Tag Archives: Disney

Blog Post #11 – Preview: Waking Sleeping Beauty

As a patron of the local Cinema Arts Theatre, I receive an email update of films that are currently showing, what films are leaving and information on the choices the theater owner is making for future showings.  My last email had some intriguing information:

“Interesting this week — Please note we are trying to get the Disney documentary Waking Sleeping Beauty by the end of the month.  There is no marketing support, so word of mouth has to work.  The wish it to start April 23, but that is not confirmed.  We hope to be exclusive with downtown!!”

I was somewhat surprised because I had not heard about the documentary and considering the fact it goes hand and hand with our study of animation, I thought I would see what information I could find.

IMDB did not have a lot of information on its website.  It did show limited release dates, mostly Film Festivals:

September 5, 2009 – USA Telluride Film Festival

Sept 15, 2009 – Canada Toronto International Film Festival

October 2009 – USA Hamptons International Film Festival

October 18, 2009 – USA Heartland Film Festival

January 2010 – USA Palm Springs International Film Festival

April 10, 2010 – USA AFI Dallas International Film Festival

It is slated for limited 2010 USA release.

The Art Center College of Design, Film Department tells us “Waking Sleeping Beauty tells the story of Disney’s unparalelled success with animation during the halcyon years of 1984-1994. The film features amazing behind-the-scenes footage, shot in defiance of strict Disney company rules, documenting the intense power struggles between Michael Eisner, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Roy E. Disney and others. The guerilla cameramen capturing the drama include former Disney animator and current Pixar chief John Lasseter!”

In the Feb. 15, 2010 blog of Chad Sellers, Animator for Disney, the film was described this way:

“Director Don Hahn (producer of Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King) and producer Peter Schneider (former chairman of the studio), key players at Walt Disney Studios feature animation department during the mid1980s, offer a behind-the-magic glimpse of the turbulent times the animation studio was going through and the staggering output of hits that followed over the next 10 years. Artists polarized between the hungry young innovators and the old guard who refused to relinquish control, mounting tensions due to a string of box-office flops, and warring studio leadership create the backdrop for this fascinating story told with a unique and candid perspective from those that were there. Through interviews, internal memos, home movies and a cast of characters featuring Michael Eisner, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Roy Disney, alongside an amazing array of talented artists that includes Steven Spielberg, Richard Williams, John Lasseter and Tim Burton, Waking Sleeping Beauty shines a light on Disney animation’s darkest hours, greatest joys and its improbable renaissance.”

Unfortunately, as of April 26, 2010 Waking Sleeping Beauty has not been released to any theaters in the metropolitan DC/NVa area. I will definitely be on the lookout for it as I believe it will give us an in-depth look at how Disney evolved to what it is today.

I have commented on the blogs of Rebecca Townsend and Michael Taylor.


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Blog Post #6 – The Sword in the Stone

Disney’s 1963 animation of The Sword in the Stone was the last full length animated feature that was released while Walt Disney was alive.  The film is based on the 1938 novel by T.H. White of the same name.  This animation was a part of the ‘English Cycle’ of Disney films that included Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, 101 Dalmatians, The Jungle Book, Robin Hood and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.  Even though Disney followed the general plot of T. H. White’s original book, much of the substance of the storyline was changed.  Both T. H. White and Walt Disney made changes to the original  White manuscript storyline of the Arthurian Legend of The Sword in the Stone.

The original 1938 novel chronicles early life of a boy named Wart who is befriended by Merlin the magician.  Merlin tutors Wart to prepare him for the time when he would become the king of England.  The setting is medieval England and White includes in the story his vast knowledge of medieval culture, especially in hunting, falconry and jousting. Many of Merlin’s lessons for Wart consisted of  being turned magically into animals. Wart also had human adventures, including meeting the outlaw Robin Wood (Robin Hood).

T.H. White substantially revised the original 1938 stand alone novel when he published The Sword in the Stone as the first part of a 1958 four part series, The Once and Future King.   The new version included several new story lines, one of which included a strong pacifist message.  In this story Arthur is turned into a wild goose that files so high that he cannot determine national boundaries.  The new version also leaves out some of the passages that were in the original and were used for the Disney film, such as the battle between Merlin and Madam Mim.

Both Walt Disney and T. H. White used The Sword and the Stone to portray their unhappiness with the political and professional problems they were encountering.  Walt Disney identified himself with the Merlin character and it has been suggested that he felt that Merlin’s battle with Mim portrayed his personal battles with critics.  T. H. White’s revision of his original story reflected the more somber mood after World War II and his dissatisfaction with the wartime censorship and delay in the publication of his 1941 The Book of Merlyn.


