Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty

Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty:
A Literary Approach

Diana Kathryn Geleskie
Vanessa Kolberg
Updated April 19, 2007

Works Cited

The Disney Canon of Animated Fairy Tales completed by Walt Disney

Animation, Music, Role of the Princesses

The Disney Canon is comprised of full-length animated features that are based on fairy tales and were created under the supervision of Walt Disney himself, not the Disney Corporation. Only three features make up this canon:

Snow White (1937)

The credited fairy tale is the Grimm Brothers' “Schneewittchen” (Snow Drop).

Cinderella (1950)

The credited fairy tale is Charles Perrault’s “Cendrillon; ou, La petite pantoufle de verre” (Cinderella; or, The small glass slipper).

Sleeping Beauty (1959)

The credited fairy tale is Charles Perrault’s “La Belle au bois dormant” (The Beauty of Sleeping Wood).

Sleeping Beauty challenges the canon. As Walt Disney’s last animated fairy tale, he strived to give Sleeping Beauty a different feel from the previous two.


Snow White and Cinderella share common-ground in terms of animation. Their style of animation is rounded and the central characters stand apart from their backgrounds. Background designer Eyvind Earle based Sleeping Beauty’s backdrops on early Renaissance paintings and the characters were designed to blend with those settings (Finch).

Walt Disney's Snow White Walt Disney's Cinderella

The rounded, character emphasizing animation of Snow White and Cinderella.

Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty

The stylized animation of Sleeping Beauty; complete with extremely detailed background.

As film historian Leonard Maltin put it, "[Walt] wanted to make this film as special and as different as he could. He wanted to make a film that he felt would be the pinnacle of achievement in animation" ("Once Upon a Dream").


The music for Snow White and Cinderella was the creation of various composers and not based on any previously written material. However, Sleeping Beauty’s music was already written, since it was based on Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty Ballet. Although the music in the movie does not correspond scene-by-scene to that of the ballet, the score is still used throughout.

The Sleeping Beauty Ballet

Tchaikovsky's musical score added to the classic feel of the film - a fairy tale that took place long ago. The musical enhancement didn't stop there. Sleeping Beauty recieved an Academy Award nomination for Best Score for the year 1959 (Sleeping Beauty).

The Role of the Princesses

The princesses of Snow White and Cinderella both appear frequently throughout their movies and are a part of most scenes. Sleeping Beauty’s Princess Aurora, however, is not featured quite as strongly. In fact, Aurora does not speak after she initially discovers her true identity (Sleeping Beauty). Although she is the title character of the movie, Aurora is not the prominent character, especially in comparison to the Three Good Fairies.

The Princess Snow WhiteThe Princess CinderellaThe Princess Aurora

Snow White, Cinderella, and Aurora (Sleeping Beauty).

Photo Credits are listed within the Works Cited