Hey all! I wanted to write a quick summary and review for a great documentary we watched a while back. Waking Sleeping Beauty  tells the story of Disney rising from near disaster and entering what is considered a golden period of animation.

We are undoubtedly familiar with some of the fantastic animated films that came out of this time including The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King. However, many may not be aware of the trials and tribulations that nearly ended Disney animation. In the decade before 1984 Disney only released three animated features and one partial animation (Pete’s Dragon). They were seeing more success in live action films and had begun to focus more on the theme park business as well. Animation was considered to be fading away. In fact the department was all but removed during this period.

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At this point in the documentary we are introduced to a young and bright group of new animators including Tim Burton, John Musker, Brad Bird, and John Lasseter, several whom came from a single class of 1975 at Cal Arts (pictured above). All worked for Disney, some albeit briefly. It was at this time that John Musker met Ron Clements which would be an important match up in many great films to come. However, the decision is made to downsize the animation department and move them from the studio to an annex. Animation was in trouble and was not important to the current Disney company. Enter in Roy E. Disney. Unhappy with the current leadership he rallies a  save Disney campaign. He and other shareholders worked together to bring on Michael Eisner as CEO. He aimed to strengthen the company and one of his first moves was to bring on Jeffrey Katzenberg as head of the motion picture division.

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Left to right- Peter Schneider (documentary producer), Roy E. Disney, and Jeffrey Katzenberg

This is the turning point in the story. Katzenberg is the push animation needed. Roger Rabbit was released in 1988 and was the beginning of a string of successful animated films. Eisner and Katzenberg called for new film ideas and Ron Clements suggested The Little Mermaid and an idea for Treasure Island in space. While not accepted at first Katzenberg eventually gave The Little Mermaid the green light and it became the next film to be released in 1989.

This isn’t the end of the story and definitely not all of it. There is much more to see and if you haven’t seen this film yet and are at all interested in Disney I highly recommend it. It is an incredibly interesting story and this documentary gives you a whole new appreciation for all the people that struggled to keep Disney animation alive.

I hope you found something you enjoy!

-Brian

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