Sleeping Beauty's timeless story tells of Princess Aurora, cursed by the evil sorceress Maleficent to die on her 16th birthday after pricking her finger on a poisoned spinning wheel. Despite being brought up in secret by three good fairies as Briar Rose, the curse comes true. Can her true love, Prince Philip, battle Maleficent and her spells and wake Aurora from her ageless sleep?
Deserving credit are the numerous voiceover cast used in this movie including Mary Costa as the voice of the Princess and Bill Shirley as the Prince - both hand chosen by Walt Disney himself. As with most Disney movies it's the music that brings it to life and Sleeping Beauty is no exception with Tchaikovsky's "Sleeping Beauty Ballet" being superbly integrated by composer George Bruns.
Personally I don't think that Sleeping Beauty is the best of the Disney animated movies, however it is still a fantastic picture that almost everyone on this planet would be familiar with. The presentation here in the super widescreen aspect ratio of 2.55:1 really brings the movie to another level and even owners of the DVD version will certainly want to consider updating to this release.
Drop Dead Gorgeous. That's the only way to describe the transfer of Sleeping Beauty to Blu-Ray. I've seen the movie a couple of times over the years - on VHS and DVD, but never has it looked so astonishingly wonderful. When the film was released to cinemas it was presented in a Super Technirama 70mm film format. Over the years the VHS and DVD releases chopped this down to full screen or 2.35:1 aspect ratio however this Blu-Ray release has been fully restored and has been encoded at the films intended aspect ratio of 2.55:1 (which many cinemas in 1959 could not even display!).
The movie has been encoded in Blu-Ray's standard resolution of 1080p using the AVC MPEG-4 codec which seems to hover around the 30Mbps mark for the majority of this movie but occasionally spikes higher or lower when required.
Other languages on the Sleeping Beauty Blu-Ray disc include English Audio Descriptive which is Dolby Digital 2.0 at 192kbps and Portuguese, Polish, Russian and (something) Dolby Digital 5.1 encoded at 640kbps. Each track sounds quite delightful and there's little chance that you'll be disappointed. Subtitles include English, English for the Hearing Impaired, Portuguese, Polish, Russian, and something else which we don't know, and isn't on the cover.
Cine-Explore Mode and Audio Commentary: We're bundling these two extras together as the audio track is, well, simply the audio found in the Cine-Explore track. In this track John Lasseter (Pixar), Leonard Maltin (film critic), and Andreas Deja (Disney Animator) talk about all aspects of this production, cinematic releases, restoration and what effect the film has had on history. As the commentary runs still images, or video footage is shown in windows around the screen. These often include sound bites or clips from other people associated with the film. Quite detailed, and quite brilliant.
Music Video Emily Osment sings "Once Upon A Dream" (3:33/HD): A remake of the classic song. Why even bother. No doubt Disney want to sell some records, but this is (how can I put this politely), ermm, rubbish and totally unnecessary.
Disney Song Selection (HD): This Feature allows you to play the five main songs directly without skipping through the video. There is also an option to play the film with lyrics on-screen if you feel so inclined.
Grand Canyon (28:56/HD): Now this is rather interesting inclusion if only because it has nothing to do with the main picture other then it originally played before Sleeping Beauty at the cinemas in 1958. Still, for that alone its inclusion is a delight and this near 30 minute film takes you on another magical journey with scenes from the Grand Canyon with music playing over the top. Stunningly this has been encoded in HD using the AVC MPEG-4 codec with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack. Despite being 50 years old this has been cleaned up and still looks wonderful today - reference quality even.
Princess Fun Facts: A pop-up trivia track which gives details about 'real world' situations such as what real princes and princesses wear and how they lived years ago. Little about the actual production is given and this is probably suited to a slightly younger audience.
DISC TWO: So now we move onto Disc Two which contains even more content then the first, and almost everything of which really is quite brilliant.
History of the Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough Attraction (9:52/HD): A look at the history of the Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland including the changes made over the years. The original castle has been made into a Virtual Walkthrough for this disc as well - and can be played before, but we recommend, after this 10 minute featurette.
Picture Perfect: The Making of Sleeping Beauty (43:32/HD): A great documentary which looks at the lengthy creation of Sleeping Beauty with interviews with many of the crew that worked on the film. There is a tonne of archival footage here, and they don't hold back with discussion about the art styles, and even disagreements with Walt Disney himself. Brilliantly produced this is well worth watching.
Sequence 8 (6:30/HD): This featurette looks at what has become one of the most infamous scenes in the movie - when the Prince and Princess dance through the forest. This scene took the longest period of time to complete, went massively over budget, and saw one of the heads removed from the project.
Alternate Opening (3:28/HD): An opening sequence with audio, and storyboarded scenes.
Deleted Songs (6:38/HD): Three songs are presented here with the first having two different versions. These are set to storyboard images.
Storyboard Sequences (4:05): After an introduction from animator Andreas Deja we have two storyboard sequences shown here - "The Fairies Put The Castle To Sleep" and "The Capture of the Prince". Each is only presented in standard definition.
Live Action Reference (2:11): Original reference footage which was filmed to show the animators what the characters should look like on screen.
Sleeping Beauty Art Galleries: Literally hundreds of images are presented here from concept art, to production photos, to promotional pieces.
The Sound of Beauty: Restoring a Classic (10:50/HD): A look at the extensive process that was undertaken to restore the audio to the best possible quality for this latest Blu-Ray release. Exclusive to Blu-Ray this feature includes DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 so you can hear the quality.
The Peter Tchaikovsky Story (49:25/HD): Two versions of this Walt Disney Presents TV show are available here - with one telling listeners how to get Stereo sound, and the other replacing that with other narration. A wonderful archival feature this was truly a highligh on the bonus disc.
4 Artists Paint 1 Tree (16:08/HD): This featurette featuring Walt Disney looks at the work of the artists on a Walt Disney production.
Games and Activities: Three games are available here - "Malfecent's Challenge", "Briar Rose's Enchanted Dance Game" and "Sleeping Beauty Fun with Language Game". All are certainly aimed at a younger market then myself, but from brief samples were well put together.
Review By: Dave Warner