Sleeping Beauty was never one of my favorite Disney movies. We didn’t own it, and I probably haven’t seen it since I was about six or seven. (I have vague memories of watching it at a friend’s house.) But since I’ve been working on fairy tale retellings all year, I thought I’d watch the movie again for inspiration/amusement.
I am now seriously considering re-watching all the Disney Princess movies for next year’s film challenge. Anything has to be better than Best Picture Winners. Why did I do this to myself, WHY? They’re all 800 years long.
Yeah, guys. SPOILERS will abound. Because seriously.
Maleficent, who doesn’t take rejection well, curses Princess Aurora to prick her finger on a spindle and DIE on her 16th birthday. That gets downgraded to Lengthy Sleeping, but the Good Fairies are eager to avoid the curse entirely, so they raise Aurora as their own, pretending she’s just an ordinary peasant girl. It’s all going swimmingly until Year 16, when everybody rapidly begins making poor life choices.
1. The main problem with Sleeping Beauty — well, one of them — is that it’s a 35 minute story needlessly spread out into a 115 minute film. Almost every single scene runs much longer than it needs to. And then there’s this scene:
People, this is my new definition of a Filler Scene. All other Filler Scenes will now be compared on a scale of 1 to Drunk Kings Attack Each Other With Fish. I mean, what is this? Who thought, You know what Sleeping Beauty really needs? More belligerent, drunk guys dueling with swordfish and silver platters. Walt Disney, what’s WRONG with you?
2. Also, for a movie called Sleeping Beauty, our title character is barely in it. She’s got a handful of lines and sings maybe twice before she’s out for the count. In fact, she only wakes up just before the end of the movie, which means Aurora’s last line in her own fairy tale is at the 38 minute mark. (Plus . . . I think the girl might have something to say. Like you get bewitched, right, fall into a coma for who knows how long, and then finally you wake up in an unfamiliar room with this dude you’ve met once macking on you — I just — I don’t feel like a “soooo . . . what’s happening here” is entirely out of the question.)
Really, this movie should be called The Good Fairies, as they’re clearly the main characters of the piece. Admittedly, they screw up, like, a lot. But they’re also pretty instrumental in saving Aurora at the end of the film. Prince Phillip gets way more credit than he actually deserves.
3. But let’s go back to the beginning, shall we? Here is the storybook . . .
. . . and good Lord, is it ugly. Seriously, who let their six-year-old bedazzle the shit out of this thing? This is unacceptable.
4. As far as the actual story itself goes, we begin with King Stefan and . . . uh, some random woman.
Wikipedia informs us that the Queen’s name is actually Leah, but for some reason, this is never spoken. It’s always ‘King Stefan and his queen,’ like she’s an object, or his dog. Queen Leah certainly doesn’t get to enjoy libations and fend off any fish attacks. I’m actually a little surprised she gets dialogue at all.
Leah and Stefan appear to be sensible people in that they don’t want an evil fairy at their baby’s christening, but as far as I can tell, they attempt no kind of precautionary measures when it comes to keeping said fairy away. So, yeah, that seems like pretty poor forward thinking on their part. For shame, Leah and Stefan.
As far as the actual blessings go:
Flora, the Red Fairy (who I’ve mistakenly thought of as the Pink Fairy for years), blesses Aurora with beauty, presumably because she takes one look at this kid and is like, “Yeah, you’re gonna be an ugly child. Let’s just take care of that now, shall we?” Magic Botox was all the rage in the 14th century. (In a deleted scene, Queen Leah is like, “Uh, thanks for coming all this way to bless my child and everything, but I was thinking — how about we just let my kid look how she’s gonna look, and I’ll love her no matter what, okay?” Then, promptly chastised for this positive parenting, Leah is stripped of her name as punishment.)
Fauna, the Green Fairy, blesses Aurora with song, which, okay. That’s not such a bad thing. Classically girly, yeah, but not bad. I wish someone had blessed me with song, and I bet all my friends, relatives, traveling companions, cats, and neighbors wish it too.
Merryweather, the Blue Fairy, does not get the opportunity to bless Aurora right away, but Mekaela and I simultaneously came up with our own guesses on what she might have offered, had Maleficent not rudely interrupted. I said, “The Blessing of Vicious Debate!” Mekaela said, “The Blessing of Nunchucks!”
Yeah, Mekaela won that round.
5. So, Maleficent is still pretty awesome.
Because I am nothing if not blasphemous, I feel obligated to knock Maleficent points for both her poor choice in henchmen and her total Bond Villain moment near the end of the film when she basically tells Prince Phillip exactly how to save his lady love. Still, I’ll forgive it because, you know. She’s so iconic and awesome and has the very best voice and super great fashion and can turn into a fucking dragon. (The voice work, by the way, is done by Eleanor Audley, who also portrayed Lady Tremaine in Cinderella. Man. Wouldn’t that be a great career, providing voices for villains? I wish I could get into that, but even if I could act, I’m not sure I could give good Villain. I think I’m basically doomed to be snarky best friend or grumpy henchman.)
