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In 1959, Walt Disney continued to evolve the medium of animation by releasing Sleeping Beauty, one of the most technologically sophisticated animated features to date. For the first time ever, he was making a cartoon for the 70mm format instead of the usual 35mm. Walt dubbed the process Technorama70. The film itself was bigger, which meant that the animation had to be bigger. There was more detail and more depth within every single frame and the results were amazing. Costing six millions dollars and taking six years to complete, audiences were treated to something truly special. All of this makes Sleeping Beauty an ideal film for Blu-Ray, a format that lends itself to an epic viewing experience.
When Disney released Sleeping Beauty on DVD in 2008, they transferred every detail from every frame of that 70mm print, enabling audiences to see the full picture as originally intended. When making the movie, Walt envisioned a “moving illustration.” He wanted every individual frame to be a perfect image worthy of hanging on the wall. What seemed like a perfect image back then is even sharper on Blu-Ray, with an extreme clarity that truly does justice to the magnificent artistry of the film.
There are several documentaries carried over from that DVD, as well as a few new one. New features include a documentary entitled “The Art of Evil: Generations of Disney Villains.” This is exactly what you’d expect, a short look at the history of evil in Disney animation. It’s fun to see current clips of modern animators interspersed with classic interviews with the legends of Disney animation. However, there isn’t a whole lot of new insight to be found. It’s mostly just an excuse to show clips of these iconic characters.
One of the more interesting features is entitled Disney Animation: Artists in Motion, a look at one of the Disney artists whose sole job is to develop and create character designs made solely out of paper. These models serve as references for the animators, and are amazing works of art in their own right. It’s a fascinating look at a job that I didn’t even know existed. In this feature, we get to see her create a full 3-D model of Maleficent from scratch. It’s a beautiful image, and my only complaint about this feature is that we don’t get to see more of her work.
Sneak Peek: Fantasy Parade
Finally, there is an over-the-top, yet interesting, feature called “Once Upon a Parade,” featuring Sarah Hyland from Modern Family. Essentially, this is a commercial for Walt Disney World’s new parade, Festival of Fantasy. However, it’s disguised as a short film about Sarah getting 15-year-olds interested in the parade by creating a back-story for the parade’s creation. The main piece of the segment is shot very much like a commercial, but I have to say that the footage depicting the story she is telling, set in a kingdom where the concept of Fantasyland is essentially reality, is extremely well done. It appears to have been shot on location in Fantasyland, and actually conveys the idea that it is a real mythical kingdom. While not something I would ever watch again, I was impressed at what they were able to pull off with such cheesy material.
As for the returning features, these include a look into a brilliant color stylist named Eyvind Earle who provided the elaborate backgrounds for the film. There is also a 43 minute documentary that covers all aspects of the production. Combining current interviews with footage shot back in the fifties, this is a must-see for animation buffs. There are also two deleted scenes, and one alternate scene.
While the film has definitely never looked better than on this Blu-Ray release, I am a little bit disappointed that it doesn’t have all of the same extras from the DVD release. Not only were those features more comprehensive regarding the making of the film, there were storyboards, art galleries, and just a lot more detail regarding the history of the film itself. The new features are feel a little bit more slapped together, and not quite as historically relevant. That being said, this film is one of Disney’s greatest accomplishments, and this release is by far the best way to see it. This is absolutely a must own for any fan of Disney animation.
Bonus Clip: Art of Maleficent