Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Waking Sleeping Beauty

I completely forgot to mention two movies that came out recently: Jean-Pierre Jeunet's Micmacs and Don Hahn's Waking Sleeping Beauty. Both well-reviewed by critics and highly admired, and I greatly enjoyed both-- probably because I got to see both of them for free. (Go movie theatre connections and free Columbia screenings!) Micmacs I will discuss in my next entry. First up: Waking Sleeping Beauty, a documentary about the Disney Renaissance-- a 10-year-ish period from the mid-80s to the mid-90s in which Disney produced its most beloved classics, which virtually defined our generation: "Little Mermaid," "Beauty and the Beast," "Aladdin," "The Lion King," and "Pocahontas." These five are undoubtedly some of the best films ever made, animated or not-animated, and especially Lion King-- a Shakespearean tale of epic proportions, a Godfather of the animated children's film genre.

By a fluke of scheduling, I got to go to a after-show Q & A with producer Peter Schneider and director/producer Don Hahn. Peter Schneider, a former Disney employee, was absolutely adorable and very coy about his present affiliation with Disney. The crowd during the Q & A was fascinated and as animation-fanatic as myself; everyone agreed that "Princess and the Frog" was a non-creative flop, and when Pixar was mentioned, more than a few murmurs of "whoop!" were heard in the crowd. It was generally agreed that the Disney-Pixar link was beneficial and produced excellent films that looked forward, while the post-90s Disney films definitely lacked a certain je ne sais quoi.

"Waking Sleeping Beauty" is often criticized for being overly laudatory when it comes to Disney. Stephen Holden of the NYT called it a "sly retrospective exercise in corporate self-congratulation masquerading as an insider’s tell-all." Sure, that might be true, but it personally didn't detract from the fascinating story that is the Disney Renaissance, and the clash of egos that simultaneously produced it and led to its demise. How interesting is it, for example, to know how Sebastian came to be Jamaican! And how each frame of the film is produced! And any twenty-something with a heart will undoubtedly tear up when exposed to his or her favorite childhood scenes-- I for one definitely had an embarrassing sob-moment when I heard Angela Lansbury sing the theme from "Beauty and the Beast," when Belle enters the dance floor in that gorgeous yellow ballgown... ahhh, nostalgia. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED FILM. See it if it's still around! (doubtful, however... these independent documentaries never stay around very long. And I doubt Disney would get any of the revenue anyway).