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Written & Directed By: Patrick Pacheco and Don Hahn
Starring: Michael Eisner, Roy E. Disney and Don Hahn

Did you ever wonder how The Little Mermaid or Aladdin came to be? Did you ever wonder what almost brought down the Disney animation studio? Well, this wonderful little documentary tells the tale, and does it well.

The Movie

I love Disney studios. However, I am not a huge fan of some of the animated films they have produced in the last twenty years. But I am a huge fan of behind-the-scenes intrigue and an underdog story. I know you are thinking, “Disney studios is an underdog?” Yes. At one time they were not the juggernaut that they had been nor anywhere near the Goliath that they would become in the late eighties and early nineties.

Don Hahn puts together a compelling narrative here. And he should since he was at ground zero of the Disney comeback. Part of the appeal of this film is the home video footage that Hahn took while he was working for Disney. So much what makes this documentary so good is the real sense of fun and camaraderie between the animators at the studio. The home video footage is a nice time capsule for the studio during the mid-eighties.

On the flip side of the animation family is the power struggle at the top of the studio between Michael Eisner, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Roy E. Disney. And what a struggle it was. Eisner wanted all the credit for returning Disney to the top, Disney wanted to restore the Disney brand to what it once was and Katzenberg got caught in the middle. But along the way some classic animated movies were produced.

One of the cool things about this doc is the brief look at a very young Tim Burton who was an animator at Disney in the early eighties. Also, the seeds of a little company called Pixar were planted during this time frame and we get a small look at its earliest beginnings.

In the end this kind of story could not be told any better in a scripted format. There is love and loss, awards ceremonies and interviews on Good Morning America. We get to see how a studio that once inspired awe among the public fell and then rose from the ashes of its own demise. I watch a lot of documentaries but rarely have I seen one this spectacular. Waking Sleeping Beauty is a part of that rarefied air along with The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters. And that is high praise.


The Video

Presented in widescreen (1.78:1) – Enhanced for 16×9 televisions.

A good portion of this film is old super 8 and video footage that has been digitally enhanced. It’s not a bad transfer but it does appear a little worse for wear from time to time. All of the interview footage is crisp and clear.


The Audio

5.1 Dobly Digital and SDH

This is a talking head sty;e documentary so there’s not much opportunity for great surround sound usage. Everything is mixed clean and easy to hear throughout the running time though.


The Packaging and Bonus Features

The packaging is pretty standard. The special features are spectacular, full of deleted and extended scenes as well as featurettes. Probably the two best items in the special features are the three “studio tours” filmed by Don Hahn between 1980 and 1990 and the extended scene of Howard Ashman pitching The Little Mermaid to the studio.


This is a fantastic piece of entertainment history. Whether you are a Disney fanatic or just want to know how some classic animated movies came to be, this movie is well worth your time.

Overall (Not an Average) 9.5/10

The Review
The Movie 10/10
The Video 5/10
The Audio 5/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 9/10
Overall (Not an Average) 9.5/10