This year Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty Fairies turns 55. While I bet there will be more excitement when Maleficent arrives later in the year, we’ll try our best to fill in the gaps with some facts about this fairy tale from the 1950s.
- Both Charles Perrault, and the Brothers Grimm published versions of Sleeping beauty fairies. Perrault called his heroine Aurora. The Grimms’ “Little Briar Rose”, however, referred to their princess, as well as Briar Rose. Disney used both names to split the difference.
- Prince Phillip was named after Prince Philip, Duke Of Edinburgh, the husband and father of Queen Elizabeth II. At the time Sleeping beauty fairies was released they had been married only 12 years and she had been Queen for seven.
- The original version of the story included seven fairies instead of the three quirkier fairies. Perrault’s story was one example. Other versions have as many as 13 fairies, making the evil fairy an unlucky addition. Perrault’s story featured seven gifts from fairies: beauty, grace, dance and song. This was reduced to beauty and song in Disney’s Sleeping beauty fairies. Hm.
- Mary Costa, the Sleeping beauty fairies’ voice, is an opera singer who has performed more than 40 roles on stage. Jackie Kennedy asked her to sing at John F. Kennedy’s memorial service. She had heard her perform “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the Academy Awards. She was also one the original Chrysler Girls. This is her with Bing Crosby, 1971.
- Costa hails from Knoxville, Tennessee and her southern accent nearly prevented her from being hired. Marc Davis, animator, said that the team had discussed the possibility of a southern girl being able to maintain an English accent for Sleeping Beauty fairies if Vivien Leigh, an Englishwoman, could do so.
- Mary Costa was the voice of Aurora, but Helene Stanley was the live-action reference. She was also the reference for Cinderella from 101 Dalmatians and Anita. Here, she’s providing expressions and movements for animators at Disneyland TV.
- Now you know Helene Stanley was the live-action model, and Mary Costa the voice. But there was another inspiration for Princess Aurora’s body type and features: Audrey Hepburn.
- Merryweather bakes cookies in the form of Mickey Mouse heads when the fairies are discussing how they can help the queen and king early in the film.
- While it is a classic movie now, the Sleeping beauty fairies were not a popular film at the time. Critics felt the movie was slow and lacking character development.