The Film (3.5/5)
Walt Disney had a number of film's that he spent a significant amount of time trying to get off the ground. From Disney Studio's debut Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to Peter Pan to the later Mary Poppins, it seems Walt spent a significant amount of time building up his animation and filmmaking empire and knew precisely what content he needed to make it happen. One of those projects that took a significant time from conception to creation was Sleeping Beauty, the first inklings of the project showed up at Disney in 1951 and yet the film would not premiere until 8 years later in 1959.
I'll be forward in admitting Sleeping Beauty has never been what I can call my favorite of the Disney animated classics. The film feels like an amalgam of the successes the studio had before updated for a different fairy tale (in this case Charles Perrault's Le Bella au bois dormanat) for a different decade. It is another film, with another Princess in danger, who needs once again to be rescued by a prince (a stereotype successfully poked at with the recent Frozen). The elements that make Sleeping Beauty such as iconic film regardless over 50 years later is the timeless style of the animation, and a first class villain in Maleficent.
The Disney Princess films (or so they have been retroactively called in recent times), have been some of the most popular films for the Mouse House, and yet their Princess protagonist have been occasionally bland audience identification character. Those same films have been elevated by the presence of an iconic villain from the Wicked Witch of Snow White to Cruella DeVille from 101 Dalmations. However, out of all those villains Maleficent may be the one who stands tall as the most memorably iconic, with her devilishly styled look, and her final sequences in green-fire breathing dragon form it is no wonder that Disney had chosen to give her a live action solo outing this year.
The animation in Sleeping Beauty may be the finest of Disney's 1950's period. It has a beautiful hand-drawn timeless look to it, at times feeling like images having fallen out of the pages of an old book, and from the very first moments engages the viewer in it's visual splendor. The film's concluding sequences with the Prince fighting Maleficent in her dragon form, maybe the finest single sequence of Disney animation from that entire period.
Sleeping Beauty tells the tale of the Princess Aurora who at birth is cursed by the dark fairy Maleficent to die if she should ever touch a weaving wheel. She is protected by this curse from 3 good fairies who whisk her away to a forest on the edge of the kingdom and give her a pseudonym Briar Rose. It is there just past her 16th birthday when the curse should be broken. However, Aurora/Briar Rose unaware of her royal parentage meets and marries a Prince. Soon after this, however, Maleficent tracks her down and she does in fact touch a wheel, not killing her, but putting her into a deep sleep until "true love's kiss". It is now up to the Prince to battle his way to Aurora and take down the evil of Maleficent for all of time.
The last time I viewed Sleeping Beauty was the 2001 DVD release of the film so I have not had a glance at the 2008 Platinum Edition Blu-ray, but all research points to this being a transfer recycled from that edition of the film. That being said the transfer present on this disc is as close to home video perfection as Sleeping Beauty is going to get during the Blu-ray generation. Detail is excellent with line detail coming through quite nicely, and background details showing up quite well. The colors absolutely pop, with only a few moments of softness. There isn't a lot of grain present, but it doesn't appear to have been reduced with sacrifice to detail like other Disney Blu-ray's. I have long been of the opinion if Disney labels a disc Platinum or Diamond Edition it's the rare animation you don't have to worry about going into. The film is presented in a 2:55:1 MPEG-4 AVC encoded transfer.
The audio is presented in a DTS-HD MA 7.1 track in English. The dialogue, score, and effects come through nicely, and I did not detect any anomalies with the audio.
OK, so as I stated previously I skipped the Platinum Edition, and while the Diamond is certainly plentiful with extras it does sacrifice a significant amount of the prior editions content. This edition is filled to the brim, however, with documentaries, galleries, deleted and recreated scenes, storyboards, and loads of interactive content. If you have the Platinum though there is certainly not an A/V reason to upgrade, and the extras might not be a reason either.
While Sleeping Beauty has never been a favorite of mine, the villain at the center has, and it has one of my favorite concluding sequences of any 50's Disney Classic. The A/V restoration courtesy of Disney looks and sounds amazing, and the extras are nice, but offer significant changes from what came before. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.