The Little Mermaid float takes part in the "Walt Disney's Parade of Dreams" during the Disneyland 50th Anniversary Celebration at Disneyland Park on May 4, 2005 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
There are two golden eras of 2D Disney animated movies. The first era roughly covers from 1937 to 1967, and includes masterpieces such as “Snow White,” “Cinderella,” “Dumbo, “Pinocchio,” “Bambi,” “Fantasia,” and “Melody Time.” Okay, maybe not “Melody Time.” The second covers from 1989 to 1994, and includes “The Little Mermaid,” “The Lion King,” and “Beauty and the Beast”.
The two decades between those eras represent a vast creative wasteland in Disney’s history. The studio produced very few animated films, and those that it did churn out weren’t very good, including “The Great Mouse Detective” and the like.
What needed to happen for that second golden era of 2D animation to become reality was one of the most remarkable comebacks in the history of movies, and a new documentary called “Waking Sleeping Beauty” features interviews with the filmmakers and Disney execs (particularly Jeffrey Katzenberg) who spurred the revival. It’s an incredible turnaround that saw Disney regain its magic in 2D animation and, with Pixar in tow, create the boom of computer generated movies that now dominate the family film industry.
Interviewees include John Lasseter (who went on to run Pixar and now runs ALL of Disney animation), Tim Burton, Don Bluth, Michael Eisner and more. It promises to be a no holds barred look behind the scenes of a company that, despite its family brand, has always been one of the more chaotic environments in all of showbiz.
There’s only one catch to this movie, and it is this: “Waking Sleeping Beauty” is being released by Disney, and produced by some of the same people who made those latter day animated classics. That makes the movie a bit suspicious. Am I watching the full-length version of the Domino’s Pizza Turnaround movie? Because that would be totally lame. Or is this movie meant to do more than just be a glorified promo from a DVD extra section? Most early reviews from film festivals argue it’s a very candid movie, as brutally honest as they come.
And that’s a good thing. Because anyone who has ever gone through the creative process knows the general rule that, the more tortured that process is, the better the end product.