Second only to Dumbo (1941) (who didn't speak at all), this Disney title character has only about eighteen lines of actual dialogue throughout the entire film, in which she only appears in the film for eighteen minutes and which is actually about the three fairies who protect her, not about the Sleeping Beauty herself. Briar Rose/Aurora's first line is spoken nineteen minutes into the film and her last is delivered after she learns of her betrothal thirty-nine minutes in. However, she does sing two songs during this time frame. The very last sound she makes in the movie is when she arrives at the castle and is crying about never seeing her true love again.
In the traditional Italian version of this fairy tale, Sleeping Beauty is named Princess Aurora. In the German version, she is named Briar Rose. The film incorporates both names by having Princess Aurora use the name Briar Rose while undercover.
Eleanor Audley--one of Walt Disney's favorite voice artists, most memorably as Lady Tremaine in Cinderella (1950)--initially turned the part of Maleficent down, much to Disney's surprise. As it later transpired, Audley was in the midst of battling a bout of tuberculosis and did not want to tax her voice too much. Fortunately, she recovered and accepted the part.
One of the film's iconic scenes, when Briar Rose (Aurora) meets Prince Phillip for the first time to the tune of "Once Upon a Dream," was called "Sequence 8" when it was being produced. It was a particularly hard sequence to get right (Walt Disney rejected it several times) and ultimately had to be done four times, almost bankrupting the studio in the process.
Much of the musical score is based on Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's ballet "Sleeping Beauty." The musical score throughout the film was recorded by the Berlin Symphony Orchestra. The ominous piece of music to which Maleficent hypnotizes Aurora into pricking her finger is called "Puss-in-Boots and the White Cat." In Tchaikovsky's ballet, it is used for a comic number in which two cats snarl at and try to scratch each other. Various movements from The Sleeping Beauty ballet underwent some reworking for the Disney film. The opening song ("Hail to the Princess Aurora") is actually the ballet's second movement, after the overture. Also, the theme playing when the three fairies clean the cottage is based on "The Silver Fairy" movement, which, in its original form, is barely a minute long.
Walt Disney suggested that all three fairies should look alike, but veteran animators Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston disagreed with this idea, saying that having them be alike would not be exciting. Also, the idea originally included seven fairies instead of three, as in the original fairy tale.
Sleeping Beauty (1959) was in production at the Disney Studios for nearly a decade. Story work began in 1951, voices were recorded in 1952, the actual animation took place between 1953 and 1958, and the stereophonic score was recorded in 1957. The movie was finally released one to two years later, in 1959.
For the first time on a Disney animated feature, one man, Eyvind Earle, was in charge of the color styling, background design, and the overall look of the film, even painting the great majority of the production backgrounds. Earle's modernistic approach to design and painting resulted in providing this film a bold, unique art style, even though his colleagues did not care for his production methods and art style while the film was in production. The elaborate background paintings usually took seven to ten days to paint. By contrast, a typical animation background takes one workday to complete.
The restoration process involved four painstaking steps. The first step was to scan the original negative into a computer and subject the entire print to a deflickering procedure, evening out all the worn images and creating a cohesive canvas upon which the restoration artists could work. This was then followed by roto-scoping to extract the principal characters, dust-busting to remove all traces of dust and scuffing, and then re-inserting the characters into their cleaned-up backgrounds. Then all 180,000 frames would be completely repainted by up to forty people in a process that clocked up nearly 48,000 hours. Once complete, the final product is then scanned onto a new negative.
Such was the attention to detail brought about by the widescreen process was that some of the character animators were only capable of producing one drawing of their characters a day. Twenty-four drawn images are needed to make up one second of movement on film.
The Disneyland castle was named for this film, even though the park opened four years prior to the film's release. To help promote the film, the imagineers working on the new Disneyland project modeled the castle after the one in the film.
The fairytale book used in the beginning of the movie was real, and was handmade by Eyvind Earle, the man responsible for the entire look and feel of the movie. It was restored in 2008 and is displayed sometimes during public events.
Famed Warner Bros. animation director Chuck Jones worked on the film briefly when Termite Terrace closed temporarily during the late 1950s. He found the atmosphere at Walt Disney Productions oppressive because everything anyone did there had to be approved by Walt Disney before, during, and after the process of production. He was more than happy when Warner's animation department re-opened, where he stayed until it closed again in 1964.
Several story points for this film came from discarded ideas from Walt Disney's previous fairy tale involving another sleeping heroine, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937); they include Maleficent's capture of the Prince and the Prince's daring escape from her castle. Disney discarded these ideas from "Snow White" because he believed that his artists were not able to draw a human male believably enough.
