Slaying the Dragon
Growing up, I never got around to seeing SLEEPING BEAUTY.

That might not seem so strange to some – certainly not in a week when one of my Blind Spot participants watched THE LION KING for the first time. However, in my family the Walt Disney Classics were staples; bedtime stories to be told and re-told. We had dozens of the storybooks that went along with the films, not to mention the films themselves when they started becoming available on VHS.

But not SLEEPING BEAUTY.

No, I wouldn’t see it end-to-end until I was a teenager, and by that time an art student. When I finally did, I was taken aback…the film felt more artistically lavish than any other Disney Classic. To this day, nothing from that era of The Mouse House comes close artistically. The characters have sharper angles, the colour palette is amazingly vast, and every background is alive with texture and detail. By the time I saw it, I wasn’t interested in bedtime stories anymore…but as something to be studied, I was fascinated.

So why this one shot? Compared to some of the images below, it’s not all that intricate or complicated.

I choose this shot, because in the Disney Classics, it’s the best visual example of a lesson every child needs to learn. This is the stunning reminder that in life, to really achieve what we want, we have to face the dragon and slay it. Not a unique metaphor, I agree, but one worth remembering and one Disney renders here better than the studio would in any other classic feature.

The knock, of course, is that this story is typically old-fashioned. That it is an example of a damsel in distress who has nothing to do but wait for her handsome prince to rescue her. It’s a knock I cannot argue, and a knock that holds a lot of these classic stories back from true relevance.

However, if I’m looking for the transcendent moment (and I am), I say to look at this shot and see the prince not a man, but as a mortal. Look at him as any one human – male or female – trying to conquer an obstacle.

In this instance, as is often the case, the obstacle is using fear as a weapon, so the mortal has to come back with a weapon of equal measure. That’s where the sword in this image comes in – a sword, that if you look at its proportion is gigantic. It’s a weapon that the hero doesn’t even know very well as it has just recently been given to him. He was handed the weapon and told to put his trust in it…much the same way many of us have to trust our own talents, morals, and determination when facing down our own dragons.

In comparison to the three images below, this moment stands apart. It is less about the elegance and romance of life, and more about its courage and determination. It’s Uncle Walt telling us not to worry, even though the dragon is ten times our size. The animators dare us to stand at the edge of a very perilous cliff and not be consumed with the fear of falling off. The storytellers want us to stay focused on the goal, even though we are standing on the edge, and the sky is on fire around  us.

I might not have noticed these things as a child, so perhaps it was fortunate that I didn’t see the film until I was old enough to observe and understand them for myself.

 

Here’s three more from SLEEPING BEAUTY for the road…

 

Aurora and Phillip Dance

Sleeping Beauty spindles

Waking Sleeping Beauty
This series of posts is inspired by the “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” series at The Film Experience. Do check out all of the awesome entires in their series so far