(Everything here is the property of Disney)
After the success of Cinderella, nine long years passed before Sleeping Beauty came to the theater. It wasn’t supposed to be that long of a wait, but the production (as many Disney animated features tended to do) ran over-budget and became the most expensive Disney film to date when it was finally finished. Unlike the previous two Disney Princess films, the score to Sleeping Beauty was derived entirely from the music Tchaikovksy wrote for his Sleeping Beauty ballet. The only original item is the lyrics added to the songs (as well as a simplified arrangement of the melody).
After an introduction by an unseen narrator that explains the circumstances of Princess Aurora’s birth, the film opens with the song “Hail to the Princess Aurora,” ostensibly sung by all the nobles journeying to the castle to see the newborn Princess. This was the first Disney movie to be animated in a widescreen format and the animators took full advantage of the extra space given to them.
“Hail to the Princess Aurora” is a rich choral piece that takes the audience from the town all the way up to the castle where the King and Queen are receiving their guests. The vocal range is not particularly wide (which is the general norm for a Disney song) and it serves as a good introduction to the story.
As we arrive at the castle, King Stefan and his Queen are just receiving King Hubert and his son Prince Philip (the latter is pictured above). The court is next joined by the three Good Fairies: Flora, Fauna and Merriweather (pictured below). All three have come to bestow gifts on the princess. Flora and Fauna give their gifts first; the gifts of Beauty and Song, respectively and they are explained in the form of song, as seen in the lyrics below:
The Gifts of Beauty and Song
One gift, beauty rare,
Gold of sunshine in her hair,
Lips that shame the red, red rose,
She’ll walk in springtime wherever she goes!
One gift, the gift of song,
Melody your whole life long!
The nightingale her troubadour,
Bringing his sweet serenade to her door.
According to the original fairy tale, Merriweather’s gift was supposed to be the gift of happiness, but before she can grant it, an unexpected guest arrives (and based on the horrified looks on the fairies, it can’t be anyone good!
Left to right: Fauna, Flora, Merriweather
The unexpected arrival is none other than Maleficent, one of the most iconic villains Disney ever created (and incidentally, voiced by the same actress who played Lady Tremaine in Cinderella). Maleficent is miffed that she alone was not invited to the christening of Princess Aurora and things are only made worse when Merriweather snaps that Maleficent was “not wanted.” However, the dark fairy appears willing to make amends by bestowing a “gift” of her own regardless.
“Listen well, all of you!
The Princess shall indeed,grow in grace and beauty
Beloved by all who know her
But…before the sun sets on her sixteenth birthday,
She shall prick her finger, on the spindle of a spinning wheel,
The damage done, Maleficent departs. However Merriweather still has her gift to give, so she casts her spell, saying that Aurora will not die, but only fall into a deep sleep, and she can be awakened by true love’s kiss “for true love conquers all.”
But will the fairy’s plan to hide Aurora from Maleficent (for sixteen YEARS) actually work? She IS the Mistress of all Evil after all….find out in part 2….where I’ll also look at one of Sleeping Beauty’s best-known songs.
*all images are the property of Walt Disney Studios