This was the last Disney feature to have cels inked by hand. From 101 Dalmatians (1961) onward, the cleaned-up pencil drawings were xeroxed onto the cels. However, some of the scenes in this movie did use the xerography process.
George Bruns initially started scoring the film in Los Angeles in 4-track stereo, until he got wind of a new studio in Berlin that used 6-track stereo, so he decamped for Germany. Bruns' efforts were rewarded with an Oscar nomination.
Shot on a 35mm Technirama double-frame negative (which is as big as two regular Academy frames joined together) running horizontally through the animation camera, with each frame photographed three times (once with a red filter, once with a blue filter, and once with a green filter). This negative was then printed on both CinemaScope-compatible anamorphic film and Super Technirama 70mm film, the first film released in Super Technirama 70.
One song which was abandoned was "Evil-Evil," and it was to be sung by two of Maleficent's henchman (who also happened to be brothers). It described their hatred of mankind and desire to cause them problems.
Viewers never get to find out what gift Merryweather was meant to bestow upon the princess - wisdom or compassion would have been obvious choices - but according to the platinum edition DVD's commentary, her gift was going to be happiness.
Live actors in costume served as models for the animators. The role of Prince Phillip was modeled by Ed Kemmer, who had played Commander Buzz Corry on television's Space Patrol (1950) five years before Sleeping Beauty (1959) was released. For the final battle sequence, Kemmer was photographed on a wooden buck. All the live actors' performances were later screened for the animators' reference. Among the actresses who performed in reference footage for this film included Frances Bavier, Spring Byington, and Madge Blake, the latter two of whom did some live-action doubling as the fairies. The voice artists were not chosen to do so for the fairies because they were not pudgy enough, though Merryweather's face does bear some resemblance to Barbara Luddy.
In 1960, to promote the release of the film in Japan, Walt Disney handpicked some 250 cels, backgrounds, preliminary paintings, animation drawings, and story sketches to send to that country for a touring exhibition. Although the material was mostly for Sleeping Beauty (1959), Disney also provided examples from other films as well, including the only known cel and background setup from Flowers and Trees (1932). The exhibition opened at the Mitsukoshi department store that May and then traveled to sixteen other stores throughout Japan. After the tour, Disney donated the artwork to Tokyo's National Museum of Modern Art. However, the material did not fit well into its permanent collection, so the museum gave the artwork to Chiba University to enhance the study of the school's visual arts program.
King Stefan's and King Hubert's argument (which is centered around them singing "Skumps," a drinking song) originally took place at the beginning of the film. They sang a song called "It Happens I Have A Picture," in which they proudly presented portraits of their children to each other. The demo of the song, which appears on the Legacy Collection edition of the soundtrack, was performed by Hans Conried (as Stefan) and Bill Thompson (as Hubert).
Was re-released in the United States in 1970, 1979, and 1986. It was also re-issued in a few European countries in 1995. It was originally supposed to be re-released in America in 1993 as promoted on the 1992 VHS of Beauty and the Beast (1991), but no further evidence existed of these plans and was most likely to have been cancelled by Disney.
In active production from 1951 until the end of 1958, setting a record (for which it is tied with another 70mm film, The Black Cauldron (1985)) for being the Disney animated film with the longest production schedule.
Many elements of Sleeping Beauty (1959) have been recycled into later films. The best example is The Sword in the Stone (1963), which reuses opening credit backgrounds and various animation sequences; the two most noticeable are the owl from the forest scene, who would inspire Merlin's pet Archemedes, and Malificent in dragon form, which led to Madam Mim in dragon form.
The look of Maleficent was mainly inspired by actress Maila Nurmi's character Vampira who took most of her inspiration from Morticia Addams and coincidently The Evil Queen from Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937).
There was a scene storyboarded in which one of the fairies was attempting to make the cake without using the wand, but ultimately caused it to crash right through the roof. Ultimately, Walt Disney decided not to use it as he felt it was one gag too many.
The huge cost of " Sleeping Beauty " was a massive concern for Walt Disney who slashed his animation personnel from 551 to just 75 the following year. In fact, Disney was advised to pull out of animation altogether and concentrate on TV and theme parks instead.
In the penultimate scene where Maleficent appears in the fireplace and hypnotizes Aurora, the female vocalist that is heard while the fire is burning out is actually saying "Aurora!" and is sung none other than Mary Costa herself. While difficult to hear in the film, it is much more clearer on the score/soundtrack.
The trivia item below may give away important plot points.
The first Disney animated film where the Prince (Prince Philip) takes an active role in defeating the main villain. The Evil Queen/Witch fell off a cliff in "Snow White" and Lady Tremaine was left with her daughters after Cinderella married her Prince, who did nothing. Philip actually kills Maleficent in the film.