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As seen in Video Magazine, 1987:


1958, animated, 75 min., hi-fi stereo, CC, $29.95 (until 1/87), Disney. Image: good.

Fairytales are more than kid stuff. Sociologists say they are society's way of conveying values to children in the guise of entertainment. This tale of true love awakened by a kiss is designed to immerse the little critters in the mysticism of romance before biology can step in to corrupt them -- a perfect Disney conceit. Amplifying the love story is the classic good-vs.-evil confrontation of all good pop entertainment: before prince and princess may wed, the bridegroom must defeat the evil witch Maleficent. In the legend according to Disney, the heroes of the confrontation are not the charming prince or the sleeping beauty herself but their allies, a trio of color-coded fairies.

Color is an emotional and symbolic determinant in Sleeping Beauty's visual scheme. What videophile worth his salt could resist an animated tale in which three major characters are tinted red, green, and blue (the three primary colors of video)? The red/pink fairy Flora bestows the gift of beauty on the infant princess; red and pink become the colors of her lips and face as she lies in repose, holding a red rose, waiting for the kiss of life. The green fairy Fauna bestows the gift of song; later SB, in peasant disguise, meets her prince in a green woodsy scene when he follows the sound of her voice to find true love. The blue fairy Merryweather casts a spell to temper Maleficent's curse of death on the princess' 16th birthday to mere sleep; dark blue lines Maleficent's black cloak, and blue and black dominate the battle scene.

Thus Disney has color-coded an idealized vision of life: Red equals beauty and the mystic power of love. Green equals song and courtship and the call of love. Blue equals moral struggle and the price of love.

Sleeping Beauty has attracted few laurels from students of animation -- possibly because they overlook Walt's elaborate framework to focus upon the drab merchandise hung on it. The ostensible male and female leads are dull and stereotypical-looking and the whole production looks more like Hanna-Barbera than vintage Disney. Yet Disney's vestigial virtuosity shows through in the still-startling three-dimensionality of his multiplane technique (which he pioneed with The Old Mill in 1937). The battle scene is exciting in all its kinetic proto-Spielberg turbulence. Even no-frills Disney has its charms. And when your eyes get bored, you can always use your brain to theorize about the color scheme.

-- Mark Fleischmann

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