REVIEW: Waking Sleeping Beauty

18 12 2010

As part of the generation who grew up loving the second wave of Disney animated classics such as “The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Aladdin,” and “The Lion King,” it’s interesting to see a full-length documentary about the creative team that made it all possible.  Enter “Waking Sleeping Beauty,” a chronicle of the second Golden Age of Disney animation from 1984 to 1994.  It covers all the struggles of ushering in the new era and all the fantastic successes of the finished products they put on screens before a sea of exciting moviegoers – and then all the struggles that success created.

It’s a little different than most documentaries in that all interviews are done through audio; we never see any ex post facto commentary from the people who brought us these classics.  There’s so much footage of the animators themselves that perhaps Hahn thought viewers would best be served by seeing the process take place (since that is, after all, what most people want when they sit down to watch the movie).  But without their faces, it’s hard to establish characters outside the main narrative, which makes it feel more like a narrated sequence of events than a documentary.

While the power struggles between CEO Michael Eisner, Board Chairman Roy Disney, and studio head Jeffrey Katzenberg are fascinating, they lack some perspective that could have taken “Waking Sleeping Beauty” to the next level.  I love these Disney movies and I love seeing the creative process that got them made, but I still wonder what distinguishes this documentary from any other bonus feature on the DVDs for these animated movies apart from its length.  It feels like something Disney would show at the 25th reunion for “The Little Mermaid” animators – fun for everyone, but only truly pertinent to the people involved in it.  B

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