Following a series of poorly received animated films, the Disney Animation found itself in a peculiar situation: continue with an animation department struggling to generate good stories and revenue, or move on to live action films that were the bread winners of the Disney repertoire .
In 1984, a ‘perfect storm’ of leadership, drive, creativity and perseverance led to a decade of record breaking and childhood-changing filmmaking. This is ‘Waking Sleeping Beauty’.
I’m a little over a year late to the game on this movie – shocking since I am such a Disney dork – but thanks to OnDemand, we an all get in on the insight and, well, magic behind the decade of Disney wonder that was 1984-1994. Culminating in classics such as Aladin, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Oliver and Company, The Lion King, and the creation and uniting of Pixar/Disney with the first digital/animation film The Rescuers Down Under (yeah, I didn’t know that was Pixar either!) and Toy Story.
And while the documentary covers the history of the films, it is more about the people behind the magic; the close knit and clearly cabin-fevered crew of animators and their confrontation and collaboration with seniority Roy Disney, Michael Eisner, Frank Wells and Jeffrey Katzenberg. There are equally hilarious and disturbing revelations about seniority wanting to cut iconic songs from films because they ‘just didn’t work’, or being wary of some films as being too experimental which ended up being absurdly successful (this particular instance caused designers to coin the phrase “noone knows nothin'” when it comes to whether a film will be successful in the franchise or not). There is even a pretty funny glimpse of a young Tim Burton, who looks like he hasn’t slept in months and has been surviving on human flesh for sustenance.
Whether you are a Disney person or not, hearing about the dynamic crew of art school nerds, heavy hitting execs and how they managed to get all kumbyah on it to be successful is enlightening. It’s a movie about creativity flourishing, the head-butting of big business decision making and trusting successful history to pave the way for legacy. Now…the movies that came after The Lion King (minus Lilo and Stitch and The Emperor’s New Groove – because I will cut you if you say a bad word about them) are another story. Here’s hoping Disney gets its groove back – we can’t rely on Pixar to do all the heavy lifting, can we?
Waking Sleeping Beauty /