US Animated Movie (1959). Disney. Pr sv Ken Peterson. Sv dir Clyde Geronimi. Special processes Ub Iwerks, Eustace Lycett. Based on the version of Sleeping Beauty by Charles Perrault. Voice actors Barbara Jo Allen (Fauna), Eleanor Audley (Maleficent), Mary Costa (Princess Aurora/Briar Rose), Verna Felton (Flora), Taylor Holmes (Stefan), Barbara Luddy (Merryweather), Marvin Miller (Narrator), Bill Shirley (Prince Phillip). 75 mins. Colour.
14th-century King Stefan and his queen hold a christening party for daughter Aurora; to it come young Prince Phillip, to be betrothed to the infant, and the three good Fairies Flora, Fauna and Merryweather. The bad fairy Maleficent comes also, furious to be uninvited, and pronounces a Curse on the infant: on the sunset of her 16th birthday Aurora will prick her finger on a spindle and die. Merryweather ameliorates the curse: Aurora will, instead, fall asleep until woken by true love's kiss. Stefan orders all the nation's spinning-wheels burnt; the three good fairies rear Aurora (as Briar Rose) in the remote forest, and agree to abandon Magic for the requisite 16 years. On her 16th birthday Aurora encounters Phillip, and the two fall in Love. The fairies use magic to aid preparations for her birthday party, and Maleficent's messenger raven detects this. Arriving at Stefan's castle, the duration of the curse almost outlived, Aurora is magically lured by Maleficent to a tower and pricks her finger. The three fairies put the court into the same deep sleep and free Phillip from Maleficent's clutches, arming him with the Shield of Virtue and the Sword of Truth. Maleficent casts a Forest of thorns around the castle, but Phillip beats a way through. As a final throw, Maleficent Metamorphoses herself into a vast Dragon and confronts Phillip; with the Sword of Truth he kills the dragon, and thus Maleficent and her Evil. His kiss wakes Aurora and all the castle.
Astonishingly, this High Fantasy was widely reviled on release: for its art, which deployed styles more commonly associated with painting; for its perceived imitation of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937); and, bafflingly, because Maleficent wasn't thought frightening enough. SB, now seen as one of Disney's masterpieces, lost money on first release (it was the most expensive Animated Movie to that time). Stung, Disney eschewed classic Fairytales for over three decades, until Beauty and the Beast (1991). [JG]