Last fall at the CTN Animation Expo in Burbank attendees (myself included) were treated to a screening of Don Hahn’s documentary Waking Sleeping Beauty. It’s a fascinating film that takes viewers behind the scenes at Disney animation from 1984-1994, a period often referred to as the Disney Renaissance.
The decade began with the rise of Michael Eisner as the new head of Disney along with the release of The Black Cauldron, an underwhelming film created by a struggling animation department during what was arguably one of the lowest points in the history of Disney animation. Things were so bad that the Disney animators were banished from their own building on the studio lot—the same building in which Walt himself supervised the production of his classic films—and relocated to a small run-down structure across town. Rumors were everywhere that the animation unit was very close to being disbanded altogether.
The struggling team of young animators pulled together and in an amazing turnaround they soon began producing genuine blockbusters, culminating with Beauty and the Beast which became the first animated film in history to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. But as Disney animation climbed to new heights and animators rose to new levels of fame, tensions rose within the leadership at Disney. Through rare behind-the-scenes video and interviews we get an insiders look at everything from talented artists having the time of their lives to internal conflicts within the studio. The film closes with executive Jeffrey Katzenberg leaving Disney to form a new animation unit at DreamWorks.
Waking Sleeping Beauty will be released on DVD November 30. You can pre-order from Amazon.com here. (Full disclosure: Amazon.com com will throw a few cents my way for each copy that is ordered from the links on this blog, which in turn helps support my addiction to iPhone apps).
EDIT: Here’s the official trailer: