Waking Sleeping Beauty (2009) Poster

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A look behind the scenes at the re-birth of Disney animation
Blockhead2216 September 2009
I was at a showing of this film at the Toronto International Film Festival last night followed by a short Q&A session with producers Don Hahn and Peter Schneider. Exclusively using archival footage, much of it home video quality, it tells the story of Disney animation between the years 1984 and 1994. This period started with the studios almost being closed down and ended with classic and successful animated films like 'Beauty and the Beast' and 'The Lion King'. As Don Hahn said last night "We are trained so well in the disciplines of animated films that we made another movie that is 82 minutes long and includes a laugh and a cry". The business side of the industry is examined, warts and all, while looking at the relationship between Roy Disney, Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenburg, with Katzenburg probably coming off worst. Recent audio interview clips are used but the film has no 'talking heads' sequences. The film gives an insightful glimpse behind the scenes at Disney animation during this particular time period. We get to see a depressed looking Tim Burton working at a drawing board in the mid-eighties and at least two live action 'pies in the face', which must be a good thing. The bad news is that this will not be on general release until next April at the earliest. It will be shown at more film festivals this year and the producers did say last night that they will personally deliver and show the movie to appropriate interested groups in the early months of 2010 to try and create word of mouth publicity. Get your friends together and give them a call.
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Educational and informative documentary about Disney's changing of the guard thru live action, computer graphics and studio heads.
Danny Blankenship23 October 2011
"Walking Sleeping Beauty" is one documentary that you don't want to miss it's educational and informative it takes you to a behind the scenes turmoil at Walt Disney studios. It showed how the face of the department's film animation would change forever as the old guys would roll over to more eager and younger determined talent. A real changing of the guard so to speak. As in all business any company has drama and change and tension and thru news clips, interviews, and studio footage this film shows it all you really get a backstage pass to the changing of Disney's animation studios.

For years the film department did things their way only a new wave of young artist would arrive in the early 80's(note footage of legendary Tim Burton(1989's "Batman") starting out in the art department!)Disney began to want movies with more live action and more wilder stories and this became more of a reality with the arrival of CEO Michael Eisner and film department head Jeffrey Katzenberg as ideals and new techniques started to unroll. The best of this is evident in films like the live action "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" and other hits like "Little Mermaid" and "Beauty and the Beast", and "The Lion King" were mixed with great Broadway musical scores and computer generated graphics which would be the new Disney discovery like "Pixar".

Sure the company still had it's ups and downs but these works and methods and people would change Disney film forever. Overall good educational documentary that any history or film fan would enjoy so please watch you will be educated.
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Great...now when is a sequel coming out?!?!
MartinHafer7 December 2010
This documentary is about the period at Disney animation from its nadir in the early 1980s through its incredible successes with "Little Mermaid", "Beauty and the Beast", "Aladdin" and "The Lion King". It talks about the process through which it regained its former glory as well as, ironically, the negative cost that success had on the studio as well. It's all very fascinating for fans of animation and is told through many interviews, archival footage and the like. It's about as interesting as you could expect--and much more interesting than another similar Disney documentary that was also recently released ("Walt and El Groupo").

The only negative about the film is that it had you wanting more. That's because although it was only recently released, it stopped in the early-mid 1990s--and a lot has happened since then (mostly with Pixar taking over most of the animation duties). Seeing the film through "The Princess and the Frog" (possibly Disney's last traditionally animated feature) would be a great follow-up to this splendid documentary.
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Insightful and Motivating; Disney's Mid-'90s Success Didn't Come Easily
Sean Lamberger8 June 2012
A surprisingly open, meticulous walk through the dark days of Disney's legendary animation house. Nearly two decades after Walt's death, the studio's culture was crumbling, with leadership deeply entrenched in the past and a full roster of young challengers nipping at their heels. Through a stunningly thorough collection of time-stamped home video footage and detailed interviews with every major player, (especially impressive considering how many have since passed on) we learn the private story of the studio's darkest hour and celebrate its romantic return to glory. The archival footage alone is astounding stuff, flowing beautifully as a testament to both the unique, energetic personality of the shop and dire circumstances faced by its denizens. That it captured such an important chapter in the company's - and the industry's - long, decorated history is almost too much to believe. Admirably honest, doggedly comprehensive and charmingly human, it's a real eye-opener for anyone with even a passing interest in the stories behind several of animation's watershed moments.
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Great for Basic Information
cannedgravy10 June 2011
I'm an avid fan of Disney and Disney history. I was elated to hear about this documentary and bought the DVD. Absolutely fascinating subject if you care anything for the history of Disney's place in the entertainment world. It was great to see all the archived footage from the 80s and 90s.

My only gripes with this doc is that there's SO much stuff to cover it can't possibly be done with the confines of a feature length. So to me it felt very rushed as they were pushing through subjects and materials really fast. You may think you'll get a lot of John Lasseter in this and Tim Burton but you don't. they only mention Nightmare Before Christmas and move on. A bit dissatisfying for me since I'm fascinated in the outside people who were working for Disney at the time.

