I recently had the urge to revisit some of the animated films I loved as a child, especially Disney movies, and see if they stand the test of time and maturity. Well, age. Not necessarily maturity.
Then it occurred to me that the liveblogging fad has produced some pretty entertaining stuff, and perhaps I should write down my reactions to seeing these movies again, in some cases for the first time in years. Now, I’m no comedian, and I make no promises. But I’m doing it anyway.
I’m starting with Sleeping Beauty for several reasons:
It’s a classic (first released in 1959).
It’s one I definitely have not watched in its entirety since my age was in the single digits, so I remember very little about it.
I’m hoping it’s ripe for snark. It’s the classic fairy-tale-princess brand of Disney film everyone is always mocking for its horrible life lessons, after all. (But don’t take my word for it; refer to the “Advice From A Cartoon Princess” series on YouTube here.) And, I mean, things don’t get much more nonconsensual than having one party be comatose. Nor is a comatose heroine going to do much for breaking that helpless damsel in distress stereotype.
So here goes.
“Once Upon A Dream”? Really? That’s the theme song you want to use for a movie about a girl who’s asleep for decades? That’s only a little heavy-handed there, Disney.
The movie opens with a storybook being read to us by a narrator. Presumably the still illustrations are going to morph into moving animation in a second. Doesn’t Disney use this device in a couple of other fairy-tale adaptations? And isn’t Disney supposed to be famously creative…?
There are a lot of big words in this introduction. I doubt the average six year old knows what “estate” or “homage” means.
All right, we’re through to the movement part now, and the first scene (a procession to the castle to celebrate the princess’s birth) is actually some pretty nice-looking animation. And the scenery is really pretty. The song lyrics still leave something to be desired.
Oh, good grief, he’s still narrating.
The narrator continues to use big words, and old-fashioned phrasing. This pomposity is going to get tedious pretty fast. At least the prince gets an actual name (Philip), unlike in some other old Disney movies.
Hahaha Prince Philip’s face when he looks at the baby. Priceless. Clearly they are meant to be together, so this can be ironic later.
So, the fairies arrive, and are announced as “the three good fairies,” (emphasis NOT mine) which is more heavy-handed foreshadowing, and also blatantly insulting to the implied other fairy/ies, which I believe is/are already pissed off. Word to the wise: When you don’t like someone with the power to hurt you, it might not be a good idea to make it super obvious that you like everybody else except them.
I feel pretty sorry for Merryweather. Not that “Fauna” is a hot name, either (Maybe I should name my daughter “Wildlife”, what do you think?), but really now. AND she’s the short, chubby one. Sucks to be her.
Apparently fairies give gifts by waving their wands and creating galaxies.
Also, you know they’ve got magic, because there is no way wings that small are going to carry bodies that plump.
So the first two gifts are Beauty and Song. In case we didn’t already know what two qualities are most important in a Disney princess, there you go.
The presence of evil is announced by wind and spontaneous flames. Apparently the evil fairy in Sleeping Beauty and the Wicked Witch of the West are secretly the same person. Yep, she’s even wearing a black cloak and a funny hat. And she comes and goes by fire.
She doesn’t have wings, though. And she’s tall. Maybe she’s not a fairy after all. In which case I don’t really understand the emphasis on FF&M being THE THREE GOOD fairies. As opposed to what, or whom?
Ok. Maleficent says she’s disappointed about not being invited. Merryweather announces she wasn’t wanted. That is not the way to defuse this situation.
Maleficent turns to go. The queen stands up and says, “You’re not offended?” Seriously? You didn’t invite her because she’s a bitch, and now you’re going to goad her? OF COURSE SHE’S OFFENDED, YOU TWIT.
Yes, fairies. Physically shielding the baby will protect her from magic. Oh, wait…
There’s something mildly hilarious about a spinning wheel being ominous. I can’t really put my finger on what.
So the king forces people to burn all the spinning wheels. First of all, you’d think this whole curse thing might have shown them that bad things don’t go away because you avoid them. But second of all, how are they planning to, I don’t know, MAKE CLOTHES for the rest of the princess’s natural life?
Coming back to the animation for a second, I really like the colors. Very rich.
The fairies can shrink themselves. Awesome.
