Friday, March 18, 2011

Waking Sleeping Beauty - DVD Review


Directed by Don Hahn.

This documentary, culled from hours and hours of bored employees filming each other, explores the decade of Disney animation from its lowest to its highest peak, 1984-1994.

It's really about the Three Egos - Michael Eisner, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Roy Disney - who were good for each other and the company but they couldn't stand each other. The fourth man, Frank Wells, served as mediator and massager, and it really makes one wonder where Disney animation would be today had Wells not died in 1994.

In 1984 the company was struggling. The brand had suffered from the poor box-office of The Fox & the Hound, Don Bluth had left and made The Secret of NIMH, and then Roy Disney helped get Michael Eisner from Paramount, and then Eisner recruited Katzenberg. They saw The Black Cauldron, an expensive flop, kill the morale of the animators and they knew they needed to get things turned around.

I felt jealous watching this movie. I would love to be employed in such a creative environment, regardless of the egomaniacs who lord over everything to please the gods of commerce. And Disney's not in a bad place now by any means with John Lasseter wearing two hats between Pixar and Disney, and Tangled being Disney's biggest animated hit since Lion King, but man, had Wells lived, and lyricist Howard Ashman (who died from AIDS complications in 1991), I really wonder where they could've gone.

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