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Roy Edward Disney, Michael Eisner, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Glen Keane, Don Bluth ... see more see more... , Tim Burton , Ron Clements , Don Hahn , Mike Gabriel , David Pruiksma , George Scribner , Kirk Wise , Lisa Keene , Peter Schneider , Rob Minkoff , John Musker , Roger Allers , Gary Trousdale , Thomas C. Schumacher , Dick Cook , Roger Rose , Patrick Pacheco

Walt Disney Pictures has been the leading name in animated filmmaking since the 1930s, but the studio's crown was looking more than a little tarnished in the 1980s after a series of expensive commerci... read more read and critical disappointments such as The Fox and the Hound, The Black Cauldron, and The Great Mouse Detective. At that time, a handful of Disney executives were questioning the wisdom of continuing to make animated films, as the company was making more money in live-action movies, theme parks, and television. That changed when Roy Disney -- Walt's nephew and the last figure from the studio's Golden Age management team still on board -- teamed up with newly hired studio executives Michael D. Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg to restore their reputation for both quality and commercial appeal. With the success of Who Framed Roger Rabbit in 1988, the team sparked a new interest in animation on the big screen, and a string of smash hits that began with The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast launched a new era of both acclaim and box-office success for the company. But those successes didn't come without behind-the-scenes conflict, and Don Hahn, a longtime producer at Disney, offers an inside look at the creative squabbles and battles amongst the management that came during Disney's climb back to the top of Hollywood's mountain in the documentary Waking Sleeping Beauty. Along with behind-the-scenes footage and rare personal artwork created by the studio's animation staff (including some unflattering cartoons of their bosses), the film includes interviews with many key figures of this era in Disney history, and several people who enjoyed greater success after leaving the company, such as Tim Burton and John Lasseter. Waking Sleeping Beauty was an official selection at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

Flixster Users

79% liked it

4,083 ratings


71% liked it

49 critics

PG, 1 hr. 26 min.

Directed by: Don Hahn

Release Date: March 26, 2010

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DVD Release Date: November 30, 2010

Stats: 262 reviews

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Flixster Reviews (262)

  • November 14, 2011
    An interesting look back at the past of Disney's second age of Renaissance in the late 80s and early 90s. But my only problem with the film, its SO SLOW PACE. It may only be around an hour and a half, but it moves at the speed of a snail, and it feels like its 2 and a half hours,... read more but still it is a very interesting look back at Disney's second rebirth.
  • April 30, 2011
    I really want to like this movie, but it was basically a big "aren't we all awesome" masturbatory celebration rather than any juicy dirt.
  • February 26, 2011
    Engrossing account of the men who saved Disney's animation branch and brought it to a second "Golden Age" from the late-eighties to the mid-nineties (and all the drama that arose between them). Touching film is filled with interesting trivia and little-known facts about the bigge... read morest name in family entertainment ever. Waking Sleeping Beauty incorporates testimonies old and new, vintage video footage, animated clips, and, most importantly, the opinions of everyone that matters. The many different points of view prevent it from becoming a one-sided account. Essential viewing for Disney junkies.
  • January 13, 2011
    The thing I love the most about Waking Sleeping Beauty is that it really is about absolutely nothing. I mean, alright, there's stuff going on, but it's not this complicated, detailed mess. It's more like, 'yeah, this what we did and how we felt while doing it. Isn't it great?' It... read more's just this celebration of what was arguably the greatest era of Disney animation. That is just before Pixar's thugs took over the market. Personally, I got a bit sentimental, curz tha little mermaid is like the best movie eva! <3 And then there are also a couple really brief shots of Jack and Sally - if you don't know who they are by name alone, just leave. Now. Anyway, I was really surprised and the film is a helluva lot of fun. It's sort of reminder of why you fell in love with Simba, Ariel, Lumier, or Miku to begin with.
  • December 17, 2010
    Fantastic, great footage that shows Tim Burton as the creepy weird kid you always knew he was.
  • October 5, 2011
    "Waking Sleeping Beauty" is a breezy backstage look at the reemergence of the formerly moribund Disney animation studios, starting in 1984 with the hiring of Michael Eisner and Frank Wells to run the company, with Eisner bringing in Jeffrey Katzenberg. It had been decades since ... read moreDisney was tops in animation and "The Black Cauldron," the first production under the new regime, was less than successful. So much so, at one point, that it looked like the animation division was going to be shut down, so the animators staged their own version of "Apocalypse Now." But then Disney went on a winning streak starting with "The Little Mermaid" which led to "Beauty and the Beast" which led to "Aladdin" and finally "The Lion King."

