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Waking Sleeping Beauty (2010)

April 6, 2010

VERDICT:
8/10 Tragic Kingdoms

Might be best thing that’s come out of Disney since The Lion King.

Waking Sleeping Beauty is a documentary about the Disney animation studio in 1984 and how over the course of ten years it went from being an unsuccessful money pit that was churning out movies no one was seeing to being the most profitable arm of Hollywood that changed the face of animation in every way imaginable.

Now, I can’t remember the last time I went to see a Disney movie in theaters and the last time I probably watched one otherwise was ages ago on a VHS copy while babysitting my little cousins. And while I still have great memories of growing up on them as a kid, it’s been a long time since I’ve felt that Disney magic.

I blame puberty.

So then this movie comes along and my good buddy Fred, the Disney fanboy that he is, suggests we make a night out of it. Naturally, I was skeptical, but ever since that fateful night, the magic has returned tenfold.

The entire movie is comprised of archive footage of the animators working their asses off, the countless sketches that made it into the final cut, the countless sketches that didn’t and the people that made it all possible at the height of their creativity. It’s all narrated by the very same people it’s about and considering how high up on the corporate ladder some of these folks are, it’s pretty impressive how candid and honest they are about all the highs and lows that happened over the course of ten long years.

And that’s the most surprising about all this, that it’s the corporate aspect of the movie and the ever-changing relationship between Disney’s head honchos – Roy Disney, Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg – that makes for the most interesting dynamic of the whole documentary. Since I was only eight by the time things really came to a head for these guys in ’94, I knew next to nothing about the very public rise and fall of these these three fellas in their struggle to become the next Walt Disney. By the end, it’s hard to say who was the good, the bad and the ugly of the trio, but that’s also what makes their success story so bittersweet. Never ceases to amaze me how easily power changes some people.

But after all is said and done, it really is about the movies that made these ten years so significant, and the movies really are something else. This was the decade of The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King – the four movies that pretty much changed the game and gave the world of animation a whole new degree of credibility. Even if you’ve never seen them or are like me and haven’t seen them since grade school, believe me, you’ll want to see them again.

Waking Sleeping Beauty is a little bit of everything and it’s also what makes Disney so great. Like the studio itself, it starts out a little slow but before long becomes a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the ungodly amount of time, the eccentric personalities and grueling efforts that went into making these movies. It’s compelled me to dig up my old VCR and raid all my cousins’ movie collections. It made me feel like a kid again and as much as I love Pixar nowadays, there’s truly nothing like rediscovering that Disney magic.

As much as you may believe that Disney movies are for just for kids or that a movie like Beauty and the Beast is just for girls, sorry to break it to ya’, but you too have become a victim of puberty, my friend. I wasn’t expecting to like this movie as much as I did and it is high time we all took a trip back to the good ol’ days when animators still got carpal tunnel and we still knew the chorus to “Be Our Guest”.

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24 Comments leave one →
  1. April 6, 2010 4:55 am

    I’ve read a lot about this and everything I’ve read looks extremely positive. Sounds very interesting, looking forward to seeing it in the UK sometime soon!

    • April 6, 2010 9:06 pm

      Yeah, it’s really good. Just came out here in the States and is playing very limited, but worth seeking out all the same. Hope you dig it, man.

  2. April 6, 2010 1:06 pm

    Is this in theaters?

    I’m assuming the doc didn’t touch on the hidden sexual images found in the Disney movies…

    • April 6, 2010 9:10 pm

      Haha, yeah, they seemed to skip over that bit.

      Saw it two weeks ago, opened up in one theater in NYC. Not sure if and when it’s gonna make its way to a wide release, but here’s to hoping.

  3. April 6, 2010 3:01 pm

    Disney is evil.

    Disneyland is evil.

    I like to go to Disneyland and I try to watch most of Disney’s cartoons, yet I fell terrible for doing so..

  4. April 6, 2010 6:36 pm

    Beauty and the Beast is still a great film after all these years. I was kind of surprised.

    • Darren permalink
      April 6, 2010 6:48 pm

      I actually love a great portion of the Disney animate canon, even after all these years and with my bitter cynicism. Beauty and the Beast is a classic, but the Lion King is and always will my favourite conventionally animated film.

    • April 6, 2010 7:29 pm

      Yeah, just saw it this past weekend for the first time since I was a kid, couldn’t believe how much I liked it. That Gaston song was freakin’ hilarious, man. Should have the review up shortly.

  5. April 11, 2010 1:47 pm

    Sounds like a good film, I’ll be looking at this for sure given that I actually grew up with a lot of the films that the studio made during this period.

    And Beauty and the Beast is one of my favorite films. No way is that film just for girls.

    I think it’s like you say, puberty often ruins people’s interest in animated films and that’s a shame because there are so many great ones.

    I make it a point to keep up with animated films because there’s still so many great ones being made out there. Last year, in particular, was a fantastic year for animated films.

    • April 11, 2010 1:49 pm

      Yeah, last year was great. Up was my favorite movie of ’09. Still waiting for Fantastic Mr. Fox to arrive from Netflix, heard that was great though.

  6. April 16, 2010 2:49 am

    I want to see this movie SO bad but after reading your review, I want to see it even more. I’ll probably just look for it online because it isn’t playing anyway near where I live. :\

    • April 16, 2010 10:03 am

      Bummer, then again, it’s hardly playing in NYC either. Worth seeking out on the internets though.

  7. Ryan permalink
    July 24, 2013 11:27 am

    Finally watched this last night. Pretty interesting stuff, and the behind the scenes footage was cool to see, especially of the animators slaving away.
    The only thing I didn’t like was the ending. All of a sudden the documentary just sort of ended with no real conclusion to the story.
    Felt it was incredibly bizarre they didn’t go into Lasseter and Pixar more, or at the very least mention that after Katzenberg left, he started Dreamworks.

    But the documentary definitely made me want to watch all the old Disney movies again.

    • July 24, 2013 3:08 pm

      Glad you dug it, homey! Is it on Netflix Instant? Totally went on an early ’90s Disney binge after seeing this, completely forgot how great that era was. Can’t say I remember the ending, three years of cocaine for breakfast will do that to you, but good point, seems like a natural transition. Was this one Deirdre’s choice or yours?

      • Ryan permalink
        July 24, 2013 3:13 pm

        It had been lingering on our netflix queue for like 2 years. Remembered you liking it, just took time for it to move up the queue.
        It was a mutual choice.

      • July 24, 2013 3:17 pm

        That’s a beautiful thing, brotha’. Glad you two dug it. You’re now free to bump Weekend at Bernies back to the top.

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