The Sword in the Stone DVD, 45th Anniversary Edition with Bonus Features

Wikipedia:  The Sword and the Stone (Book), The Sword and the Stone (Film), The Book of Merlyn

I have commented on the blogs of Victor Koski and Alissa Potter.

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Post #2 – Live Action/Animated Films

There are many types of live action/animated films — everything from The Muppets to Night at the Museum.  The best definition I have found for live action/animated film is — ” a motion picture that features a combination of real actors or elements: live action and animated elements, typically interacting.” The combination of live action and the traditionally drawn animation has had a long evolution.

Windsor McCay is credited with being the first to use this interaction with his lovable dinosaur Gertie in 1914.  Today we have the state of the art performance capture animation of James Cameron’s Avatar (2009).  Between these two there have been a progression of films that have explored child and adult themes.

In the 1940’s Jerry Mouse danced with Gene Kelly to everyone’s entertainment in the film Anchors Aweigh.  Donald Duck danced The Cactus Dance with Carmen Molina in Walt Disney’s animated The Three Caballeros.  These two movies showed opposite types of incorporating animation and live action.

Disney continued to incorporate live action/animation in his children’s movies of the 1960’s and 1970’s.  Two of the most popular were Mary Poppins (1964) which shows Dick Van Dyke dancing with cartoon penguins in an animated setting and Pete’s Dragon (1977) which placed the animated dragon, Elliott, into the live action film.

Adult themes were explored in Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) and Cool World (1992) as technological advances in animation allowed a more realistic relationship between the live actors and their animated counterparts.

Today we see James Cameron’s fine tuning of live action/animation with performance capture animation and 3-D in Avatar.  With the new technology he has brought to the film industry the future should be bright for this genre of film.

I have commented on the blogs of Courtney Webber and Nicole Aarestad.

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Post #1 – Princess and the Frog: The Color of a Princess

Disney has had ethnic princesses in the past — Jasmine, Mulan, and Pocahontas.  The depiction of their newest royal addition, Princess Tiana, has created some colorful controversy to the 2009 animated film The Princess and the Frog.  The story of their first black princess came under fire even before it was released.

On May 8, 2007 after complaints of racial and ethnic insensitivity, Disney Studios released a statement outlining the changes they had made to the movie’s title and storyline.  The original title The Frog Princess was changed to The Princess and the Frog to negate any unintended slur on the French.  The main character’s name was also changed from Maddy to Tiana because the former sounded too much like the racially negative name of Mammy.  The character was also originally slated to be a maid to the spoiled white debutante, Charlotte.

Disney did in fact strengthen Tiana’s role to show her as an independent young woman.  IMDB quotes the Disney statement: “The story takes place in the charming elegance and grandeur of New Orleans’ fabled French Quarter during the Jazz Age .  . Princess Tiana will be a heroine in the great tradition of Disney’s rich animated fairy tale legacy, and all other characters and aspects of the story will be treated with the greatest respect and sensitivity.’

Other racial concerns have centered around the fact that while Princess Tiana is black, her prince is not.  Prince Naveen is voiced by the Brazilian actor Bruno Campos and is shown in animation with light skin. Disney has missed a golden opportunity to racially balance their characters by introducing a black Prince.

Some people feel that the sterotype of black women shown in The Princess and the Frog does not need to be rehased to their daughters.  One critic writes in The Huffington Post: “In Princess, all the images are re-ingrained into a new generation of black girls psyche–single attractive black woman, works hard, wants a business, can’t afford it, gets swindled, is alone, does not date, has no fun, is stoic, stern, a chastening rod for the frivolous playboy prince, ends up in the swamps as an ugly frog, running for her life from evil, broken dreams, etc.  Is there any need to go on? . . . I understand that this movie is set in a segregated 1930’s southern time frame — BUT, our little girls deserve better than the same old work hard, be a strong black woman, men aren’t important, I can make my dreams come true alone without any help nonsense that has wrecked so many of us to this very day.”

Disney has taken a step forward to try to bridge the Princess Gap for all of the young girls that watch their movies. But, they sill have a way to go to reflect the racial sensitivity that fits the persona of the Princess they present to her Prince, ever after and audience.

I have commented on the posts of Scott Bell and Danyael Hughes.


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