Maleficent fucks with Stefan and Leah for a few minutes before cursing the baby and taking off. Meanwhile, the Blue Fairy can’t cancel the curse because of Reasons, but she can alter it: if Aurora touches the spindle, she’ll sleep until her true love kisses her awake. Which is, admittedly, better than the alternative, but still no one’s real happy with that plan, either, so King Stefan orders all the spindles in the kingdom destroyed (presumably, the country imports all their clothing from hereon in) and the Good Fairies take Baby Aurora away, renaming her Briar Rose and raising her in the woods until her sixteenth birthday comes, when it will be safe for her to return and reclaim her birthright. (Well, sorta.)
6. Of course, it should be said that there is no way Aurora makes it to her sixteenth birthday because the Good Fairies kind of suck.
Look, I’m no fantastic chef and God knows I wouldn’t be able to make a dress if my life depended on it. I’m not saying I would survive living out in some rustic cabin in the middle of the woods, and I’ve been human all my life. But the Good Fairies are so comically terrible at throwing a simple birthday party that I can’t even begin to imagine how they managed to raise Aurora for sixteen years without magic. What did they eat? Where did they get this food? Have they been wearing the same clothes for nearly 20 years? There is no way Baby Aurora made it to her adolescence, that’s all I’m saying. Baby Aurora is dead right now. This is all a hallucination borne out of grief.
I’ve gotta say, too — is this hugely elaborate deception even necessary? Aurora isn’t actually in danger for most of her life. Maleficent’s curse is really only good for a 24-hour period, a one-day coupon, if you will. So that’s sixteen years she spends in a cabin with these three bumbling old women for no good reason. She could have had, like, schooling and friends and people who knew the basic ingredients for cake. This just seems like a terrible plan all around, cause seriously, if you’re going to hide a child for 16 years, why not wait until the day after her birthday to bring her back to the castle?
And for all of Maleficent’s fretting that she can’t find the baby . . . I mean, does it really even matter? Her raven finds Aurora at the cabin (and yeah, way to go, fairies), but Maleficent doesn’t bother to enchant her there. She only enchants Aurora once she’s back at the castle, so, like, how did the last sixteen years make the slightest bit of difference either way?
7. To no one’s great surprise, Aurora, herself, is boring as hell.
She has next to no real personality and appears to exist mostly to sing, sleep, and pick berries. Like all Disney Princesses, she befriends the various animals around her, a scene that was simply impossible to watch without thinking of my favorite scene from Shrek. I giggled like a fiend the entire time.
8. And it’s too bad she didn’t inherit the Blessing of Nunchucks because, seriously, her one true love? Yeah. That jackhole is kind of a creeper.
Cause here you are, just dancing in the woods with your woodland creature buddies, when some total pervy asshat grabs you from behind without your consent and starts dancing with you. And when you’re like, “Uh, excuse me, person I totally don’t know?!” he’s all, “But you do know! You said so yourself! We’ve met in a dream!” UGH. Phillip needs to get smacked in the face. Repeatedly, and preferably with nunchucks. Anytime either of them said, “Once upon a dream,” I just wanted to kill myself. Or, less drastically, make Sleeping Beauty into a drinking game. Could be fun. Everybody could wear tiaras and take shots.
Prince Phillip’s best moment, by far, is when he’s a kid, looking at his beloved bride-to-be for the very first time.
Clearly, he’s not particularly impressed. I miss that Prince Phillip.
9. According to Princess Aurora, if you dream a thing more than once, it’s sure to come true. And first, let’s be clear: that’s some bullshit. I don’t know who would have told her that, anyway, since as far as I know, she’s never actually met anyone her whole life. And more importantly, Christ, I hope not. I have teeth dreams, for fuck’s sake. I don’t want those to come true.
10. I meant to mention this earlier, but when I was a kid, the Green Fairy was my favorite. I suspect this was because I liked the color green at the time, but now that I’ve watched this movie again, I’m appropriately appalled at my six-year-old self.
Of course, Child Carlie held a number of entirely questionable opinions and would likely have been very bewildered by the sardonic, nerdy, and regularly profane woman she turned out to be, but come on, Tiny Me! The Green Fairy is awful. She is easily the most useless of the three and appears to exist only to say sickeningly sweet things and think happy thoughts about babies. The Red Fairy may come up with spectacularly flawed plans, but at least she’s proactive about it.
