Sleeping Beauty: Background Information

During the 1950's, many critics were praising the UPA studios for their stylistic experimentation, while accusing Disney animation of being too "old fashioned". In response, Walt Disney planned his masterpiece, a film that would merge modern design sensibilities with state-of-the-art wide-screen and stereophonic sound technology. Without question, Sleeping Beauty is Disney's lushest feature, with an unprecidented attention to detail and bold stylization in the use of color, character, and background design. The influence of Sleeping Beauty can be found in the design of many recent animated features, like The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and The Swan Princess.

Interestingly enough, as modern and forward thinking as Sleeping Beauty appears on the surface, it still echos the story elements and plot points of Disney's earliest feature, Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs. In fact, several sequences, including the dance with the Scarecrow Prince and the scenes of the Prince's capture and imprisonment, were originally planned for Snow White [See Note #3], but were cut from the film before they could be animated. Two decades later, they were incorporated into Walt Disney's last great fairy tale feature, Sleeping Beauty.

In his quest for quality, Disney allowed his top artists: Marc Davis, John Lounsbery, Milt Kahl, Eric Cleworth, Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston and John Sibley, extra time to pencil test and refine their scenes until they were absolutely perfect. Sleeping Beauty was the last animated feature to receive Walt's full attention, but since his time was also required in Anaheim for the building of Disneyland, he was often away from the studio for weeks at a time. To keep busy, animators who were waiting for approvals often did their own inbetweening and preliminary clean-up on their scenes. These delays and Disney's unrelenting attention to detail ended up driving the budget up to an unheard-of amount of six million dollars. Combined with the cost overruns of Disneyland, the film drove the studio very close to bankruptcy, but the effort and sacrifice was worthwhile. Even though the comic characters, like the Kings and the Fairies, pale in comparison to earlier creations, the realistic ones, like the Prince, Briar Rose and Maleficent are among the most subtle, expressive and natural characters that the studio ever produced. Overall, Sleeping Beauty stands as an impressive achievement, displaying a level of refinement and sophistication that no animated feature has ever surpassed.

This text was contributed by Stephen Worth <> from Vintage Ink & Paint.

Frank Pilhofer <fp -AT-> Back to the Homepage
Last modified: Fri Mar 31 18:24:01 1995