Waking Sleeping Beauty (2010) - Can't Stop the Movies
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Waking Sleeping Beauty (2010)

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Andrew INDIFFERENTI've never been caught up in the rapture of Disney and have made it a point to educate myself on the way corporations and the creative process are intermingled.  Partly because of this, the information that was presented in Waking Sleeping Beauty wasn't terribly new or exciting.  Worse, it's filled with so many talking heads and still photographs that it seems as though it's a demo animation reel waiting to be released.

I know that a film like this attempting to showcase some of the warts that Disney has accumulated over the years may come as a shock to some.  They've tried to present such a squeaky clean fantasy world for so long that it may not seem feasible to think that they've got some dark areas they'd preferred not explored.  But it doesn't seem like this film was really willing to explore some of the darker areas of the 'Disney psyche".  For a film that purports to showcase the strain the animators went through it's curiously light on really showing what happened to them, aside from sleeping in the office at times.

But this isn't quite a film that is meant to showcase the true darker side of Disney.  Instead it is about the period of animation history from 1984 to 1994 when Disney started at the bottom and clawed their way back to the top.  IT's the story of a company that was so caught up in the complacency of adorable talking animals doing nothing interesting that it almost lost the public spotlight forever.  Slowly, it was changed into the company that gave us films like Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, and The Lion King.


The film is directed and narrated by one of it's own, Don Hahn, which may explain some of the reluctance to speak about the treatment of the animators and other staff rather than focus on it directly.  Instead of looking at the grunt level, it chooses the higher ups that made the decisions which changed the direction of the company.  We're introduced to the new leaders in Michael Eisner, Frank Well, and Jeffrey Katzenbery as they fend off or accept some additional direction from Roy Disney, Walt's nephew and one of the last remenants of the old Disney vanguard.

Their stories are fairly cyclical.  They each had an ego that could only be satisfied by success and public attention.  In turn they all pushed the animation teams to work harder and harder in an attempt to catch up with what other people like Steven Spielberg and Don Bluth were trying to attempt with the medium.  Various successes roll in, the egos get reinflated to push people harder, and the cycle begins yet again.

There isn't much of an interesting history to comment on here.  Even if the events unfolded exactly as the film lays out, it begs the question of why the film needed to be made in the first place.  Other than showcasing that, hey, even Disney has a few rough patches it doesn't exactly have the same ethical heft as the Enron documentary The Smartest Guys In The Room.  This is all misdemeanor level stuff, and not exactly interesting.

Roy Disney, feeling a bit beaten down after dealing with so many conflicting egos.

All of this might have been more digestible if the film didn't feel like it was pulling back it's claws at every possible moment.  Don Hahn isn't exactly an engaging narrator and the many sequences of caricatures, animation reels, and quick interviews don't amount to more than a need to pump in archival information to lend the documentary variety without necessarily having a guided point.

I wasn't exactly bored with the film as the many moments did remind me that it took hard work to make those Disney classics.  But I am struggling to find out who the audience for this film could really be.  It pulls back when it should push ahead, and seems strangely self-congratulatory at times.  If you're completely in the dark the corporations can do rough things, then perhaps you'll get something out of Waking Sleeping Beauty.  I just got many reminders to watch other, better films.

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Waking Sleeping Beauty (2010)

Directed and narrated by Don Hahn.
Featuring Roy Disney, Michael Eisner, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Frank Wells.

Posted by Andrew

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