. . . although, those plans are really, really bad. Flora’s first thought to protect Princess Aurora is to transform her into a flower, a plan that somehow no one else has a problem with, at least until somebody floats the idea of a killer frost. We’ve already discussed the whole ‘living in the woods’ debacle, and then, when Aurora falls into an enchanted sleep, the Red Fairy decides to make everyone in the castle fall asleep too, supposedly so they won’t feel the heartache.
Holy shit, NO. This is ridiculous. Can you imagine being a serving girl in this castle? Maybe you’re happy the Princess is returning, or maybe you’re just wishing there was a spindle around so you can have a new godamn apron, but either way, now you have to sleep forever until some dude molests an unconscious lady with his tongue? NOPE. I can only assume that the Red Fairy’s real motivation for casting this spell was to keep the King and Queen from trying to burn her alive for failing them so badly.
Clearly, the Blue Fairy is the best of the Good Fairies.
She may not have very much sense, herself, but hey, at least she’s got moxie.
11. All the Good Fairies seem to take forever to figure out that they have a decent shot at breaking Maleficent’s spell. I mean, it’s not like they don’t know about the whole ‘True Love’s Kiss’ deal, and yet none of the women are like, “Maybe we should track down Prince Phillip,” or “How about we find that one guy Aurora was talking about, the creeper from her dreams?” I’m not saying they should know it’s the same dude or anything, but you’d think they might start looking for one of them before the Red Fairy happens to overhear Phillip’s father spelling out the whole solution.
12. Still, the Good Fairies are the only reason Phillip saves Aurora at all. First, they have to rescue him, as Maleficent has managed to capture the prince at the cottage. While doing so, the Red Fairy launches into one of those “the hero’s quest can only be completed by you and you alone” spiels, which I was like WHY — but hilariously, Phillip does very little on his own. The fairies are the ones who provide the Sword of Truth and Shield of Virtue. (Giggling. So much giggling.) The Red Fairy turns multiple enemies into, like, flowers and shit. The Blue Fairy turns Maleficent’s raven into stone. (The raven, by the way, doesn’t get a name, either, but Wikipedia tells us that it’s name is Diablo, because Walt Disney has never been real subtle with his Bad Guy Naming Practices, e.g, Scar, Iago, Lucifer, etc.) Predictably, the Green Fairy does nothing useful at all.
The fairies even help Phillip during his supposed one-on-one final battle with Maleficent. He loses the Shield of Virtue, so the Red Fairy blesses his Sword of Truth, like, right before he stabs the dragon. She actually has to say “fly swift and sure” because, presumably, Phillip can’t aim for shit and would have missed if she hadn’t. Honestly, I’m at a bit of a loss for what the fairies needed him for in the first place, other than his lips. In my revisionist remake, the Good Fairies kill Maleficent and only bother finding Phillip so he can wake Aurora up.
13. Also sort of interesting: in the beginning of the movie, the Good Fairies say that they can’t use their magic to cause harm, that their powers can only be used for happiness or some nonsense. (Hilariously, the Blue Fairy is like, “Well, taking down Maleficent would make me happy.” Aw, you cute, little, grumpy thing, you.) But they don’t seem to have much trouble taking out their opponents at the end of the film. Of course, the Red Fairy turns all the . . . pig-demon-things? . . . into flowers and shit, so I guess you could kind of argue that? But the Blue Fairy just straight up turns Diablo to stone, and on this score, I’m not so convinced.
14. Somehow, I forgot to wear my Maleficent hat for almost the entirety of this movie, possibly because I was already wearing my Kermit hat at the time. Regardless, I remembered it just after Maleficent died, so I went ahead and put it on for the last three minutes, out of respect and mourning.
Speaking of . . .
There’s your Five Minute Cosplay. I probably could’ve gotten a better shot, but I’m wearing my JC graduation robe over my sister’s bathrobe, and it’s just too damn warm out to keep that ensemble on for very long. And sadly, I don’t have anything green to smear all over my face with the exception of some lipstick, which, no, sorry, guys. I’m not that committed.
15. Finally, did you know Sleeping Beauty was in Technicolor? I sure didn’t. It made me smile. Also, the super-flat animation cause, you know, 1959. It’s kind of neat to see in a way, but not, like, super nostalgic since as I said, Sleeping Beauty was never one of my favorites. If I do review other Disney classics next year, though, you can bet your sweet ass I’ll be all rhapsodic about Beast’s library. There’s a movie I’m nostalgic about, and Stockholm Syndrome be damned.
Meh. Maleficent’s iconic as hell and the Blue Fairy is kind of charming, but other than that, Sleeping Beauty doesn’t have a whole lot going for it.
Eleanor Audley, obviously.
If a strange dude comes up to you in the middle of the forest, tricks you into dancing with him, and says he’s the literal man of your dreams, yeah, you should definitely trust that guy. Nothing could go wrong there.