Sunday, July 1, 2012

Waking Sleeping Beauty - A Review

Disney has always tended to be a private and secretive company operating in the very public world of show business, entertainment, and media. Much has been written about the behind the scenes world of Disney (check out the great book Disney Wars). Sometimes the behind the scenes stuff is better and more interesting than the movies they made (the most recent example is the John Carter debacle). Maybe for the first time ever in a movie released by Disney, they allow little bit of their dirty laundry to be made public with the wonderful documentary Waking Sleeping Beauty directed by Don Hahn who produced  the great Disney films - Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King now many years ago. Waking Sleeping Beauty was not a movie that was widely distributed so you will have to seek it out. I had to stream it.

Waking Sleeping Beauty is fascinating story of how Disney animation, the cornerstone of the company Walt Disney built, almost came to complete ruins by the early 1980's only to be resurrected by four executives who wouldn't let it die - Roy E. Disney, Michael Eisner, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and Frank Wells. Under their leadership and with a talented group of tireless animators, performers, and artists, Disney animation came back from the dead over a 10 year period that started a simple movie called The Great Mouse Detective and culminated in a succession of Disney animated classics that will probably never be duplicated - The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and finishing off with The Lion King. Ultimately the dynamic tension and friction of the egos of the men in charge brought the second golden age of Disney animation to its end. Waking Sleeping Beauty honestly describes how Roy Disney, Eisner, and Katzenberg all wanted primary credit and be visible front men for the 4 mega-hit movies but in reality it was a group of talented men and women who were the real heroes in the resurgence of Disney animation. This is as much their story as it is the executives who drove them.   

Just a great documentary. There's a lot people involved so its hard to keep them straight as to who does what but by the end of the movie, you will have gotten a pretty good overview on this period of time in Disney animation. It's a movie well worth seeking out.   

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