waking sleeping beauty 1

23 08 2009

DON HAHN sent me some information about a documentary he directed – WAKING SLEEPING BEAUTY, the renaissance of animation during the so called ‘golden nineties’. can’t wait to see the film, since it covers a creative period of time I had a chance to be a small part of.

Waking Sleeping Beauty, will be screened at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) next month, and will be released theatrically in the spring of 2010.


here is a synopsis –

From 1984 to 1994 a perfect storm of people and circumstances changed the face of animation forever

Directed by Don Hahn
Produced by Peter Schneider and Don Hahn

By the mid-1980s, the fabled animation studios of Walt Disney had fallen on hard times.  The artists were polarized between newcomers hungry to innovate and old timers not yet ready to relinquish control.  The conditions produced a series of box office flops and pessimistic forecasts: maybe the best days of animation were over. Maybe the public didn’t care. Only a miracle or a magic spell could produce a happy ending.

Waking Sleeping Beauty is no fairy tale.  It’s the true story of how Disney regained its magic with a staggering output of hits – “The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Aladdin,” “The Lion King,” and more – over a ten-year period.

Director Don Hahn and producer Peter Schneider bring their insider knowledge to “WSB”. Hahn was one of the Young Turks at Disney who produced some of its biggest sensations.  Schneider led the animation group during this amazing renaissance and later became studio chairman. Their film offers a fascinating and candid perspective of what happened in the creative ranks set against the dynamic tensions among the top leadership, Michael Eisner, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Roy Disney (the nephew of Walt).

The process wasn’t always pretty.  The filmmakers bring a refreshing candor in describing ego battles, cost overruns, and failed experiments that others might prefer to forget. During times of tension, the animators’ favorite form of release was to draw scathing caricatures of themselves and their bosses.  Director Hahn puts several memorable ones on display and marshals a vast array of interviews, home movies, internal memos and unseen footage.


© disney enterprises, inc

you can see some clips here




7 responses

23 08 2009
Shane White

Nice background. I need to trust my color-theory more to try stuff like that.


24 08 2009
Jose Gatdula

Thanks Hans for the heads up.

I’m sure this film will be quite interesting on learning more about how the House that Walt built get back it’s legs. It is sure be lesson on the present administration at Disney to look upon and work on why their present film are not succeeding.

24 08 2009

One I recently found amazing about animated films is the large amount of history and memories that go behind everything. To me, the works that Walt Disney himself had touched were works of magic. I didn’t agree with all of them like Jungle Book (although I loved the villian, Sher Khan) but there was just something so different about those works compared to the works that came after Disney had passed away.

from hans –
you are right. and the studio did everything to create that magic. the films were magically done by walt himself, you did not get too much information from behind the scenes. even when you look at early documentaries like THE RELUCTANT DRAGON from 1941, where even most of the animators are played by actors and the studio looks more like a dream-factory with magic dwarfs and elves singing through their work. or the 1957 special THE TRICKS OF OUR TRADE, where walt himself explains the multiplane camera and shows some magical animators at work. it looks more like an unreal phantasy world with drawing sorcerers and an environment that comes from a fairy tale book. the studio’s own presentation to the outside world was organized very well. there were only happy artists, no problems, walt was the super-magician who held it all together. nothing wrong with that, it worked. that way they eliminated the competion from the very beginning, there was only one magical dreamworld, the others were just decoration. all that changed after walt disney died. the super wizzard was gone and you could even see it in the results they were coming from the surviving studio. there was something missing, and if it was just the maestro presenting the new oeuvre.
later in the late seventies bigger problems became public, don bluth left with most of the younger talent. what was left hardly survived the mid-eighties. the studio management went through drastic changes, and somehow, like through a new kind of magic – a new successful era started. these are the amazing years DON HAHN covers in his documentary WAKING SLEEPING BEAUTY. and the title says it, something magical came alive again after some forgotten years, and the old dream continued.

24 08 2009

wow – a must-see. thanks for bringing it to attention.

25 08 2009
Floyd Norman

If you like, I can explain why things changed in Disney’s animation department.

Management began to get involved in the creative process. Plus, not understanding how animation is created, the executives brought in live-action guys to script stories that once were developed on the boards.

Even a “hands on” guy like Walt Disney often left us alone to solve problems. The new managers continually encroached on the process, and the result was a series of lackluster animated films. I went to Pixar in 1997 to escape Disney.

from hans –
thank you floyd, I would like to hear more about that and I am sure a lot more other artists as well. when did that start and why? was it pure ignorance and the believe they knew it better? as you know I went through a lot of major battles with these pompous ignorant know-it-alls, but that was later. and it was already too late even to try to fight them. as you said you escaped to pixar. what an interesting time! and you know – I am afraid, not that much has changed…

26 08 2009
Nancy Beiman

I’m going to see this at TIFF, and Don has graciously agreed to do a special presentation at Sheridan College on DRAWN TO LIFE, his two amazing books of Walt Stanchfield’s lectures.

26 08 2009
Nancy Beiman

I once heard two directors, puzzled, wondering why if the artists moved from studio to studio, why competing features were so much weaker than Disneys’. I ventured (as someone with experience in one major competing studio) that at Disneys, the artists were left to do their jobs. If the executives didn’t like something, the artists went back and did revisions. At the competing studio, the executives decided they were the ‘creatives’ and told the artists what and how to change. Of course Disney could not help but be affected when some of these executives were hired there.

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