Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Disney Docs: Part 2

Waking Sleeping Beauty

Release Date: 2009

Studio: Stone Circle Pictures
Distributed by: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Director: Don Hahn
Run time: 86 minutes
Seen on: Netflix
Recommended: Highly, especially interesting special features on the DVD

This doc was also distributed by an arm of the Disney corporation. It chronicles the Disney Feature Animation Department when it was moved off the main lot after disappointing movies in the early 1980s. The movie does not use new interviews. Rather, it relys on new audio only interviews, vintage interviews, press-kit footage, in-progress and finished animation, and personal films. The personal films taken (often against company policy) are often the most telling footage. Shortly after the Animation Department was moved, the animators were convinced their days were numbered. They chose to spend their time in a full re-creation of the film Apocalypse Now. This "end of days" feeling was evident through the change of location and management. Fortunately, Roy E. Disney was the champion of the department and saved it from destruction.

It shows the effect and discord of the new corporation team of Michael Eisner, Frank G. Wells, and Jeffrey Katzenberg. This was an interesting element of conflict. Behind all these fluffy and pretty animated movies is corporate politics.

This documentary covers The Fox and the Hound in 1981 to The Lion King in 1994. You learn about the time-consuming and labor intensive process of making an animated film. Animators work on several films at the same time, all at different stages of the process. You see behind-the-scenes meetings, song recordings, and the creative process. You learn about the relationships between animators, lyricists and composers, and the studio heads. The combination of archival films and interviews makes you feel as if you get to know and care for those involved. This makes it all the more heart-wrenching learning of composer Howard Ashman's illness and death before the amazing success of Beauty and the Beast. (He was posthumously awarded Academy Award for Best Original Song for "Beauty and the Beast.")

This was a frank and interesting look at how these best loved films were created. Politics, sweat, blood, and ink created these masterpieces. You get a look at the private elements which produced these very public films.

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