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October 7, 2008

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DVD of the Week – Sleeping Beauty (1959)

by HELEN GEIB

To mark the 50th anniversary of the release of the animated classic Sleeping Beauty, Disney is re-releasing the film on DVD in a new restoration. I haven’t seen the first DVD edition of the film, so I can’t say how this new one compares. However, I did have the good fortune to see the restoration in the theater a few weeks ago, and I can enthusiastically report it looks and sounds fantastic. Every inch of the (very widescreen) frame is filled with beautifully detailed animation rendered in vibrant, rich colors. The sound is clear and lovely, with music inspired by Tchaikovsky’s “Sleeping Beauty” ballet. The tagline from the poster is no exaggeration. One of the best of the Disney animated features, this is a work of great artistry with the storytelling to match.

The plot and characters surely need little introduction. If by some chance you haven’t seen the film, or are like I was and remember it only vaguely from childhood viewings, pick it up! You’re in for a treat. It’s a work of many great elements in perfect balance. Those elements begin with the unified visual design, more stylized than other Disney fairy tale features and boasting gorgeous backgrounds and distinctive character designs. The plot mixes comedy, romance, and thrills to excellent effect. The three good fairies are sweetly comical, the young lovers are charming, the minor characters are amusing or cute or both, and villainness Maleficent- ah, Maleficent!- is simply superb.

While the film itself is the best reason to get the DVD, it does come loaded with special features. Some of the features promise to be of interest to animation aficionados, like the alternate opening, deleted songs, and “making of” short documentary. Most of the features are aimed squarely at a younger demographic, including a new music video of the song “Once Upon a Dream” performed by some girl (not Miley Cyrus) from Hannah Montana, some sort of in-film text messaging feature, a “virtual tour” of the castle, and the “all-new enhanced dance game- with help from Briar Rose’s forest friends, you can learn how to dance.” The Disney website where I obtained this information did not specify what kind of dance moves the forest friends teach, but did promise “much, much more” in the way of features beyond this list.

Other new releases this week: Boy A, The Happening, Paranoid Park, The Visitor, You Don’t Mess with the Zohan


1 Comment Post a comment
  1. miriam
    Oct 9 2008

    I’m looking forward to seeing this again. The climactic scenes with the Prince fighting the thorns and the witch turned dragon are really terrific, way more exciting than many a ‘live’ action film.

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