Wednesday, December 14, 2011

#16: Epic Proportions

Sleeping Beauty, 1959
watched December 4, 2011
(c) Disney
In light of the simplicity of the original material, Disney has taken the liberty of altering many of these fairy tales, in order to flesh them out for full-length features. However, instead of developing the main characters more fully, it is often the supporting characters who come to the foreground. In Snow White, the Seven Dwarfs play a much bigger role than in the original Grimm version. And in Cinderella, much of the screen time is devoted to the mice. Here in Sleeping Beauty, we see very little of Aurora in comparison to her fairy friends, Flora, Fauna and Merriweather, the menacing and malicious Maleficent, and even Prince Philip, the first Disney prince with a name.

While this may frustrate viewers (including myself), I actually think this indicates a recognition that we are not the only ones active in our own story. Each of us is part of a larger narrative, which includes not just one heroine or hero, but an entire world of beings, both human and supernatural.

And everyone is operating with a wider lens. Maleficent, the powerful villain, seems to focus on the downfall of Princess Aurora, but there's no question that she intends for her evil to affect all people. Her battle is not just with Aurora; she seeks the destruction of all good things in the world. Flora, Fauna and Merriweather  protect not only Aurora, but also her parents, King Stefan and the Queen, as well as the future of the kingdom.

In order to appreciate what Sleeping Beauty communicates, we must step back from the princess in pink (or blue), and broaden our view. While the film may be about a sleeping beauty, it's mostly about those who hate her, protect her, love her, and rescue her. The struggle between good and evil takes center stage, and it's a much bigger stage than we might expect.

Sometimes stepping back is necessary in life as well. While our personal crises tend to claim our full attention, a much more epic battle surges forward. Evil threatens to invade, but there are good powers at work, too. Maybe we relate to Princess Aurora, asleep and unaware of the conflict. But like Prince Philip, we are in fact called to engage in the fight. Equipped with the Sword of Truth and Shield of Virtue (or Faith, if you want to get biblical), and with supernatural help, we can participate in restoring the kingdom to peace and wholeness.

The difference between Sleeping Beauty and reality, however, is that the ultimate battle has already been won. The dragon has been slayed, the princess awoken. And those of us who claim this victory march on in confidence.


  1. ok, I suppose I like the movie a little more after your post. :) -abi

  2. What I find fascinating about your take here is that this was the first (I think) Disney work to be filmed as a wide screen production. It literally had a broader scope than any previous Disney film. Such a detail really confirms your reading.

  3. Also, the Dragon in wide-screen must have been incredible!

  4. @christopher - you're almost right. lady and the tramp was actually the first in widescreen, although the actual format was slightly different, which makes sleeping beauty the first in 70mm widescreen. i hadn't thought about how that related to my interpretation of the story too though! neat. :)