All in all a great Doc on a fascinating subject. But it felt rushed and leaves out quite a bit of stuff I felt should have been mentioned. Maybe one day Ken Burns will make a doc on the subject and I'll finally get my 10 DVD box set! Until then, it's great for the basics. Still a MUST SEE for Disney fans!!! Go see it!
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Magic under pressure: the business-side of Disney
moonspinner5529 June 2016
The resurgence of hand-drawn animation in the 1990s, fueled by box-office success but burdened by egos. With animator Don Bluth vacating Disney in 1979, and somewhat unscrupulously taking a large group of artists along with him, the animation arm of the Disney Company was in turmoil in 1980. With disappointing returns from "The Black Cauldron" scalding the Ink and Paint Club denizens, Roy Disney, Walt's nephew and a major supporter of Disney's animated output, brought in Michael Eisner as CEO, who in turn brought in Jeffrey Katzenberg to head up the animation division. While Katzenberg immediately rubbed his artists the wrong way, he managed to get the company on the right track, leading to major successes "The Little Mermaid", "Beauty and the Beast" and "The Lion King" in the 1990s. This fascinating documentary from Don Hahn eschews the usual talking-heads format, moving the piece along with home movie footage, news clips, and by individual interview voice-overs from all the principals. For Disney-fanatics, it's a treasure trove of facts and financially-driven fantasy. *** from ****
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A very interesting look behind the scenes...
Ole Sandbaek Joergensen5 January 2016
... from a workers point of view, at Disney as a business and the people running and leading this big-machine-of-a-corporation.

From the workers it seems that they were tossed back and fourth. they love their job, but it was and properly still is a very stressful place to work.

I didn't know all the facts of when it started, who they had been working with etc. and its really interesting to see that both Pixar and Dreamworks have been "insiders" at Disney from the beginning and themselves brown to so much. Disney have had some difficult years, but is now a very successful business again, it seems to be running smoothly.

I can only say, I love all the animations movie, and the ones from Disney have something special, Pixar and Dreamworks have their separate own style today and I love them as well, but there still is something special about a Disney release.

I must say, that their feature films of today are also very magical in a Disney kind of way, and that is also great to watch.

So to all your that was in this film and to the workers of today and tomorrow, Disney will always have a special place in many of our hearts, and it's because of all you hard working people, those who kept it together and stuck it out in the rough times and those who are still fighting this day today, to make Disney as vivid, groundbreaking and refreshing as it has always been.
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What happens when you get an appetizer instead of a main course
diac22829 August 2014
Warning: Spoilers
How much are you willing to show to get the point across? And how much are you willing to hide and conceal to not affect the impact of your documentary? This is the biggest issue with Waking Sleeping Beauty, a well-produced and well-paced work that in a rare sense doesn't provide any actual interviews. Instead relying on archive footage that spans an entire decade, this technique allows for the documentarians involve to tell the story without suffering too many artistic setbacks.

But nonetheless, it still feels like an incomplete movie.

Waking Sleeping Beauty is a heart-wrenching and interesting movie that pulls back way too many punches to be considered outstanding or groundbreaking. It covers the rock bottom period of the Disney Animation Studio (Losing to Care Bears movie?!?!) and chronicles its rise to the top with The Lion King—while monitoring all the setbacks, tragedies, controversies, and obstacles that were in the way. But here is where it gets interesting: this film was made in 2009, and the Disney Renaissance period it decided to cover was only 1988-1994, totally neglecting the 1995-2000 period that always gets forgotten or flies under the radar.

You will see most of your books and movies about the Renaissance period cover Little Mermaid to Lion King, but then neglect Pocahontas, Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules, and Mulan; four movies that had just as much impact in the Disney company and the animation studio than the other movies mentioned. Even Toy Story, the Disney film that would revolutionize the entire movie industry was just a mere blurb in this documentary. And there is still no love for Tarzan, a 1999 $450 million and Academy Award-winning success.

Waking Sleeping Beauty does beautifully and in detailed fashion discuss the everlasting battle between business and art, as the business aspects of Disney were crumbling and it ushered a new era of businessmen and bosses that would clash with the ragtag animation group that was heavily leaning on the Disney Way. As the movie progresses, it chronicles Disney's rise to the stratosphere and all the bubbling tension underneath. The amount of archival footage is a near miracle especially considering Disney's tight lip policy. Some can wonder just how much of a hand the company had in making this, which could also explain the lack of mentioning as to just what happened to Jeffery Kratzenberg—whom would become Don Bluth part 2 and challenge the Disney studio with one of his very own in the mid-1990s.

It might be me coming off as picky to knock on a documentary that wanted to focus on a specific time period. But it is rather unfair to the audience that would be interested in this type of movie in the first place---film and Disney buffs. It is only 85 minutes, you could have added 30 minutes of post-Lion King details which would include the death of Don Bluth animation, the rise of Pixar and Dreamworks, and the slow downward spiral of Eisner's interest in the animation industry (He nearly killed it altogether, this should be worth noting).

Those that would watch this in the first place are more informed than the average moviegoer, so therefore, should have been more detailed and should have included more. In an era where Ken Burns meticulously exercises every detail in his works, Waking Sleeping Beauty executes its material well---but just wasn't enough material.
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