“Maleficient doesn’t know anything about love, or kindness, or the joy of helping others. You know, sometimes I don’t think she’s very happy.” – Fauna
Folks… has anybody tried just being nice to her? You can’t teach her any of the above by ostracizing her. Grown-up bullies are just child bullies that never learned any better. If you don’t invite her to the party, it’s not going to teach her a lesson, it’s just going to make her madder and meaner.
But who IS Maleficent, anyway? WHAT is she, for that matter, if she’s more powerful than the fairies but not a fairy herself? What is she doing here? Why is she terrorizing people and using bizarre curses to kill their babies when she could just give herself whatever she wants (except love, presumably)? Do we ever get any explanation of what her deal is, exactly? Because I want to know.
Disney villains don’t have a lot of depth, I suppose.
Apparently on the princess’s sixteenth birthday, Maleficent’s domain is “thundering with her wrath and frustration,” which is how everyone knows Aurora hasn’t been pricked yet. Seriously, why is this woman so hung up on this? It’s been sixteen years. Let it go.
I guess if everyone around me looked like her subjects, I’d be a little unhappy with life, too.
All right, never mind. She clearly has some anger issues. She probably is still pissed about that party.
Meanwhile, in the woodland hideout where the fairies have been keeping the princess all these years, FF&M are apparently planning to make both an entire dress and a birthday cake while Aurora is out picking berries. How many berries is this girl supposed to pick? And more importantly, they’re all excited about doing these things for the first time—in sixteen years of not using magic, how in the world have they never learned to cook or sew? They are not naked, and they appear well-fed. What have they been doing? How have they survived, especially without calling attention to themselves?
That gift of Song is definitely working for this girl. (It also apparently doubles as a means of summoning every kind of wildlife to follow her and do her bidding.) It’s a shame she presumably can’t be both a princess and an opera singer.
Prince Philip, meanwhile, has to bribe his horse with food just to run in the correct direction. And here I thought the whole point of having a horse was that you could tell it where to go and it would go.
Ah, but the carrots are rescinded after he falls off into the stream. These two clearly have a turbulent relationship.
Now her woodland friends are stealing Philip’s wet clothes. This guy has really bad luck with animals.
You know, quite a bit of Aurora’s lower leg is exposed. Isn’t that a little scandalous? I know she’s been raised as a hermit in the forest, but they are planning to return her to her parents. They should probably dress her more appropriately.
Philip stalks her, spies on her, and then cuts in while she’s dancing, in such a way that she doesn’t see him right away. She’s still conscious and he’s already acting like a creeper! “We’ve already met before. You said so yourself—once upon a dream.” That has to be one of the worst pickup lines ever.
Also, where did she learn to dance?
She is giving this poor guy some seriously mixed signals. “I’ll just snuggle up to you with my head on your shoulder. My name—no, I can’t tell you that. No, you can never see me again. Actually, maybe you can someday. And by someday I mean tonight. Oh, I guess I should tell you where, as an afterthought. But I’ll be as vague as I can, so it really is a maybe.” (That might not be a direct quote. And by “might not be” I mean “is definitely not”.)
Man, I wish I could cook and clean and sew with magic. But naturally, that’s how they’re going to get discovered. But only because they’re bickering like idiots and throwing colored flashes all over the place. If you’re trying to be sneaky, just hurry up and get your shit done. Compromise and make the stupid dress purple.
And don’t talk so loud with the windows open if you’re telling secrets…
There is a long, tedious scene with the two fathers first celebrating and then arguing, while their servant gets drunk behind their backs. It’s like the writers were just trying to kill time before sunset.
Then Philip rides in and declares that he’s going to marry a peasant girl (because of course he doesn’t know she’s actually the girl he’s supposed to marry anyway). His father gets angry, and his reply is, “You’re living in the past. This is the fourteenth century!” Har har har.
Someone needs to explain to me why, when the curse specifically involved sunset on her sixteenth birthday, they are returning her to the castle on the evening of her sixteenth birthday. Wouldn’t it make more sense to keep her until the next morning, just to drastically reduce the chances of blowing it all at the last minute? What was the point of hiding her for sixteen years if you’re just going to put her back in place at exactly the moment the curse was about to begin with? And then not even WATCH HER?
