Disney’s prestigious Platinum Edition line began with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 2001 and set a trend for high quality releases of their most classic animated films. Initially debuting on DVD and VHS, the line eventually dropped VHS in 2005 and picked up Blu-Ray in 2008 with the release of Sleeping Beauty. A year later, the line began to repeat under the Diamond Edition banner. Each film is scheduled to be released again every 7 years, so if you’re doing your math you might realize that Sleeping Beauty is back a year early to help cross-promote Disney’s live action fantasy Maleficent, which cast a spell over the box office this summer. This animated masterpiece lives up to Walt Disney’s goal of making it “a moving illustration.” After 5 years of active animation and insurmountable production costs, the film is nothing short of spectacular. Each frame is a work of art, a feast for the eyes and the soul. Another of Walt’s brilliant moves was using the music from Tchaikovsky’s ballet, which further elevates the artistry of Sleeping Beauty and puts it in the same league as Fantasia. Sleeping Beauty is the story of a princess, cursed as an infant by the evil fairy Maleficent. To avoid the curse, three good fairies disguise themselves as peasants and raise the child in the woods. The day before her 16th birthday, she meets a handsome stranger in the woods and falls in love. She is devastated to hear of her secret past and upon returning to the castle, falls under a trance and ends up in an eternal sleep that can only be broken by true love’s kiss. Maleficent stops at nothing to prevent her true love, Prince Phillip, from reaching Aurora and breaking the curse. He will have to overcome all of Maleficent’s power, including a face off with her as a fire breathing dragon, to reach Aurora in the highest tower and break the curse. After four years of being in the Disney Vault, Sleeping Beauty is back in a Blu-Ray/DVD/HD Digital Diamond Edition Combo Pack, a standalone DVD, and digitally through a plethora of online providers. The Combo Pack is the subject of this review. Video The Diamond Edition reuses the exact same transfer from the 2008 Diamond Edition Blu-Ray. The film is presented in 2.55:1, the negative aspect ratio of Technirama 70 and presents more picture than audiences would have seen in 1959 (projectors cropped the film to 2.35:1). When playing the film, an odd screen appears to explain the black bars on the top and bottom of the screen (as if Cinemascope is a foreign concept to modern audiences). The restoration done six years ago left no room for improvement and the presentation is immaculate. Detail is clear, colors are vivid and it’s truly the best way to appreciate the artistry that went into this film. The DVD presentation is also identical to the last release. It’s a huge improvement from the first DVD release in 2003, but once you’ve seen this film on Blu-Ray it’s hard to look at the DVD presentation and be impressed. Audio Sleeping Beauty is offered on Blu-Ray with a 7.1 surround sound mix that allows the score to fill all of the rear speakers. Dialogue stays mostly in the front, but there are a few moments where the rear speakers are expertly used, such as when Maleficent is luring Aurora to the spinning wheel. Other audio options include the stereo theatrical mix (it excludes the theatrical 6.0 mix) as well as French 7.1 and Spanish 5.1. The DVD offers the film in English 5.1, English Stereo, French 5.1, Spanish 5.1, and Portuguese 5.1. Bonus Features Good news: Disney has created some new bonus features for this release. Bad news: Disney has chosen to leave off most of the bonus features from the 2-disc Platinum Edition release. It’s obviously a cost cutting measure (they save money by including less discs), but it’s a big disappointment to fans who didn’t adopt Blu-Ray early enough to get the last release. This is by no means a definitive release and you will soon see why this is actually a downgrade compared to the Platinum Edition Blu-Ray. Deleted Scene: The Curse is Fulfilled (3 mins)- This animated storyboard depicts an alternate version of the way the evil fairy gets Aurora to touch the needle. It’s from a much earlier version of the story when Maleficent was an old hag. It’s neat to see, but without an introduction putting the scene into context the reason for including it is lost. Alternate Scene: The Arrival of Maleficent (2 mins) – Another animated storyboard depicts an earlier idea for how Maleficent would enter the castle to curse Aurora. Once again, she is an old hag here. No introduction means 90% of