Our list continues as we dive into the top 20, with some films that received multiple votes from our panelists but didn’t quite have the juice to make it higher in the rankings. Tomorrow: #15.
16) Sleeping Beauty (4 votes, 125 points)
Chris: This is the most intricately animated and put together movie of all-time. And while there are a couple key areas in which it falls short (likely part of the reason why the film struggled in the box office originally), it holds up remarkably well almost 60 years later.
Sleeping Beauty came out in 1959. The voices for the movie were recorded in 1952. Why? Because the animators spent SIX YEARS painting ridiculously elaborate backgrounds for almost every scene. This style of production might not have been sustainable long-term, but it created a unique and lasting approach for this particular film. Seriously, if you’ve seen it, you can picture any number of vibrant and gorgeous scenes in your head right now.
Let’s be blunt: Princess Aurora is among the worst leading ladies in all of Disney’s (and other studios’) films. Cursed from an early age, she basically hangs out with animals until her incompetent fairy guardians — and I actually like these characters quite a bit — decide to go ahead and blow their cover with exactly one day left before the curse fails. Then Maleficent puts Aurora in some kind of trance that essentially forces her to touch the spinning wheel, and so ends her involvement in the movie.
None of that matters, partially because Maleficent is perhaps the greatest Disney villain of all-time (the mistress of all evil!), or because the adapted Tchaikovsky score fits like a glove, or because the movie is so GODDAMN PRETTY.
Michaela: I know Aurora gets a bad rap as a Disney princess (I maintain that she’s a victim of circumstance) but the animation in this movie blows my mind every time I see it. How did they animate the sequences where the Fairy Godmothers are giving her their blessings at the beginning of the movie? I have no clue, but it looks stunning. I really love the hand-drawn animation of the old movies, and this movie is my favorite in terms of its art. But anyways, back to the movie itself. The Fairy Godmothers are great – they all have unique characteristics, and their banter together is entertaining. Maleficent, of course, steals the movie with every scene she’s in – vindictive and purely evil simply because she wasn’t invited to a birthday party, Maleficent won’t stop to make everyone’s lives miserable, and she’s great because of it. I also always enjoyed the sequence where Prince Phillip escapes and then fights Maleficent in her dragon form – it’s an exciting, intense battle and a fitting climax for the film as a whole. Aurora may be useless, but Sleeping Beauty’s art and true main characters – the Fairy Godmothers and Maleficent – make this among one of my favorite Disney films of all time.
Cary: “Now you shall deal with me, oh Prince…and all the POWERS OF HELL!” The final showdown between Maleficent and the Prince was one of the single most powerful scenes I remember seeing in a movie as a child. Disney did an amazing job bringing to life was could have been a run-of-the-mill fairy tale. Plus, I thought Sleeping Beauty’s prince was waaaay cuter than the one from Cinderella.
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