    Even with all the glitz and glamor, "Waking Sleeping Beauty" rightfully concentrates on all the hard work it took to get there.(How anybody could concentrate on drawing with a live lion in the room is beyond me.) But I disagree with the assertion that the above films made it cooler for adult audiences to like animated films. That would come later with the rise of Pixar. In fact, a lot of this entertaining and insightful documentary feels like prologue, and not just because a young Tim Burton is photographed at a drawing desk.
  • fb796967648
    April 8, 2010
    Wonderful documentary covering the Disney animation years from 1984-1994 (the re-birth of the brand, from LITTLE MERMAID through LION KING). Full of insider you-were-there interviews, footage and home movies, this film also covers the great infusion of creativity that Howard Ash... read moreman brought to the studio when he and writing partner Alan Menken came on board. It also, quite movingly, chronicles Ashman's last days, and that alone is enough to make this essential viewing for not only the animated film fan, but the musical theatre fan as well. It's one of those documentaries that zooms by, and leaves you wishing it were twice the length, because every tidbit you get is a gem. Don't miss the gems!
  • fb721890245
    June 20, 2013
    I'm always fascinated by the story of Disney and how it has evolved over the years. Those who can remember that far back will remember the problems of Disney in the '80s. An interesting look as to how Disney recaptured its animation magic.
  • fb653545547
    October 5, 2011
    Does Waking Sleeping Beauty get deep enough or honest enough about the trials of the Disney company? Not really. Does it give a tantalizing glimpse into a dysfunctional organization where expectations kept getting raised without needed improvements in staffing and infrastructur... read moree, not to mention in interpersonal relations? Absolutely. Are some of the films between 1984 and 1994 glossed over with precious little information (like The Rescuers Down Under)? Yup. Are there fundamental problems with the way the doc is edited together, such as not having current interviews on camera and opting for only the audio of those conversations? Double yup. But you know what? For a company with an image of family and friends, Waking Sleeping Beauty throws cold water on the entire endeavor. A brisk 85-minutes, WSB gives the audience a starting place from which to seek out other docs on the Disney company. It begins the conversation and doesn't pretend to finish it.
  • April 6, 2011
    The true story about the people behind Disney's magic who brought in millions and could "do no wrong." The truth is that they were arrogant and prideful and fought all the time but they were brilliant entertainers and amazing businessmen who took risks and succeeded in delivering... read more some of the most beloved Disney films of all time. This movie includes testimonies and vintage home videos along with clips from our favorite stories. I never knew they basically made up the story as they went along. No wonder The Black Cauldron sucked so bad!!!

Critic Reviews

Michael O'Sullivan
October 1, 2010
Michael O'Sullivan, Washington Post

More Belle, more Ariel, more Simba -- and less of Eisner and Co. -- would have made a more interesting movie. Full Review

Moira MacDonald
August 6, 2010
Moira MacDonald, Seattle Times

It's a not-so-great movie about some great movies. Full Review

Joe Neumaier
April 6, 2010
Joe Neumaier, New York Daily News

A few too many industry asides, but filled with behind-the-scenes moments. Full Review

Stephen Holden
March 26, 2010
Stephen Holden, New York Times

Sly retrospective exercise in corporate self-congratulation masquerading as an insider's tell-all.

J. R. Jones
March 26, 2010
J. R. Jones, Chicago Reader

Even in its sanitized state, this movie about the generational revolt that reinvigorated Disney's animation department in the 1980s and '90s is fascinating Full Review

Kyle Smith
March 26, 2010
Kyle Smith, New York Post

Waking Sleeping Beauty doesn't have as much behind-the-scenes juice as you'd hope. Full Review

Claudia Puig
March 25, 2010
Claudia Puig, USA Today

Waking Sleeping Beauty covers a dream era in the history of animation, but it could have delved a little deeper to keep us wide-eyed and engaged. Full Review

Kenneth Turan
March 25, 2010
Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times

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. Full Review

Peter Hartlaub
March 25, 2010
Peter Hartlaub, San Francisco Chronicle

The movie turns from good to great as the layers are peeled away and director Hahn provides an insider's look at the creative epicenter of the studio. Full Review

Tasha Robinson
March 25, 2010
Tasha Robinson, AV Club

It could have been comfortably twice as long. But what's there is an unusual peek inside the Mouse House, one delivered by a director who seems to love the studio without letting that cloud his judgem... Full Review

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