Friday, July 11, 2008

"Sleeping Beauty".... 'Skumps' or Shrugs?

There's a lot of hullabaloo going on lately about the upcoming Blu-ray release of Sleeping Beauty this fall. There's gonna be a special screening at the Academy in Hollywood, Hans Perk has been posting the animator's drafts for the film (currently around the halfway point) & Thad K. has just posted his thoughts on the film. I just rewatched Sleeping Beauty a little over a week ago, & there's a hefty amount of praise & criticism I can give it.

Let's start off with the artwork: Eyvind Earle’s style & background is very beautiful & eye-catching & there's some really great animation throughout (especially Marc Davis' Briar Rose & Maleficent scenes, as well as Frank & Ollie's fairy animation & all the animal stuff). Sadly, I can understand why the animators had trouble working on the film, the overall style of the film is very restricting & although the animators did a superb job with what finally came out, it does have it's drawbacks. Unlike the other Disney films, the character's strict geometric designs are so overpowering that their movements are extremely limited & they cannot really exaggerate enough without going off model. The only characters that have enough freedom in that category are the three good fairies, & even their animation is incredibly underplayed. & the fact that this film was animated in Cinemascope (aka widescreen on steroids) probably didn't help them much either.

I have to admit, the pacing of the film is incredibly slow at times. While some scenes are really great, such as King Hubert & Stefan's interactions in the 'Skumps' scene, the 'Once Upon a Dream' sequence & the climax with the dragon at the end, the other 2/3 of the film feels like it's that right time in the theater to get up to use the bathroom. Most of this film feels like filler, almost like it's just there for the sake of stretching the film to it's farthest extent. As I was watching the film, I started to drift off... not sleeping, just losing interest.

The climax itself is the most exciting thing that happens in this movie, but to me it feels just a tad too short. Sure, the sequence is over 6 minutes long, but I think they could've thrown another few seconds of dragon stuff. But that's just me. The one thing I can't understand is that throughout the entire course of the film, the fairies keep saying that Maleficent's power is far greater than their own & nothing can stop her, then at the end of the film they magically enhance the prince's sword & throw it at her like she's a dartboard? Is it just me, or does that feel a bit tacked on? I think they had a lot of potential in finding different ways to finish her off. They probably settled with the final version, probably because it was a lot simpler to animate in Earle's geometric style. Oh well, it was 50 years ago, what's done is done.

While my views on this film so far seem to be completely negative, there are some good things. Like in all of the classic Disney films, all the character's voices are well done. Bill Thompson (King Hubert), Verna Felton (Flora), Barbara Luddy (Merryweather) & Eleanor Audley (Maleficent) really show their stuff in this film, especially Mary Costa & her magnificent singing. & speaking of that, the music is superbly done! The original Tchaikovsky music, as well as the rest of the film's score are so beautifully played that I'm actually considering to buy the soundtrack for this film for my iPod. Along with the artwork, the voices & music seem to be the most powerful things in this film.

But for the most part, I do agree with most of what Thad has to say:

"Most of the Disney films always have one element playing a backseat to another, but it’s in Sleeping Beauty where everything takes a backseat to design..."

& that is what really makes the film suffer.

The only thing that really angers me about this whole "Sleeping Beauty-Platinum Edition-Blu-ray" debacle is that they're re-releasing this film on DVD for the second time. Disney just came out with a 'special edition' of this film less than 5 years ago, why on Earth are they re-releasing this film again while other films like Pinocchio haven't seen the light of day in nearly 10 years?! & why Blu-ray?.... wouldn't the picture quality of the film be so digitally-enhanced & upgraded that it would lose it's magic? That you'd be constantly reminded that it is an animated film & that you would see every paint stroke, misplaced line or color mistake clear as day in high definition? Sure, it will be "restored" with bright colors & such, but didn't they just restore the film a few years ago, & their gonna do it again for high-def TV's? Is there really a point in making an animated movie high-def anyway? Phew! That's enough rants & angry questions from me for one day. Geez, I sound like the Nostalgia Critic or the Angry Video Game Nerd.

Still, if they do decide to have a screening of the film here on the East Coast, I'll try & snag myself a ticket to it. What the hell, right?

1 comment:

Oswald Iten said...

hi Michael,
I think there is a good reason for re-releasing this film again, precisely because it has been restored for the special edition a few years ago. They fiddled around a bit too much with the images last time, so I'm pleased they went back to the original negative to restore it all over again (hopefully this time like it was seen in 1959 and not like today's audiences would like to have it).
About the Blu-Ray: These movies were meant to be seen in a theatre on the big screen. No blu-ray resolution ever comes near to the picture quality of a 70mm celluloid film print. So the closer to it, the better. Also, if you have a higher resolution, you wouldn't have to digitally enhance the image to make it look good (I know, they do it all the same with some films, which is what really bothers me). I don't think it is a bad thing to be reminded that it IS an animated film. Contentwise you're always aware of the time and place of origin of a film, so I'd like the picture to have the same feel. You're right, there is no garantuee we get this, but at least I think, they are on the right track now.

(It's a little odd, to write a comment to a post that's two weeks old, but I only had time to read it now) :)