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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

SLEEPING BEAUTY (1959)

In the ‘50s, Disney Animation found a path to profitability going domestic. Out went the dark, Germanic stuff; in came American suburbs and two car garages. A CINDERELLA/’50 fit for a sit-com; a PETER PAN/’53 as American as Booth Tarkinton’s PENROD; while 101 DALMATIANS/’61 and LADY AND THE TRAMP/’55 lived in the suburbs. Not so this big ticket item. A deliberate, ambitious and wildly expensive look back at the pre-war classics, it was Disney’s Armageddon . . . in 70mm. They should’ve seen it coming. With a flattened, elegant Book of Hours pageant look, some of the multi-plane crowd scenes are stunningly ‘staged’ (the film has always been a magnet for animation-heads), but the film’s story & characters are inert. Beauty herself is completely passive, her main task is sleeping; the bland Prince out-acted by his horse; by-the-numbers comic support; even the much admired villainess & her gargoyle cohorts stylistically lifted from more memorable realizations in SNOW WHITE, FANTASIA and THE WIZARD OF OZ. The all-Tchaikovsky score works wonders at setting the scene, but other than the famous waltz, the adaptors can’t locate a singable tune. (A ‘funny’ duo for the two Kingly dads is as weak as anything in the animated Disney canon.) Perhaps Walt was just too busy plotting & planning DisneyLand to notice.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Voice actor Verna Felton, First Fairy Godmother here and in CINDERELLA/’50, sure sounds like Maureen Stapleton, no?

CONTEST: Of all the lousy tricks critics use to make big, empty talking points, the worst is . . . well, let’s not give it away. But I just used that trick to make a general point. Spot my cheat to win a MAKSQUIBS Write-Up of your choice.

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