Sixty years ago the public was first introduced to the iconic princess on January 29, 1959, Aurora, also known as Sleeping Beauty. Disney based this film on the original story that first appeared between 1330 and 1344, but was first put into print in 1528. In 1634, Giambattista Basile published the story and named it Sun, Moon, and Talia. Charles Perrault published it as Little Briar Rose in 1697.
Disneyland opened four years before the release of Sleeping Beauty, and yet they had her castle in the middle of the park. Originally it was planned to be Snow White’s Castle and later re-imagined as Sleeping Beauty’s castle to promote the upcoming film. The walk-through area of the castle was opened in 1957 with dioramas of the movie that no one would even be able to see for another two years. Disneyland even had an Aurora walk-around character on opening day.
You can see “Sleeping Beauty” from Disneyland’s opening day news coverage. No one knew her name yet.
The castle as it appeared in the film.
The stylization of the animation differed in this film than it had in past Disney animated films. Animator John Hench had visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. He showed Walt reproductions of the Unicorn Tapestries, also called The Hunt of the Unicorn, that were created at the turn of the 16th century. Walt decided he wanted the animation style of the film to be like the tapestries.
Have you ever noticed that people call Aurora “Sleeping Beauty,” instead of her actual name Aurora, or even Briar Rose?
Anyway, here are some fun facts for you.
- The cookies that the fairies eat with their tea are shaped like Mickey Mouse’s head and ears.
- Helene Stanley was used as the live action model for Aurora. She was also used as the reference model for Cinderella and Anastasia in Cinderella (1950) and Anita in One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961). Helene retired from acting in 1961, after One Hundred and One Dalmatians, at the age of 32.
- Sewing the dress Helene Stanley wore as Briar Rose was the first wardrobe design Alice Davis did for Disney, after receiving a call from her husband, Marc Davis, who was animating Aurora. Alice did the wardrobe for all the pirates in Pirates of the Caribbean and all the dolls in it’s a small world.
- There was a debate between two animators on whether to make Aurora’s dress pink or blue. This debate was incorporated into the film as the argument between Merryweather and Flora.
- In both this film and Cinderella, Aurora’s and Cinderella’s friends surprise them with new dresses, calling out, “Surprise! Surprise! Surprise! Happy birthday!
- They used a flame thrower to create the dragon breath sound effect for the climax of the movie.
- Castanets were used for the sound of the dragons snapping jaws. They were stock sounds from the snapping jaws of Tick-Tock in Peter Pan (1953).
- The film was in active production from 1951 until the end of 1958, setting a record (for which it is tied with another 70mm film, The Black Cauldron) for being the Disney animated film with the longest production schedule.
- Aurora’s long, thin, willowy body shape was inspired by that of Audrey Hepburn, specifically in her film Roman Holiday (1953).
- There were originally going to be seven fairies instead of just the three.
- Briar Rose is Sleeping Beauty’s name from the German version of the original fairy tale. Princess Aurora is Sleeping Beauty’s name in the Italian version of the original fairy tale.
- The ominous piece of music to which Maleficent hypnotized Aurora into pricking her finger is called “Puss-in-Boots and the White Cat.” In Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s ballet, it is used for a comic number in which two cats snarl at and try to scratch each other.
- In the original fable, the princess sleeps for 100 years, and the Prince finds her and wakes her up after the aforementioned century has passed. This idea was dropped for the Disney film so that the Prince could be introduced much earlier in the story.
- In the original fable, Princess Aurora is the result of a spell cast on the Queen by a magical fish that she had thrown back into a pond after it wound up lying on the bank.
- The evil character of Maleficent is favored as the top Disney villain of all time.
- Princess Aurora has fewer lines of dialogue than any other main character in the other Disney movies, with the exception of Dumbo, who has none. She has a total of 28 lines.
- Well, and what are you three dears up to?
- But I picked berries yesterday.
