Waking Sleeping Beauty

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Waking Sleeping Beauty
Waking Sleeping Beauty.jpg
Directed by Don Hahn
Produced by Don Hahn
Peter Schneider
Written by Patrick Pacheco
Starring Roy E. Disney
Michael Eisner
Jeffrey Katzenberg
Randy Cartwright
Howard Ashman
Narrated by Don Hahn
Music by Chris P. Bacon
Edited by Ellen Keneshea
Vartan Nazarian
John Damien Ryan
Stone Circle Pictures
Distributed by Walt Disney Studios
Motion Pictures
Release dates
Running time
85 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $84,918

Waking Sleeping Beauty is a 2009 American documentary film directed by Disney film producer Don Hahn and produced by Hahn and former Disney executive Peter Schneider. The film documents the history of Walt Disney Feature Animation from 1984 to 1994, covering the rise of a period referred to as the Disney Renaissance.

Unusual for a documentary film, Waking Sleeping Beauty uses no new on-camera interviews, instead relying primarily on archival interviews, press kit footage, in-progress and completed footage from the films being covered, and personal film/videos shot (often against company policy) by the employees of the animation studio.

Waking Sleeping Beauty debuted at the 2009 Telluride Film Festival,[1] and played at film festivals across the country before its limited theatrical release on March 26, 2010 by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.[2]


The documentary is narrated by animator and film producer Don Hahn, with numerous audio interviews from company animators and executives.

The documentary begins in the early 1980s, when The Walt Disney Company was directed by Walt Disney’s son-in-law Ron W. Miller. Many new animators had joined the company after graduating from CalArts, but were hired in a time where animation was considered a dying art. Roy E. Disney, Walt’s nephew resigned form the company in 1984 during a corporate takeover by Saul Steinberg, leading to Miller’s ousting. Roy returned to the studio as vice-chairman of the board of directors and chairman of the animation department. Roy employed Michael Eisner and Frank Wells as the new Chairman and President respectively.

Eisner hired Jeffrey Katzenberg as head of the film division, but he proved to be a controversial figure, moving the animation department to an off-site building in Glendale, California. Roy hired Peter Schneider to be President of Walt Disney Feature Animation, who helped modernise the animation process. Losing in the box office to animated films released by Don Bluth, a former studio animator who left in 1979 to found his own company, Disney began producing animated films to release one every year, and began releasing classic films on the new home video format. A gong show in the company led to the green-lighting of numerous film projects. The production of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, though expensive for Disney, proved to be a huge financial success along with Oliver & Company.

The Disney Renaissance, which lasted from 1989 to 1999, began with The Little Mermaid. The soundtrack was composed and wrote by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, who also composed Beauty and the Beast, and Menken later composing Aladdin. Ashman’s involvement in The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast aided in both being box office successes and winning Academy Awards for Best Original Song and Best Original Score. However, Ashman passed away from AIDS in 1990 before Beauty and the Beast was released, the film dedicated to his memory. The Rescuers Down Under utilised the new CAPS system which blended traditional and computer animation together, but the film was a box office disappointment.

Following the success of Beauty and the Beast, Eisner and Roy announced to the animators that they would receive a new animation building as a reward for their hard work, but Katzenberg was unaware of this. In 1994, The Lion King was released and was another box office success for Disney. On April 4th, 1994, Frank Wells died in a helicopter crash. Following Wells’ death, Katzenberg expected to become the new company President, but was denied the position by Eisner, eventually leading to his resignation and went on to co-found DreamWorks.



Narration is done by Hahn, with new audio-only interviews done by several of the studio's principal figures, including former executives Eisner, Katzenberg, and Roy E. Disney, and animator/directors Mike Gabriel, Rob Minkoff, Roger Allers, Gary Trousdale, and Kirk Wise. The footage includes filmmakers Tim Burton, John Lasseter, Don Bluth, Ron Clements, John Musker, Steven Spielberg, Robert Zemeckis, Richard Williams, and George Scribner, as well as Howard Ashman, Alan Menken, Jodi Benson, Robin Williams, Paige O'Hara, Jerry Orbach, Angela Lansbury, Jeremy Irons, Nathan Lane, Elton John, and Tim Rice. A significant portion of the personal film used was shot by John Lasseter for Disney animator Randy Cartwright, who is featured giving makeshift "studio tours" in 1980, 1984, and 1990. The Cartwright footage which is used to bookend the film.[3]

The film is dedicated to the memories of Howard Ashman, former Disney President and Chief Operating Officer Frank Wells, animator Joe Ranft, and Roy E. Disney.


Since its 2009 release, Waking Sleeping Beauty has received generally positive reviews from most critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes currently gives the film a "certified fresh" rating of 71% based on 49 reviews. The general consensus is, "[The film] doesn't probe as deep -- or tell as many hard truths -- as it could have, but Don Hahn's look at Disney's rebirth offers a fascinating and surprisingly candorous glimpse into the studio's past."[4] Another review aggregator, Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 top reviews from mainstream critics, calculated a score of 70 based on 18 critics.[5] It earned a Special Achievement Award at the 2010 Annie Awards and a Best Documentary Feature nomination at the 2010 St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association Awards.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sciretta, Peter (2009-09-06). Movie Review: Waking Sleeping Beauty. /Film. Retrieved 2010-12-02.
  2. ^ (2010-03-04). 'Waking Sleeping Beauty' Gets Limited Theatrical Release, 3/26. BroadWayWorld.com. Retrieved 2010-12-02.
  3. ^ Jeffrey M. Anderson (2010-03-26). Interview: Don Hahn and Peter Schneider of 'Waking Sleeping Beauty'. Cinematical. Retrieved 2010-12-02.
  4. ^ "Waking Sleeping Beauty - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 4 April 2012. 
  5. ^ "Waking Sleeping Beauty Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved December 3, 2014. 

External links[edit]