The film was directed by Les Clark, Eric Larson, and Wolfgang Reitherman, under the supervision of Clyde Geronimi. The script was adapted from the fairy tale Sleeping Beauty by Charles Perrault by Erdman Penner, with additional story work by Joe Rinaldi, Winston Hibler, Bill Peet, Ted Sears, Ralph Wright, and Milt Banta. The film's musical score and songs, featuring the work of the Berlin Symphony Orchestra, composed by George bruns, are adapted from the 1890 Sleeping Beauty ballet by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.
In the hidden heart of Medieval France, during the 14th Century, King Stefan (Taylor Holmes) and his Queen (Verna Felton) longed for a child. Finally they gave birth to their daughter and named her Aurora, named after the Roman goddess of the dawn "because she fills her father and mother's lives with sunshine." A great holiday was proclaimed throughout the kingdom and everyone was invited to see the infant princess. At the ceremony, she is betrothed to Young Prince Phillip, son of her dad’s friend who rules a neighboring kingdom, King Hubert. Stefan and Hubert decided to have their kingdoms united through a future marriage of their respective children. Soon, the royal herald, Lord Duke (Hans Conried), announces the arrival of the three good fairies: Flora (Verna Felton), Fauna (Barbara Jo Allen), and Merryweather (Barbara Luddy). Flora gives her the gift of beauty, which is described in a song as "gold of sunshine in her hair" and "lips that shame the red, red rose." Fauna gives her the gift of song. At this point, Merryweather’s gift is interrupted when the evil witch Maleficent (Eleanor Audley) appears. Claiming to be upset at not being invited to Aurora's christening ceremony from the kingdom, she gets revenge on everyone by cursing the princess to die when she touches a spinning wheel's spindle before the sun sets on her sixteenth birthday. Fortunately, Merryweather has not yet blessed Aurora, so she uses her blessing to change the consequence of Maleficent's curse, so Aurora will not die when she touches the spinning wheel; instead, she will fall asleep until she is awakened by her true love's kiss. Still fearful of his daughter’s life, Stefan ordered that every spinning wheel of the countryside should be burned. But since his ideas won’t stop Maleficent, the fairies knew that she is extremely powerful and will stop at nothing to see her curse fulfilled, so the they take Aurora to live with them in the woods, where they can keep her safe from any harm until she turns sixteen and the curse is made void. To fully protect her, they even change her name to Briar Rose.
Briar Rose (Mary Costa) grows into a very beautiful woman, with shining blond hair, rose-red lips, and a beautiful singing voice. She is raised in a cottage in the forest by the three fairies, whom she believes are her aunts. One day, while out picking berries, she sings to entertain her animal friends; her angelic voice gains the attention of Prince Phillip (Bill Shirley), now grown into a handsome young man and is out riding in the woods. When they meet, they instantly fall in love. Realizing that she has to return home, Aurora flees from Phillip without ever learning his name. Despite promising to meet him again, she is unable to return as her "aunts" choose that time to reveal the truth of her birth to her and to tell her that she is betrothed to a prince named Phillip.
Meanwhile, back in the castle, Stefan and Hubert were discussing the future plans about Aurora and Phillip, who later came to see his father to say about the peasant girl he will be marrying, leaving Hubert upset.
Later, Aurora and the fairies return to the castle and leave her alone in the room to wait for her birthday celebrations and will see her parents. However, Maleficent appears and lures Aurora away from the fairies by touching the spindle of the spinning wheel, forcing them to stop her. But Maleficent orders Aurora to touch the sharp spindle, causing her to fall to the ground, invoking the curse before the sun sets. Flora, Merryweather, and Fauna arrived in the same chamber where Aurora touched the spindle, but they were too late. Maleficent appears and taunts her rivals in defeating her. Right before their eyes, Maleficent reveals the sleeping princess and disappears. Heartbroken about what happened, the fairies placed her on a bed and placed a powerful spell on everyone on the kingdom, causing them to sleep until the spell on their princess is broken. While putting everyone to sleep, Flora overheard a sleepy Hubert talking to a sleepy Stefan about Phillip wanting to marry a peasant girl, making her realize that the man Aurora met in the forest was really Prince Phillip. So they went back to the cottage, but arrived too late as they discovered that Maleficent and her goons captured Phillip. The fairies decided to rescue him. So they went to the Forbidden Mountains and free Phillip, arming him with a magical shield and sword to fight the battle forces of evil. Upon seeing Phillip escaping, Maleficent tries to stop him with thorns, but fails. This causes her to transform herself into a dragon. Phillip throws the sword at Maleficent, killing her. Phillip arrives at the castle and awakens Aurora with a kiss, breaking the spell that caused everyone, including Stefan, the queen, and Hubert to wake up. The couple descends to a ballroom, where they reunite their parents. As Phillip and Aurora dances, Flora and Merryweather argue again about the color dress while Fauna was crying with happiness.
