Sunday, April 04, 2010

Waking Sleeping Beauty

This weekend I saw a matinee of Don Hahn's Waking Sleeping Beauty, a behind-the-scenes documentary about the revival of the Disney animation studio between 1984-1994. This is the period that goes from the box office failure of The Black Cauldron to the big success of The Lion King. The movie is composed entirely of found footage, mostly home movies of the studio animators clowning for the camera, plus TV clips & promotional videos. As such, the movie has no production values, & there is no advantage to seeing it in a movie theater. The story is told mainly through voice-overs that do not necessarily correspond to the visuals. This sometimes makes it confusing to follow the complicated story of shifting personnel & priorities at the studio.

The documentary is surprisingly frank about the acrimonious relationship between studio heads Jeffrey Katzenberg, Michael Eisner & Roy Disney, as well as between management & the animators. A highlight is Howard Ashman pitching "Under the Sea" from The Little Mermaid & explaining why every musical has a number like "Part of Your World". I also learned that The Rescuers Down Under is the 1st feature animated film to be produced entirely with a computer animation system. I can't say that Waking Sleeping Beauty truly explains why there was a Renaissance in the animation studio during this period, but it does show that people worked really hard on the films.

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