(Briar Rose sings the song “I wonder”)
- Oh dear, why do they still treat me like a child.
- Why, Flora and Fauna and Merryweather. They never want me to meet anyone. But you know something? I fooled ’em. I have met someone!
- Oh, a prince. Well, he’s tall and handsome and … and so romantic. Oh we walked together, and talked together, and just before we say goodbye, he takes me in his arms, and then … I wake up.
- Yes, it’s only in my dreams. But they say if you dream a thing more than once, it’s sure to come true. And I’ve seen him so many times!
- Oh, why, it’s my dream prince!
- Your highness! No, I’m really not supposed to speak to strangers. But we’ve met before!
(Briar Rose sings “Once Upon A Dream” and dances with the woodland animals)
- Oh? Oh!
- Oh it wasn’t that. It’s just that you’re a, a…
- We, we have?
- Hmm? Oh, my name. Why, it’s, it’s … Oh no, no, I can’t, I … Goodbye!
- Oh never, never!
- Well, maybe someday.
- Oh no, this evening.
- At the cottage, in the glen.
- Flora, Fauna, Merryweather! Where is everybody? Oh!
- Oh you darlings, this is the happiest day of my life. Everything’s so wonderful, just wait till you meet him.
- Oh he’s not a stranger, we’ve met before.
- Once upon a dream!
- Why? After all, I am sixteen.
- But that’s impossible! How could I marry a prince, I’d have to be…
- But, but I can’t! He’s coming here tonight, I promised to meet him.
- Oh, no, no! I can’t believe it. No, no!
- All of the speaking Aurora does, she does as Briar Rose. Once she finds out she is Aurora, she doesn’t speak again.
- Prince Philip is the first named prince in the lineup of princess movies. “The Prince” from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) and “Prince Charming” from Cinderella (1950) were never named.
- The film’s director, Clyde Geronimi, also directed Victory Through Air Power (1943), The Three Caballeros (1944), Make Mine Music (1946), Melody Time (1948), The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949), Cinderella (1950), Alice In Wonderland (1951), Peter Pan (1953), Lady and the Tramp (1955), and 101 Dalmatians (1961). He started directing for Disney in 1939 with the short The Ugly Duckling. Clyde also directed many shorts with the Fab Five before directed the full-length features.
- There was a musicians strike in 1957, so all the music had to be recorded in Berlin, Germany.
- The original director of the project was Wilfred Jackson. He directed the animation sequences in Song Of The South (1946), Night on Bald Mountain from Fantasia (1940), The Old Mill (1937), and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), to name a few. In 1953, he had a heart attack and was removed from the project and replaced with Clyde Geronimi. He returned to Disney to co-direct Lady and the Tramp (1955) and television episodes for The Magical World of Disney (1954-1991) before he retired in 1961.
- Prince Philip was given the name by Disney after Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, who was well known in the 1950s. He is married to Queen Elizabeth II, father to Prince Charles, the one that was married Princess Diana, making him the grandfather of Prince William and Prince Harry. Before his marriage to Queen Elizabeth II, he was born Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark.
- The scene with the thorn forest was the first use of the Xerox process created by animator Ub Iwerks. It would be used again for Goliath II (1960), but wouldn’t be used on a full-length feature until 101 Dalmatians (1961).
- The dancing scene in the forest when Briar Rose meets Prince Philip was completed by 1953. It was shown to Walt and he didn’t like it, so it was scrapped.
- Eleanor Audley, who was used to do the voice of Maleficent (and also voiced Lady Tremaine in Cinderella (1950) and Madame Leota in the Haunted Mansion), was also the live-action reference model for the animators.
- Originally, Eleanor turned down the role because she was battling tuberculosis at the time. She changed her mind later on.
