You know how the internet is… Some trend catches on like wild fire and creates a buzz for a while. Then it dies down and everyone forgets about it. Waking sleeping beauty is a documentary film by Don Hahn that was originally screened back in september 09 at Telluride film festival. It was talked about on all animation and movie review blogs. Eventually, people would stop talking about it.
But I got to watch the movie earlier this quarter at SCAD and had to write a field trip report for Charles DaCosta's class. Here is my paper which I finished last week.
I remember I first heard about Waking Sleeping Beauty on Mark Mayerson’s Blog when it screened at the Toronto international film Festival. It quickly left my mind as I finished my fall quarter finals and went on vacation. Early spring quarter, we got assigned our field trip which was to go watch Waking Sleeping Beauty at the Trustee’s Theater at SCAD. As all the great things I’d read about it on animation blogs started coming back to me, I got very excited that we would get to see this documentary.
I knew I had heard Don Hahn’s name before, and I realized I own the book he compiled from Walt Stanchfield’s lectures on figure drawing. He has also worked at Disney with Professor Troy G. And his page on IMDB page is full of fond names from mine and many of my peers’ childhood. This documentary is his debut as a feature director. Waking Sleeping beauty is a documentary about the revival of animation at Disney from 1980s to 1990s. He would also answer questions after the screening.
The theater was jam packed with students, all animation junkies I presume. This was much bigger turnout than I had expected. I arrived a little late and quietly found myself a seat towards the end of the theater. And I was gripped by the movie from the get go. Being the animation nerd that I am also helped I am sure. The movie only used archived video interviews on screen. Interviews specifically conducted for the film were played as voice overs while funny and captivating imagery was played on screen.
The story started off by talking about the time when Disney was in shambles. None of the movies were the success everyone hoped they’d be. The animators were beginning to lose hope and thought their days at Disney were numbered. Through home video footage we see animators staging a zombie apocalypse enactment in the studio. It was a nightmare scenario for these animators who were ripped apart from their ‘home’ their old studio and put in a new facility, uncertain of their fate.
But the magic was returned through the hands of the talented people like Eisner and katzenberg who were brought in at what was the lowest point of the company’s history. With a slew of successes from The Great Mouse Detective and Who Framed Roger Rabbit, the Disney animation era jump started again. Audiences were coming back to the theaters in hordes, the movies were making more and more money and the studio was prospering. However, all was not well.
Animators still had a very stressful life. They worked long hours as Disney resolved to release one new feature length movie each year. They hardly had time to go home. Animators spent days and nights in the studio, never saw their family and kids. This was what everyone had always told me what working in the animation industry is like. The animators made the most of what they had. The studio became their second home, their co-workers became family. They had margarita nights where they let loose.
The focus of the film shifted from the animators to the executives. The politics higher up in the company played an important role in the creative decisions of the studio. However, they did not seem to capture my interest. But it does serve as a lesson that the fate of a company can change drastically in the lack of good leadership. Also that good leaders need to keep their personal differences aside and work towards the greater good.