a rage, casts a spell on the baby Princess. The spell dictates that Princess Aurora, on her 16th birthday, will prick her finger on a spinning wheel, and will die. Of course the King and Queen are devastated, but they have 3 fairies who take matters into their own hands, and cast another spell that tweaks Maleficent’s a bit. Instead of dying, the Princess is to fall asleep when she pricks her finger, only to be awoken by the kiss of her true love. The fairies, Flora, Fauna, and Merry weather, also grant Princess Aurora the gift of song and the gift of beauty.
The fairies themselves are some of the original Disney humor characters. They are an integral part of the story, but their interplay is also pure court jester. they fight over the color of Princess Aurora’s 16th birthday dress, they fail miserably when trying to bake a cake without using magic, and they generally are the comedic sidekick character that we now see in almost all animated movies. They also represent the good to Maleficent’s pure evil.
The fairies agree with the King to take Princess Aurora to the woods to hide her from the evil Maleficent, and to raise her as their own. They decide not to use magic at all, in case it should draw attention to the Princess. They attempt to hide the girl until after her 16th birthday, when they will return her to the castle. Princess Aurora of course grows up in the forest, unaware that she is in fact a princess, and unaware of the curse that has been placed upon her.
As fate would have it, Princess Aurora ends up meeting Prince Phillip while on a stroll in the woods near her 16th birthday, and the young Prince is smitten. Interestingly Phillip’s father, a nobleman, has arranged the marriage of Phillip to Aurora through the king, even though neither Phillip nor Aurora know of her true identity. Aurora ends up pricking her finger, and the story unfolds as Phillip is forced to travel to Maleficent’s castle to rescue the sleeping princess with his kiss. He valiantly fights Maleficent as she transforms into a giant dragon, as the 3 fairies do their best to help him.
The story is a great one, and the richness of the animation and voice acting is superb. There really is something to the old style Disney films that just feels grandiose. I love the songs, with the choir-type ensembles, and the humor and drama are intermixed to perfection. The movie is of course a cartoon, and kids should enjoy it, but there are also themes that are aimed squarely at adults, thus making this a great family movie.
Perhaps I am getting a bit older and wiser, or perhaps I just long for some of my youth, but these older Disney classics are really just amazing to watch. I have really enjoyed watching the Disney classics lately, and Sleeping Beauty really stands out for not only its look but for the story as well. The restoration is amazing, and it really is hard to believe that this movie originally was released 50 years ago.
Audio & Video: 9/10
Once again Disney have nailed the digital restoration of a classic movie. Sleeping Beauty looks amazing in its new 2.55:1 wide screen image. The colors are intense and crisp, and the entire thing looks amazing, even on regular DVD. By making the movie even wider than previous dvd releases, it just offers so much of the original in its brilliant restoration. Even the dark scenes were sharp, and much of the later parts of the film are dark and moody. I was very amazed at the look of the DVD release.
The audio is presented in 5.1 Disney Enhanced Home Theater Mix (DEHT), and is evenly mixed and brilliant. I absolutely love hearing the old songs sung by the massive chorus booming across my speakers. The sound was rich and basically spot on. It truly is hard to believe that this movie was made so many years ago.
Audio & Video Blu-Ray Version By Ascully: 10/10
Being Disney’s first Platinum Edition on Sony’s HD format, I had high hopes that they would do something special with the release and guess what, they did. Using a super high bitrate AVC encode that averages about 35Mbps and sticking as close as possible to the theatrical ratio of 2.35:1 this is a breathtaking transfer. There is so much detail packed into every frame and at times you get a almost 3D feel. Blacks are super black and color levels are on par with a modern release. Remember this movie is 50 years old and this is the best it has ever looked, one of the commentators on the audio track has seen the original theatrical version and he mentioned that this beats it hands down.
Audio is brought to life using the DTS HD-MA 7.1codec and the resulting sound mix is incredible, there are times you will forget this is a old movie that was originally presented in mono. Randy Thornton and Terry Porter spent over a year remixing this movie and it shows, voices are crisp and the music comes from all directions during the films action scenes. Overall a perfect transfer both sonically and visually Disney have set the bar here for animation presented in HD and its going to be hard to top.
Oh and as a added bonus Disney have included the DVD version of the movie with the Blu-Ray as a seperate disc. This is a superb idea and one I would much rather have over the Digital Copy version which is next to useless to me.
If you haven’t seen Sleeping Beauty in ages, you really owe it to yourself to check it out. The story is classic, and it really is a great cartoon. If you have kids, they will love it, and so will you as an adult. I went in not really remembering the movie, and fearing that it would be very female oriented, but it really is not the case. It has both a great female lead and a great male lead in the prince. My son was just as drawn in by the fight with the evil witch as a dragon as he was by the beautiful songs sung by Princess Aurora. I would definitely recommend renting this movie, especially with all of the extras. If you are a fan of Disney, this release of Sleeping Beauty looks so good and is so full of new extras that you should buy it. As Ascully also added, the Blu-Ray version looks insane, and would be well worth the extra cash if you are serious about your Disney collection.
Overall Score 9/10