I spoke to Mary Costa, who played the title role in the animated Disney classic “Sleeping Beauty,” about making the film and the new 50th anniversary DVD release. As Ms. Costa told me the story of her favorite scene, she recited it from memory and her voice became again exactly the voice of the young princess who has just met her one true love, the one she once danced with once upon a dream. You can get a glimpse of this scene and hear Mary Costa’s voice in the clip below from the DVD extras.
How were you cast in the role of Briar Rose/Princess Aurora?
I was born in Knoxville, Tennessee and moved to California with my parents. I attended Glendale High School and appeared in the school operetta. I was invited to a dinner party with some people from the industry and people began singing. I sang “When I Fall in Love.” One of the other guests was Walter Shuman who said, “I’ve been looking for three years and I think you are it. Can you audition tomorrow morning?” The next day, I came to the studio and there was a booth with everyone I would be working with for the next three years. They asked me to sing and do a bird call. But I had a Southern accent. So they said, “Do you think you could talk with a British accent?” “Oh yes, I could!” [with a British accent]. My father and I loved to pretend we had British accents. The next day, the phone rang and everyone in my family raced to get it. It was Walt Disney and he said, “You have been hiding the Princess Aurora in Glendale!” I had the job.
Did Walt Disney advise you about the role?
He was involved in every single detail about the movie. He said this story was the most inspirational of all the fairy tales. And he told me, “I want you to know your character so well that you have memorized everything so you can drop all of those colors into your vocal palate and paint with your voice.” He said that in the forest scenes I should let the forest caress me.
Were you working mostly by yourself in a booth or interacting with the other performers?
I worked with the godmothers a couple of times and I worked with the prince, Bill Shirley. We all had our crushes on him! The woman who played Maleficent [Eleanor Audley, who also did the voice of the wicked stepmother in “Cinderella”] was a petite woman but she sounded like she was nine feet tall. Verna Felton, who played one of the godmothers, was so funny.
How does it look in its newly restored edition?
For the first time I really feel I have seen this movie. The depths of color and quality of sound with this technology! The people in the audience were oo-ing and ah-ing. You will be enveloped by the sound and see things you have never seen before.
Do you have a favorite scene?
I love every scene. But one I think is the essence of romance is when Princess Aurora and the Prince are in the forest and he asks her when he can see her again.
Prince Phillip: But when will I see you again?
Princess Aurora: Oh never, never!
Prince Phillip: Never?
Princess Aurora: Well, maybe someday.
Prince Phillip: When, tomorrow?
Princess Aurora: Oh no, this evening!
Prince Phillip: Where?
Princess Aurora: [calling back while running away] At the cottage… in the glen.