Sleeping Beauty is a 1959 animated feature produced by Walt Disney Pictures and Buena Vista Distribution and originally released to theaters on January 29, 1959. The sixteenth animated feature in the Disney Animated Canon, it was the last animated feature produced by Walt Disney to be based upon a fairy tale (after his death, the studio returned to the genre with The Little Mermaid), as well as the last cel animated feature from Disney to be inked by hand before the xerography process took over.
Sleeping Beauty is also the first animated feature to be shot in Super Technirama 70, one of many large-format widescreen processes (only one more animated film, The Black Cauldron, has been shot in Super Technirama 70). The film spent nearly the entire decade of the 1950s in production: the story work began in 1951, voices were recorded in 1952, animation production took from 1953 until 1958, and the stereophonic musical score was recorded in 1957.
Sleeping Beauty was originally a failure, and did not make up the huge cost of the film. Along with the mixed critical reception, it was also noted to be the film that made Walt Disney lose interest in the animation medium. However, the subsequent re-releases proved massively successful, and critics and audiences have since hailed it as an animated classic.
Buena Vista Distribution, originally released Sleeping Beauty to theaters in both standard 35mm prints and large-format 70mm prints. The Super Technirama 70 prints were equipped with six-track stereophonic sound; some CinemaScope-compatible 35mm Technirama prints were released in four-track stereo, and others had monaural soundtracks.
During its original release in 1959, Sleeping Beauty earned approximately $5.3 million in box office rentals. Sleeping Beauty’s production costs, which totaled $6 million, made it the most expensive Disney film up to that point, and over twice as expensive as each of the preceding three Disney animated features: Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan and Lady and the Tramp. The high production costs of Sleeping Beauty, coupled with the under performance of much of the rest of Disney’s 1959–1960 release slate resulted in the company posting its first annual loss in a decade for fiscal year 1960, and massive layoffs were done throughout the animation department.
Sleeping Beauty was never re-released theatrically in Walt Disney’s lifetime. However, it had many re-releases in theaters over the decades. The film was re-released theatrically in 1970, 1979 (in 70mm 6 channel stereo, as well as in 35 mm stereo and mono), 1986 and 1995. A 1993 re-release was planned, but it was later cancelled. Sleeping Beauty’s successful reissues have made it the second most successful film released in 1959.
- January 29, 1959 (original release)
- June 10, 1970
- September 28, 1979
- March 7, 1986
- September 8, 1995 (restored and remastered)