Combustible Celluloid
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With: Jeffrey Katzenberg, Michael Eisner, Roy Edward Disney, Howard Ashman, Alan Menken, Tim Burton, John Lasseter, Don Bluth, John Musker, Christopher Emerson, Don Hahn, Glen Keane, Randy Cartwright, Peter Schneider
Written by: Patrick Pacheco
Directed by: Don Hahn
MPAA Rating: PG for some thematic elements and brief mild language
Running Time: 86
Date: 09/05/2009

Waking Sleeping Beauty (2010)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Beasts and Beauties

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Don Hahn directs this entertaining look at Disney's film division during its turbulent years, and though he's something of a Disney insider, his film manages to appear satisfyingly objective and observant, rather than just an official studio document patting itself on the back.

Waking Sleeping Beauty begins in the early 1980s. Walt Disney is gone and the heyday of animated classics is over. The older generation of animators supervises a young crew, and they're making such duds as The Fox and the Hound (1981) and The Black Cauldron (1985). Disney's image is outmoded and no youngster wants to see any of its movies. Enter Michael Eisner and Frank Wells, who are appointed by Roy Disney to bring the ailing studio back to life. It's not long before The Little Mermaid has revitalized the studio and animation in general. This hit was followed by even bigger hits Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King.

But bigger profits and more attention causes more fighting between the key players as well as with Jeffrey Katzenberg, who is named chairman of motion pictures, and the composers/songwriters Howard Ashman and Alan Menken. Caught in the middle are all the hard-working, but cheerful animators who work millions of hours of overtime. (Among them can be glimpsed future giants like Tim Burton and John Lasseter.)

Hahn has access to tons of great home movie footage as well as all the real movie clips. It's a surprisingly engaging tale, especially if you're already a Disney or an animation fan.

Peter Schneider (a former president of feature animation) co-produced. Disney released the DVD in late 2010, along with DVDs of the documentaries Walt and El Grupo and The Boys. The DVD comes with several featurettes, deleted scenes, archival footage, etc. Director Don Hahn and producer Peter Schneider provide a commentary track. There's a "collectible litho" inside the box, or a postcard with an image from the film.

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