Kenneth Turan, the senior film critic for the Los Angeles Times, is impressed with a new documentary about the animated backstory of Disney in the 1980s. Here’s an excerpt from his review.
Hard as it is to believe today, it was not so long ago that animation in general and Disney animation in particular were art forms given up for dead. Things got so bad that in 1984 the studio, which had been kick-started into success by “Snow White” almost half a century earlier, ingraciously booted its beleaguered artists off the lot and onto bleak rented premises.
But, as it happened, the glories of the world were not yet ready to depart the stage. As detailed in the fascinating new documentary “Waking Sleeping Beauty,” an unlikely combination of personalities and circumstances came together in the next decade to create a run of animation successes — “The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Aladdin” and “The Lion King” — that exploded into unprecedented profitability.
This tale of artistic reincarnation is a classic show business story, not lacking in temper tantrums and clashing egos, and as told in “Waking Sleeping Beauty,” it’s got a terrific inside Hollywood sensibility plus an unblinking candor that lets the chips fall where they should. Which, given who made it, is something of a pleasant surprise.
For director Dan Hahn and his producing partner Peter Schneider are not a pair of investigative journalists who happened on a good story. Rather, they are consummate Disney animation insiders — Hahn was producer of “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Lion King,” Schneider was president of animation and later chairman of the studio — both of whom had too much respect for what they went through to want to whitewash the experience….
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– Kenneth Turan
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Photo credit: Walt Disney Studios