Usually when Disney produces a documentary about itself, it's a squeaky-clean job, meant to reiterate how hunky dory everything is; this includes such recent efforts as Walt and El Grupo and Morning Light. But the new Waking Sleeping Beauty is different. It's meant to discuss a "winning season" at the Disney studio, during which The Little Mermaid and other hits prevented the animation department from withering up and dying. But the film is far from self-congratulatory. Rather, it uses a wealth of archival footage to demonstrate the complex combination of talent and ego that went into this renaissance period; each player comes across as a fallible, three-dimensional human rather than just a character in a movie.
Part of the success of this film goes to director Don Hahn, a longtime Disney man who, among many other credits, received an Oscar nomination for producing Beauty and the Beast (1991). And part of the success goes to the former head of feature animation Peter Schneider, who produced the documentary (but no longer works at Disney). And, as Hahn says, there are about 2000 other people who deserve credit too. Hahn and Schneider recently sat down with Cinematical to discuss their new movie, which opens Friday.
Cinematical: How did you get away with this warts-and-all portrait?
Don Hahn: I don't think it was that scandalous, really. We are human beings, and it's not easy making these movies, and I think that was the story that everybody wanted to tell. Everyone was generous with their comments. Some people might have been cautious about certain topics, or asked if it was OK to talk about certain topics, but the philosophy we had was "talk about everything." We'll screen some things that maybe inappropriate for small children, but we're going to put it in because it humanizes the story.