What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that, for most kids, the scariest part of this Disney classic will be the prince's fight with the dragon. He fights it with a sword and almost falls from a cliff. Other scary moments involve the witch Maleficent and her ogre-like goons. Maleficent kidnaps the prince, and the goons beat him up (mostly shown in shadow). She also shoots lightning bolts with her staff and at one point dissolves into a green mist. There's one notable drinking scene where the two kings toast to their children's impending nuptials, and the attending minstrel sneaks enough wine to get drunk, falling down under the table and hiccuping.
What's the story?
The King and Queen happily celebrate the birth of their daughter, Princess Aurora. The young Prince, who is betrothed to the baby, and three good fairies join the celebration. But wicked fairy Maleficent isn't included, so she angrily casts a spell on the baby Princess -- when she turns 16, she'll prick her finger and die. The good fairies can't remove the spell, but they change it from death to a deep sleep from which Aurora can be awakened only by love's first kiss. For her protection, Aurora is sent to live with the good fairies in a woodsy cottage until her sixteenth birthday is over. The fairies can't use magic because it would lead Maleficent to the princess. Aurora (called Briar Rose) grows up, meets the Prince, and they fall in love. But Aurora can't escape the spell -- she pricks her finger and falls into a deep sleep. Maleficent captures the prince, but the fairies help him escape. In a last ditch effort, Maleficent turns herself into a terrifying dragon and sets out to stop the Prince for good.
Is it any good?
This is a classic Disney animated feature, and many parents, and kids, will find the hand-drawn animation refreshing compared to today's mostly computer-animated fare. Children may also enjoy the little squabbles of the three good fairies, which may remind them of arguments with their siblings. Be aware that there are some intense, scary scenes involving Maleficent and the fire-breathing dragon. The film give parents a chance to expose young ones to classical music -- the score is based on Tchaikovsky's "Sleeping Beauty" ballet.
As in Snow White, a sleeping princess can only be awakened by a kiss from the prince. Psychiatrist Bruno Bettelheim and others have written extensively about the meaning of these stories, and the ways in which they symbolize the transition to adulthood and sexual awakening. Bettelheim's theory was that such fairy tales begin to prepare children for developments they are not ready to assimilate consciously.