Yesterday evening, I had the pleasure of attending the World Premiere of the groundbreaking documentary Waking Sleeping Beauty (IMDb page) at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). The film chronicles the revival of Walt Disney Animation beginning in 1984 and the start of the decade-long Disney Renaissance.
Without rambling on, Waking Sleeping Beauty is a top-notch, honest, captivating documentary. There was enthusiastic audience applause as the end credits rolled. Every fan of Disney animation has to see this film, even if they already know the backstory. Actually, it will be best enjoyed by those who know the history of what transpired during those crucial years for Disney and the animation industry as a whole.
There’s a wealth of never-before and rarely-seen footage, from home video to old interviews with the major players, like Roy E. Disney, Michael Eisner and Jeffery Katzenberg, each of who participated in the making of the film. That and the many hilarious satirical caricatures drawn of them by the artists at the studio. The film relies entirely on archival material, with voice-overs, to convey the story. And never has a filmmaker had such behind-the-scenes access to the topic ―the filmmakers here are a large part of the story.
Director Don Hahn (who produced Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King) and producer Peter Schneider were in attendance (they opened the screening and did a Q&A with the audience) and I had a chance to talk briefly with them afterwards.
On my way out, I met and chatted with animator Mark Walton, famous as the voice of Rhino in Bolt, who was there with his girlfriend. As it turns out he’s in Toronto working on the Miramax project Gnomeo and Juliet (IMDb page).
Waking Sleeping Beauty will get a limited theatrical run in April through Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures and will be shown to interested groups, according to Hahn and Schneider. It deserves a high-quality release on DVD and Blu-ray for sure, hopefully with extras.