LRFF reaction: "Waking Sleeping Beauty" | Rock Candy

Thursday, June 3, 2010

LRFF reaction: "Waking Sleeping Beauty"

Posted By on Thu, Jun 3, 2010 at 3:59 PM

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(l-r) Peter Schneider, Roy Disney and Jeffery Katzenberg

Films often need not look past their own studio gates for drama: "Sweet Smell of Success," Truffaut's "Day For Night," Altman's "The Natural," the list goes on. The infighting, clashing egos, struggles between the artistically minded, the managerial staffs and profiteering board rooms provide for a petri dish of tension ripe for the filming.

Now take Disney Studios. Their history of inner strife is nothing short of legendary. Walt's nephew, Roy, saw no shortage of suspicion, tagged as "the idiot nephew." Michael Eisner has a generally shifty presence about him and Jeffery Katzenberg is widely acknowledged as a Hollywood ratfink of the highest caliber by anyone who's ever so much as accidentally sat on a copy of Variety.

"Waking Sleeping Beauty," a humdinger of a doc, takes place when the old, cardiganed guard who made "Snow White" and "Pinocchio" began to retire, giving way to still-wet college graduates and the foul mouthed, money-minded New Hollywood Executive. It was a transition that gave way to the Disney animation department's grand belly flop into total failure in the 1980s  and their unexpected re-ascent to glories long, long past in the early 1990s. It's beautifully, even elegantly, captured here. Using unauthorized home videos from the animation studios, archival footage from television interviews and bits of deritus from video memos, director Don Hahn (producer of "The Lion King" and "Beauty and the Beast) pieces together an totally riveting and sprawling piece of corporate drama worthy of an hours-long series of documentaries.

From the spazzy artists' sketch tables to the tight-assed corporate coffers, "Waking..." can become overwhelming at times with rapid fire facts, squeezing in months, if not years, of history in a mere few sentences, but for those ready to learn a list of names and personalities in a short amount of time, it'll pay off in dividends.

My only complaint? Nothing to be said of the animation studio's output since 2000. "Brother Bear?" "Dinosaur?" "Home on the Range?" Exactly. But oh well. Every good ending gives way to a sad reality once the film stops rolling. I'm sure even Belle heard her beast prince fart in his sleep after the credits ended, so it certainly seems Hahn knew when to draw the curtain.

In short, it's a fascinating, intimate and, yes, truly fantastic look into the human dramas behind one of the most important eras in movie history.

On the Arkansas Times catfish scale, I give it a...

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"Waking Sleeping Beauty" screens again on Saturday, June 5 at 12:30 p.m. in Riverdale screen #2.

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