Denise DuBois: Disney’s ‘Sleeping Beauty’ celebrates 59 years

Scrolling through Facebook on Monday, Disney Movie Rewards posted a photo of the Sleeping Beauty movie release poster. It was released on that day in 1959.

Sleeping Beauty was always my all-time favorite Disney princess movie. I grew up watching Belle, Arial and Cinderella sing their hearts out, but I always had a special place in my heart for Aurora and the slightly darker film. The score drives the animated feature and Tchaikovsky has always been my favorite composer. His music from the ballet Sleeping Beauty was used throughout the movie and some of it has a mysterious tone.

For a while, it seemed that Disney princesses got a bad rap because there was always a man saving them. But, back in the ‘50s when Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella (and much earlier, for Snow White) were created, men were the primary bread winners. It was a cultural idea. Today, Disney has princesses like Mulan, Merida and Moana who have to be brave on their own to save their people. The movies have changed quite a bit to better fit the culture we live in today. That’s a good thing to see.

But don’t discount those older princess movies. I grew up with them and they didn’t have a negative effect on me. In fact, they probably aided in my creativity and my ability to tell a story.

So in celebration of Sleeping Beauty and its release 59 years ago, here are some fun facts about the movie I discovered after a quick Google search:

– Disney was afraid that the film would be too similar to their earlier princess feature, Snow White.

– Both films featured princesses who hid in the forest, talked to animals, were woken up from true love’s kiss, and went against jealous witches. To make the film feel different, the team spent six years creating the film, and focused on making it look angular and used intricate medieval background.

– Prince Philip was named after England’s real life Prince Philip. Disney named the heroic leading man after Prince Philip the Duke of Edinburgh—Queen Elizabeth II’s husband. At the time of the film’s release, the two had been married for 12 years, and she had been in power for seven.

– To save time, the creators of Beauty and the Beast reused animation from Sleeping Beauty’s final dance sequence.

– Famed opera singer Mary Costa was Aurora’s voice. Apparently her Southern accent almost prevented her from landing the job. Good thing it didn’t!

– Disneyland’s castle was based off of the one from Sleeping Beauty to promote the film.

– While Disney worked on the movie, they were also creating Disneyland. While the company was originally going to name the castle after Snow White, they decided to go with their newest film to help boost its success.

Sleeping Beauty was the last Disney feature based on a princess fairytale until 1989’s The Little Mermaid.

– The fairytale book that opens the movie was real and was entirely handpainted by Eyvind Earle, the man responsible for the entire look and feel of the movie. It was restored in 2008 and is now part of the Disney Archives, where it is sometimes put on display at events.

Email me at ddubois@citizenea.com.