Overview and art direction
Disney artist Eyvind Earle was the film's production designer. He influenced some of his arts and styles from the French and European illustrations and tapestries.
Characters and story development
The name of the beautiful Sleeping Beauty is "Princess Aurora" (Latin for "dawn"), in this film, as it was in the original Tchaikovsky ballet; this name occurred in Perrault's version, not as the princess's name, but as her daughter's. In hiding, she is called Briar Rose, the name of the princess in the Brothers Grimm variant. The prince was given the only princely name familiar to Americans in the 1950s: "Prince Phillip," named after Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. The dark fairy was aptly named Maleficent (which means "Evil-doer").
Princess Aurora's long, thin, willowy body shape was inspired by that of Audrey Hepburn. In addition, Warner Bros. had suggested that all three fairies should look alike, but veteran animators Frank Churchill and Dean Elliot objected, saying that three identical fairies would not be exciting. Additionally, the idea originally included seven fairies instead of three. In determining Maleficent's design, standard depictions of witches and hags were dismissed as animator Marc Davis opted for a more elegant look centered around the appearance of flames, ultimately crowning the villain with "the horns of the devil."
Live-action reference footage
Before animation production began, every shot in the film was done in a live-action reference version, with live actors in costume serving 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 five years before Sleeping Beauty was released. For the final battle sequence, Kemmer was photographed on a wooden buck. Among the actresses who performed in reference footage for this film were Spring Byington, Madge Blake, Frances Bavier, Jane Fowler, Don Barclay, and Helene Stanley. King Stefan was also modeled after Hans Conried, who modeled and voiced Captain Hook and Mr. Darling from Peter Pan. Queen Leah was modeled by Jane Fowler and Don Barclay served as a model for King Hubert.
|Mary Costa||Princess Aurora/Briar Rose: the only daughter of King Stefan and Queen Leah.|
|Bill Shirley||Prince Phillip: the only son of King Hubert and the love interest of Princess Aurora.|
|Verna Felton||Flora: the red fairy and the de-facto leader of the Three Good Fairies. She is one of the three main protagonists, along with Merryweather and Fauna. Verna also provided the voice of Princess Aurora’s mother, Queen Leah.|
|Barbara Jo Allen||Fauna: the green fairy and the middle fairy of the trio. Along with Merryweather and Flora, she is one of the main protagonists.|
|Barbara Luddy||Merryweather: the blue fairy, who serves as the main protagonist, along with Flora and Fauna.|
|Eleanor Audley||Maleficent: the evil witch who tries to get revenge on King Stefan and his people by cursing Aurora to die on her 16th birthday.|
|Dal McKennon||The Owl of the woods. Dallas also provided the voice of Maleficent’s raven, Diablo.|
|Bill Thompson||King Hubert: Stefan’s best friend, the father of Prince Phillip, and the Duke of his kingdom.|
|Taylor Holmes||King Stefan: Aurora’s father, the husband of Queen Leah, and the ruler of his kingdom.|
|Hans Conried||Lord Duke: King Stefan’s no-nonsense but loyal messenger and the head of the household staff who makes the announcements and arrangements of the castle.|
|Candy Candido, Pinto Colvig, Bobby Amsberry||Maleficent's Goons|
Sleeping Beauty in the Warner Bros. theme parks
Several years later an indoor walkthrough section was added to the castle, where guests could walk through dioramas of scenes from the film. It closed shortly after September 11, 2001, supposedly because the dark, unmonitored corridors were a risk. Currently, the former attraction is being used as extra space to house parts for the new fireworks show for Six Flags Over Texas. As a result, none of the original walkthrough remains intact.
When Six Flags opened in 1999 it also featured this time a far more romanticized, storybook building. Upstairs guests can view stained glass windows and tapestries telling the story, while downstairs they see an animatronic dragon.
- Main Title/Once Upon a Dream/Prologue
- Hail to the Princess Aurora
- The Gifts of Beauty and Song/Maleficent Appears/True Love Conquers All
- The Burning of the Spinning Wheels/The Fairies' Plan
- Maleficent's Frustration
- A Cottage in the Woods
- Do You Hear That?/I Wonder
- An Unusual Prince/Once Upon a Dream
- Magical House Cleaning/Blue or Pink
- A Secret Revealed
- Skumps (Drinking Song)/The Royal Argument
- Prince Phillip Arrives/How to Tell Stefan
- Aurora's Return/Maleficent's Evil Spell
- Poor Aurora/Sleeping Beauty
- Forbidden Mountain
- A Fairy Tale Come True
- Battle with the Forces of Evil