I’ve been thinking about 1959’s Sleeping Beauty a lot lately. Maybe it’s because I have been reading Robin McKinley’s fairy tale retelling, Spindle’s End (yup, non-Disney plug right there) or maybe it is because of the entry I recently wrote. By now it’s no secret that I have a love for all the Disney princesses, old and new. If you recall however, I didn’t have much to say about Aurora from Sleeping Beauty. That is mainly because when I was little, she wasn’t my favorite character in the movie. (I was more of a Merryweather gal, but that’s getting off the subject…)
At this point, Walt Disney had created two other fairy tale adaptations – Snow White and Cinderella. Both of these movies had beautiful leading women who were distinct in both voice and animation.
And then there were the guys…
Prince and Prince Charming, I think? How droll. I love how people can criticize the early princesses and completely overlook the fact that the guys weren’t getting much love either. They didn’t even have real NAMES for crying out loud. They were also a bit stiff. (Honestly, I have to say — do you know that part in Cinderella when Prince Charming is yawning at the ball? Yes, that is the image that comes to mind when I think of him — YAWN.)
By the time production started for Sleeping Beauty, Walt was very serious about creating something different with this male lead — first by naming him. Philip’s animator Milt Kahl was specifically told by Walt that Philip was to be “as real as possible, near flesh and blood.” He wanted Philip to have personality since he was carrying more of the story than the Princes who came before him had.
Walt took this so seriously that he had actors come in and actually portray scenes from the film. If you own Sleeping Beauty on DVD, head over to the Production section on the second disc. There you will find all of the live-action reference photographs that were taken for different scenes. There is an especially awesome section (set to the music of the film) depicting an actor playing Philip fighting a stick with a ball at the end of it (Maleficent the Dragon) with his sword and shield.
Three Cheers for the Guy with some Personality!
In the end, I think Milt did a great job in creating an actual MEMORABLE character in Prince Philip. He has an easy sense of humor and he’s brave. He also is the first prince to have his own side-kick and Sampson is no secondary character either. Sleeping Beauty took 6 years to make and over 6 million dollars. Walt was adamant that he didn’t want this movie to look anything like Snow White or Cinderella and I think he pulled it off, especially when it came to the hero. In my opinion, Phil kicks Prince and Charming right out of the Disney Hero race.
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