Disney has beautifully restored one of its most treasured classics, “Sleeping Beauty,” in honor of its 50th anniversary.
The King and Queen happily celebrate the birth of their daughter, Princess Aurora. The young Prince who is betrothed to the baby and three good fairies, Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather, join the celebration. But wicked Maleficent, a bad fairy, is enraged when she is not included. She arrives at the party to cast a spell on the baby Princess. When she turns 16, she will prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel, and die.
The good fairies cannot remove the spell, but they change it from death to a deep sleep from which Aurora can be awakened only by love’s first kiss. The King and Queen try to protect the princess by sending her off with the good fairies to live in a tiny cottage in the woods until her sixteenth birthday is over. They cannot use their magic powers because it would lead Maleficent to the princess. Aurora (called Briar Rose) grows up. Out in the woods, she meets the Prince, and they fall in love, not knowing they are already engaged. But the fairies prepare for her birthday party and argue about whether the dress they are making for Aurora should be pink or blue, and cannot resist using their magic. Maleficent discovers where they are and is able to make Aurora prick her finger and fall into a deep sleep. Maleficent also captures the prince to make sure he cannot break the spell. After the fairies help him escape, Maleficent turns herself into a dragon to stop him. He kills the dragon and wakes Aurora with a kiss. At her birthday party, they dance, not even noticing that her dress turns from blue to pink as the fairies continue to argue about the color.
In this classic story, as in “Snow White,” a sleeping princess can only be awakened by a kiss from the prince. Psychiatrist Bruno Bettelheim and others have written extensively about the meaning of these stories, and the ways in which they symbolize the transition to adulthood and sexual awakening. Bettelheim’s theory was that such fairy tales begin to prepare children for developments they are not ready to assimilate consciously.
There is no reason to discuss this interpretation with children, of course. But it is worthwhile to talk with them about Maleficent, one of Disney’s most terrifying villains, and why her bitter jealousy makes her so obsessed with vengeance. Is that what she really wants? Isn’t she doing exactly the opposite of what is required to achieve her real goal, acceptance? Children also enjoy the little squabbles of the three good fairies, which may remind them of arguments with their siblings.
NOTE: The Blu-Ray DVD includes a bonus “regular” DVD for families who have not yet switched to Blu-Ray but plan to in the future.