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Originally published Thursday, August 5, 2010 at 3:03 PM

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Movie review

'Waking Sleeping Beauty': a big kiss for Disney's great animated movies

A review of "Waking Sleeping Beauty," a not-so-great movie about some great films, including "The Little Mermaid," "Beauty and the Beast" and "The Lion King."

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie review 2 stars

'Waking Sleeping Beauty,' a documentary directed by Don Hahn. 86 minutes. Rated PG for some thematic elements and brief mild language. Crest.

Don Hahn's documentary "Waking Sleeping Beauty" occupies an odd niche: It's a not-so-great movie about some great movies. The legendary animation division of Walt Disney Pictures had a roller-coaster ride in recent decades: going from being nearly shuttered in the mid-1980s (after the failure of "The Black Cauldron") to a triumphant revival of the animated musical with "The Little Mermaid," "Beauty and the Beast" and "The Lion King." Hahn, a Disney producer, combines footage from the films with interviews, voice-overs, caricatures (drawn by Disney artists, but not intended for public consumption) and casual footage from the animation offices.

When it focuses on the films, "Waking Sleeping Beauty" is a charmer: It's a treat, for example, to hear the late songwriter Howard Ashman (who died of AIDS in 1991, aged just 40) talk about writing the Little Mermaid's "Part of Your World." (In musicals, he says, there's always a moment, a few songs in, where "the leading lady sits down on something and sings about what she wants, and the audience falls in love with her.") And fans of the genre will be intrigued by early drawings from the films, as the characters gradually take shape.

But much of Hahn's film feels like an in-house video; too many reminiscences of internal bickering, or scenes of Disney staffers goofing around at the office (which look like any group of employees at any office). In the end, we're told, "nobody will remember who did what to whom," so why spend time in this movie hashing over old grievances? As "Waking Sleeping Beauty" perhaps unintentionally reminds us, better to just watch "Beauty and the Beast" or any classic Disney film again, and experience something joyful.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

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