So we finally got to see Waking Sleeping Beauty, a film from Disney that documents the company’s 1990s animated film renaissance. I was surprised to realize that Disney itself is promoting and selling the film because it is a genuinely candid (read: unflattering at times) look into the turbulent years between 1984 and 1994.
In 1984, the studio’s animation department writhed in death throes–internal conflicts and terrible films spelled a bleak future. By 1994, Disney animation reached an unbelievable comeback zenith with The Lion King. The documentary ends on a bittersweet note–following the death of a prominent studio leader (the only one, it seems, without a colossal ego), the battles between big-wigs Michael Eisner, Roy E. Disney, and Jeffrey Katzenberg reached a breaking point with the latter leaving to form Dreamworks.
I found it interesting that Waking Sleeping Beauty ends at 1994, without taking in the rest of the Renaissance or noting the winds of change that blew in with the 1995 release of Toy Story. For this reason, Dr. Sci-Fi pointed out that this film makes a good companion piece to The Pixar Story, another great film industry documentary.
For me personally, I loved Waking Sleeping Beauty because it shows the effort and struggles behind the films that shaped my childhood. My sisters, friends, and I grew up during the Disney Renaissance. We had all the toys and clothes and Disney-themed birthday parties. To this day, we all know the words to the classic Howard Ashman and Alan Menken songs. We still hold these films in great affection.
Normally, a documentary–no matter how interesting or poignant–tells the story of something or someone that seems so distant. But the people and projects documented in Waking Sleeping Beauty had a direct impact on my life and my generation.