viewers will wonder why this is here. Deleted Scene: The Fair (8 mins) – The only item that can be truly called a “deleted scene,” this version of the story gave Maleficent a pet vulture. Aurora, who grew up sheltered in the castle instead of in the woods, sneaks out disguised as a peasant to have fun at a fair, but the vulture spots her. Once Upon a Parade (9 mins) – Sarah Hyland from Modern Family creates a story set in Fantasyland at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom to convince a group of 5th graders to watch the brand new Festival of Fantasy Parade with her. The Art of Evil: Generations of Disney Villains (10 mins) – Modern animators, such as Lino DiSalvo (Hans in Frozen) and Andreas Deja (Jafar in Aladdin, Mufasa in The Lion King) talk about how they were inspired by Marc Davis’ villains, including Maleficent. It includes interview clips with Davis talking about his Disney career, including recent interviews with wife Alice Davis. @DisneyAnimation: Artists in Motion (4 mins) – Brittany Lee (visual development artist on Wreck-It Ralph and Frozen) gives an example of her favorite medium, 3-D paper sculptures, as she makes a free-standing Maleficent out of paper. Beauty-Oke: “Once Upon a Dream” (2 mins) – The recent trend of making lyric videos for Disney songs continues, but unlike previous releases only this one song from Sleeping Beauty gets a video. Rounding out the Bonus Features section is the “Classic Bonus Features” menu. The Sound of Beauty: Restoring a Classic (11 mins) – Tony Baxter and the creative team tasked with restoring the audio for Sleeping Beauty talk about the hidden gems they discovered during the restoration and the choices they made with the 7.1 mix. Picture Perfect: The Making of Sleeping Beauty (43 mins) – The history of the film is presented with interviews of modern animators, historians, and the talent behind the film that were still around in 2008 when this piece was made. Eyvind Earle: A Man and His Art (7 mins) – Eyvind Earle’s story is told through interviews with historians and people who worked with him at Disney, exploring the art of this brilliant artist. Audio Commentary – John Lasseter, Andreas Deja and Leonard Maltin lead this feature-length audio commentary. It originates from the previous release, but loses the visuals that went with that Cine-Explore feature. From that short list of “classic” features, it’s easy to see that much was left off this release. In addition to the picture-in-picture Cine-Explore commentary, this release loses an amazing menu that presented King Steffan’s castle with your current weather conditions (if your BD player is hooked up to internet). Other notable omissions include: Grand Canyon (28 mins) – The live-action short that was attached to Sleeping Beauty‘s original theatrical release. Original Disneyland Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough Attraction (8 mins) – Tony Baxter and Chris Merritt introduce a customizable CG tour of the original walkthrough attraction that opened at Disneyland in 1957, which offered optional commentary. History of the Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough Attraction (10 mins) – Imagineers talk about the original walkthrough attraction, the modified version from the 1970′s, and the newly restored attraction that reopened in 2008. Sequence 8 (5 mins) – An exploration of the first scene put into production (“Once Upon a Dream”), which took 2 years to complete. Alternate Opening (3 mins) – A deleted song originally written to open the film set to storyboards from 1952. Deleted Songs (11 mins) – Three deleted songs (“It Happens I Have a Picture,” “Riddle Diddle” and “Go to Sleep”) are presented with storyboards and film clips to put them into the context of the story. Storyboard Sequences (4 mins) – Andreas Deja introduces two scenes (“The Fairies Put the Castle to Sleep” and “The Capture of the Prince”) as storyboard-to-film comparisons. Live Action Reference (2 mins) – Surviving live action reference footage from three scenes.
Art Galleries Publicity (6 mins) – Two trailers from 1959 and a reissue trailer from 1995 (which used Danny Elfman music) The Peter Tchaikovsky Story (49 mins x2) – This episode of Disneyland was used to promote the film, which also had a simultaneous radio broadcast. Two versions are presented with different intros from Walt Disney – one explains how to use the radio broadcast for markets that had that option, the other has a different introduction that makes no mention of it. My husband and I love these Disney movies. Being able to watch and share them with our son is so great.