- Verna Felton was the voice of Flora. She started her career off with Disney by voicing the pachyderm Mrs. Jumbo in Dumbo (1941), Fairy Godmother in Cinderella (1950), Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland (1951), and Aunt Sarah in Lady and the Tramp (1955). She then voiced a second elephant, Eloise, in Goliath II (1960), and finished her voice acting carrier with her final film, and third elephant role, Winifred, in The Jungle Book (1967). She was born in 1890 and passed away the day before Walt Disney did on December 14, 1966.
- There was no record as to who provided the voice for Queen Leah, Briar Rose’s mother, until recently. Verna Felton, the voice of Flora, provided her lines.
- Actor Candy Candido was the voice of Maleficent’s goon. He was also the snarling of Shere Khan in The Jungle Book (1967), Brutus and Nero in The Rescuers (1977), the Indian Chief in Peter Pan (1953), Fidget in The Great Mouse Detective (1986), the angry apple tree in The Wizard of Oz (1939), the Captain of the Guards crocodile in Robin Hood (1973), Ben in Gentle Ben (1967), and Lumpjaw the Black Bear (growls) in Fun and Fancy Free (1947). You can hear Candy’s menacing laugh in Disneyland’s the Haunted Mansion in the graveyard scene and as you exit the building. He also reprised the role of the Indian Chief for Peter Pan’s Flight. He was married to Anita Gordon, the voice of the Singing Harp in Mickey and the Beanstalk (1947).
- Mary Costa was chosen to voice Aurora in 1952 after she sang the song “When I Fall in Love” at a dinner party. Walter Schumann, at the time, was set to be the music composer on the film. He asked Mary to audition for the role, which she did. When she auditioned at the studio, Walter had been replaced with George Bruns who was brought on to adapt the music. Walter left the project because of differences of opinion with Walt Disney. George didn’t have much experience at this time, but would compose the music for Johnny Tremain (1957), Paul Bunyan (1958), Goliath II (1960), 101 Dalmatians (1961), The Absent Minded Professor (1961), Son Of Flubber (1963), The Sword In The Stone (1963), The Ugly Dachshund (1966), The Jungle Book (1967), The AristoCats (1970), Robin Hood (1973), and Herbie Rides Again (1974). The day after her audition, Walt Disney called her and offered her the role.
- If Merryweather sounds familiar it is because she is voiced by Barbara Luddy. She is known for her role as Lady from Lady and the Tramp (1955), Mother Church Mouse and Mother Rabbit from Robin Hood (1973), Rover from 101 Dalmatians (1961), and Kanga from all the Winnie the Pooh movies (1966-1977).
- Mattel Entertainment was in the process of making the film Barbie as the Sleeping Beauty, but had to cancel it because Disney had been granted licensing rights for their movie Maleficent (2014). Maleficent was a prequel movie to this film but shows the whole story from Maleficent’s point of view.
- Maleficent 2 is set to be released May 29, 2020.
Thank you for reading my article. I shall leave you with this concept art from the film. Disney’s label Touchstone Pictures released When In Rome on January 29, 2010. This was Kristen Bell’s first live-action movie for Disney. In 2005, she did Disney’s English voice over of the character Hiromi in the Studio Ghibli film The Cat Returns (2002). Then you all know she was Anna in Frozen (2013).
Anjelica Huston is also in it. She is the voice of Queen Clarion in the Tinker Bell movies and is Supreme Leader in Tomorrowland’s Captain EO 3D film.
Danny DeVito is the voice of Phil in Hercules (1997). He will be playing Max in the upcoming film Dumbo (2019).
Kate Micucci is the voice Webbigail in the new series of DuckTales (2017-2018).
Walt Disney Pictures released The Finest Hours on January 29, 2016.
Chris Pine was Nicholas Devereaux in The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement (2004), Cinderella’s Prince in Into the Woods (2014), Dr. Alexander “Alex” Murry in A Wrinkle in Time (2018), and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018).
If you liked the fun facts in this article, you should get a copy of my book that has over 3,700 fun facts about Disneyland and Disney Movies in it www.DisneyGuy.org