This might be the single creepiest image in all of Disney…
There just happens to be a secret passage at the back of her fireplace? That’s narratively convenient, but it also seems unsafe for a variety of reasons. It does rather suck the mystery out of Maleficent’s sudden appearance in said fireplace, though.
“Oh, why did we leave her alone?” cry the fairies. BECAUSE YOU’RE IDIOTS. You had to do one simple thing, which was not let the princess get pricked. In a place where spinning wheels are now virtually unknown and she’s unlikely to be able to get into trouble while under supervision.
And yet you failed.
It occurs to me that the greatest irony here might actually be that if the girl had actually grown up around spinning wheels, she’d know what they are and not be curious enough to go around petting them. Or she’d have pricked her finger as a small child and learned not to freaking do that well before her sixteenth birthday.
Although, now she’s hearing Maleficent’s disembodied voice telling her to touch the spindle, which she obediently does, and my new question is: How does she know what part the spindle is if she’s never seen one of these before?
Apparently Maleficent’s name is actually Maeve? Why the hell do they call her Maleficent? Is that some kind of nasty nickname? Again, not exactly trying to get along with this woman…
“I’ll never forgive myself,” says one of the fairies. You shouldn’t. At this point, your job was not that hard, and you failed.
And now they weep while the kingdom is celebrating the sunset. When are they planning to break the news to her actual parents?
Oh. They’re not.
Oh, but for a surprisingly clever reason.
(I really didn’t remember this part, by the way.)
Good freaking thing Philip went back out to find his “peasant girl” instead of sticking around for this. Otherwise everybody would be screwed forever.
I hope there are no large predators in this kingdom to prey on all these unprotected sleeping people. Though that might make for a more interesting movie.
Back at Maleficent’s castle (seriously, who is she?), the scene underway is nothing short of exactly what you’d picture for some kind of Satanic ritual, with all the demons dancing and hopping around a bonfire in an old-timey nightmare vision of a hellish orgy. And Maleficent surveys, petting her crow/raven thing, still wearing her weird headgear that happens to be shaped like a big pair of horns. Subtle.
And the fairies set Philip free and give him the Shield Of Virtue and the Sword Of Truth. Also subtle.
They also don’t explain why he has to face the alleged dangers ahead himself, which would be my number one question if I were him. Why exactly can’t the wand ladies come along?
Or maybe they do, judging by the rest of his escape from Maleficent, in which case why did they say that at all?
Maleficent definitely has control issues. And she just referenced “the doors of Hell” directly, so yeah. This is a complex story, man. The dragon is pretty cool, though.
Oh no, he lost the Shield Of Virtue. I wonder what that means.
Maybe that’s a nod to the creep factor present in glorifying what he’s about to do. We, the audience, can wish.
The fairies are totally helping him out/saving his ass. So much for having to do this on his own.
Also, SLEEPING BEAUTY LOOKS DEAD. Not just because she’s lying there lifeless, because she’s GRAY. EXTRA CREEPY.
I can’t help but feel that it was unnecessary to knock out the rest of the kingdom if this was only going to take one night to fix. All’s well that ends well, I suppose.
I can’t help but wonder if the pink dress vs. blue dress thing is because the animators themselves couldn’t agree…
The End Reaction:
All in all, it was actually better than I expected. I remembered it as being somewhat dull compared to other Disney movies, but I enjoyed it, for the most part. It moves along, and if it is rather silly at times, it doesn’t spend as much time on comedy as some of Disney’s more recent offerings. It simply retells a fairy tale. And to the extent that I recall the fairy tale (which I admit has never been one of my favorites anyway), Disney didn’t mutilate it too much. Certainly not to a Little Mermaid degree (but I’ll dissect that one another day). And it really is beautiful–the human characters are drawn fairly realistically (to the extent that that’s possible in a fantasy world), the animation is lovely even fifty-some years later, and the score isn’t annoying. There’s plenty here to mock or to question, but I can definitely see why Sleeping Beauty is still considered a classic.
And honestly, Aurora’s not even really in her own story enough to judge her value as a role model. Let’s be real here: This is about some feisty, albeit dumb, fairies and a rebellious, overeager prince. And a villain who can turn into a dragon, which is pretty sick, even if we’re not allowed to understand her motives. Or her identity. Or, well. It’s not a bad movie, anyway. As long as you don’t think about it too much. Which you’re not really supposed to, so there you are. Enjoy.