Trea­sure Hunt

Dis­ney’s An­i­ma­tion Re­search Li­brary helps un­cover the story be­hind the story for the home video re­lease. By Tom McLean

Animation Magazine - - Home Video -

Alone among Dis­ney’s clas­sic an­i­mated fea­tures, 1959’s Sleep­ing Beauty is bet­ter known for its an­tag­o­nist — the vil­lain­ous Malef­i­cent — than the tit­u­lar princess hero­ine.

Thus, with the home video re­lease of the sum­mer’s live-ac­tion retelling Malef­i­cent, it only makes sense for the stu­dio to re­visit the orig­i­nal with a Di­a­mond Edi­tion re­lease, out Oct. 7.

The first step in any his­tor­i­cal Dis­ney en­deavor is the Dis­ney An­i­ma­tion Re­search Li­brary. Housed in a non­de­script build­ing in Glen­dale, Calif., the li­brary is home to be­tween 60 mil­lion and 65 mil­lion pieces of art span­ning ev­ery as­pect of an­i­ma­tion pro­duc­tion from the stu­dio’s ear­li­est days through the present.

Doug En­galla, part of the re­search team at the li­brary, says the pro­duc­ers of a new Blu-ray, DVD and dig­i­tal re­lease will ap­proach them usu­ally in search of un­used story ma­te­ri­als.

“We were asked about any kind of rare ma­te­rial, usu­ally in the story area, where it might not have been seen, they might have dis­carded some ideas — even songs that were writ­ten for the movie that did not make it into the film,” says En­galla.

The art­work on a movie like Sleep­ing Beauty will be re-housed: placed into a safer hold­ing than they were orig­i­nally found in. “We will take that ma­te­rial and start or­ga­niz­ing it, us­ing the fin­ished film and any sur­viv­ing sto­ry­board Pho­to­stats that they took dur­ing pro­duc­tion to re-piece the en­tire col­lec­tion of story sketches to­gether, so that we know what was in the film and what wasn’t in the film,” he says. “Once that’s done, we cat­a­log ev­ery piece of those story sketches and then they’re cap­tured dig­i­tally, which then can be re­viewed for the pro­duc­ers of the Blu-ray sup­ple­ment.”

The re­hous­ing process on Sleep­ing Beauty took 18 months, and then went into cat­a­loging and then dig­i­tal cap­ture.

And what trea­sures re­lat­ing to Beauty were found?

“They did a lot of ex­plo­ration in terms of ideas — who Malef­i­cent was go­ing to be,” says En­galla. “The orig­i­nal Sleep­ing Beauty story was not as ex­pan­sive and with as much con­flict as the 1959 film ver­sion, so they did have to come up with ideas such as re­duc­ing the amount of time that the princess slept, which in the orig­i­nal story was a hun­dred years. They just re­duced it to one night so they could keep the re­la­tion­ship age-ap­pro­pri­ate, if you will.”

Malef­i­cent her­self went through mul­ti­ple ver­sions be­fore her iconic look was set­tled.

“She was a fairy. She had wings. She — along with Flora, Fauna and Mer­ry­weather — had an­ten­nae,” En­galla says. “There were times at which Malef­i­cent had a fal­con in­stead of a raven as her side­kick. At one point she even had a buz­zard that spoke in a kind of a wise­crack­ing style that ac­tu­ally re­minded me of Iago from Aladdin. So it had a lot of de­vel­op­ment in terms of its story and where they wanted to go.” The vul­ture scene is one of three never-be­fore-seen deleted scenes in­cluded in the Blu-ray edi­tion.

Another in­ter­est­ing tid­bit is a se­quence cut from the film, in which the two kings, Ste­fan and Hu­bert, com­pare por­traits of their chil­dren. “It gets a lit­tle wilder and wilder each time, as they are try­ing to one-up each other,” En­galla says. “It’s a very funny se­quence, but it def­i­nitely in the con­text of the whole film, doesn’t re­ally fit.”

The film was in pro­duc­tion through most of the 1950s. “The orig­i­nal press re­lease stated that the film was six years in the mak­ing, but there has been ev­i­dence of a story treat­ment that went back as far as 1951,” En­galla says.

The process also rever­als in­ter­est­ing things about the artistry of a film, such as the work done by Eyvind Earle, who worked as an an­i­ma­tor on the film and de­signed much of its dis­tinc­tive look. “Be­cause the film had to have a very uni­form look and (Earle) couldn’t paint all the back­grounds him­self, he was able to cre­ate sort of a tu­to­rial panel for the artists,” says En­galla. “Th­ese long boards show his process of paint­ing one layer at a time to cre­ate the look of a bush or a tree, so that it would main­tain his par­tic­u­lar style.”

Lit­tle if any of this would come to light were it not for the ef­forts of the crew at the li­brary, says En­galla, who ad­mits it’s a pretty cool job to work with all this clas­sic art­work. “They do find some re­ally in­ter­est­ing things, and they call us over and we look at it, we mar­vel at it and we can’t wait to share it with the view­ers,” he says.

An­imag: What kind of spe­cial fea­tures will you have on the DVD for sea­son one? Roi­land: I wanted to make a DVD that would re­ally in­cen­tivize fans to want to buy it, be­cause now it’s just so easy to tor­rent stuff, and I al­ways will buy a DVD if I see that there’s com­men­tary on ev­ery sin­gle episode, that there’s an­i­mat­ics for ev­ery sin­gle episode, and th­ese are all things we have. There’s also an 18- to 20-minute long doc­u­men­tary be­hindthe-scenes. Prob­a­bly one of the coolest and most ex­cit­ing things to me is that we got guest com­men­tary tracks for three dif­fer­ent episodes. We got ( The Walk­ing Dead exec pro­duc­ers) Robert Kirk­man and Scott Gim­pel. We also got The Simp­sons guys, Matt Groen­ing and Al Jean and a hand­ful of Simp­sons writ­ers, to do a com­men­tary track for another episode, and then we got Pen Ward, cre­ator of Ad­ven­ture Time and Kent Os­bourne who also works on Ad­ven­ture Time. So you ac­tu­ally get three — tech­ni­cally four, in­clud­ing the an­i­matic — op­por­tu­ni­ties to watch the episode in a new way, which is huge I think in this day and age of piracy and stuff. So we just make it easy for every­body to get it all in one pack­age and not have to down­load some ridicu­lous cum­ber­some file off of BitTor­rent.

Sleep­ing Beauty re­turns to en­chant fans with its lush 2D an­i­ma­tion in a new Di­a­mond Edi­tion re­lease on DVD and Blu- ray, due out Oct. 7. Doug En­galla

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