Spanning nearly an entire decade in production, the lavish story of Sleeping Beauty was released to theaters on January 28th 1959.  Disney creatives began working on the story in 1951, the voices were recorded in 1952, animation production took from 1953 to 1958, and the stereophonic score was recorded in 1957.

Sleeping Beauty was the last Disney feature to use hand-inked cells. Walt Disney wanted a more life-like feel to the movie and used a new animation tool called Super Technirama 70 which meant more complex details could be added to the background scenes. Additionally, live action reference was used to assist the animators in getting a more realistic look and feel to their drawings. Live actors were employed, in costume, to act out each scene. All the live actors’ performances were then either screened for the animators’ reference or rotoscoped (traced from live-action to animation).

Original poster for Sleeping Beauty shows cartoon characters placed around the movie title.The time, effort and astounding cost (approximately $6 million) that went into the making of Sleeping Beauty was well worth the wait. With its vibrant colours, European stylizations, and a music score based on the 1890 Tchaikovsky ballet, Sleeping Beauty stands the test of time and is still recognized as one of the greatest and most loved animated films of Disney’s golden era.

Based on the story by Charles Perrault, the story follows the young princess Aurora who is cursed at birth by the evil fairy Maleficent. A trio of good fairies rescues the baby and raise the girl themselves, hoping to avoid the spell’s fulfillment. Then at the age of 16, the beautiful Aurora falls into a deep sleep and can only be awakened by a kiss from her betrothed, Prince Phillip. When Maleficent realizes that Prince Phillip intends to rescue the Sleeping Beauty she takes him prisoner.

The ensuing battle between Maleficent and the Prince as she transforms herself into a spectacular fire-breathing dragon is one of the most unforgettable and magnificent scenes ever created. The story still captures the hearts and minds of fans and filmmakers everywhere with a new live-action movie slated for release in 2014 that tells the story of Maleficent, starring Angelina Jolie as the evil fairy. All aspects of the original movie were spot on, from the storyline to the design and the animation to the acting. The combined efforts and dedication of all the talent who worked on the groundbreaking animation made the movie unforgettable.

The original voice-over performers gave their hearts to the film. The cast included:

  • Mary Costa as Princess Aurora (Briar Rose) / Sleeping Beauty
  • Eleanor Audley as Maleficent, the evil fairy
  • Verna Felton as Flora, the pink fairy, and Queen Leah, Princess Aurora’s mother
  • Barbara Jo Allen as Fauna, the green fairy
  • Barbara Luddy as Merryweather, the blue fairy
  • Bill Shirley as Prince Phillip
  • Taylor Holmes as King Stefan, Princess Aurora’s father
  • Bill Thompson as King Hubert, Prince Phillip’s father
  • Marvin Miller as The Narrator
  • Candy Candido, Pinto Colvig, Bill Amsbery, and Dallas McKennon as Maleficent’s Goons
  • Dallas McKennon as The Owl


Do voice recordings from decades past fascinate you? Learn about the History of the Recorded Voice.


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