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Film / Waking Sleeping Beauty

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"I'd like to freeze my life right now."
Michael Eisner

Waking Sleeping Beauty is a 2009 documentary film chronicling the rise and fall of Walt Disney Animation Studios in the 1980s and 1990s, and how changes in management affected the studio and the successes the studio had in the "Disney Renaissance". The film was directed by Don Hahn, producer of Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King (1994).

This film contains examples of:

  • Ash Face: To illustrate how Howard Ashman felt when co-director Kirk Wise shot down his idea for Beauty and the Beast's prologue note , a caricature of Ashman getting angry and breathing fire on him was shown.
  • Dastardly Whiplash: To illustrate how the animators felt when they were forced out of the original animation building, the staff made a drawing of a Whiplash-esque character holding an eviction notice.
  • Despair Event Horizon: The animation staff when the new management kicked them off the Disney lot and into warehouses in Glendale.
  • Dramatically Missing the Point: Concerned about the dark and frightening content in Disney's upcoming The Black Cauldron, Katzenberg remarked that they'd have to edit some of it out; the directors protested, saying that "you can't edit an animated movie", as the reasons to them were obvious — hand-drawn animation's not like live-action where you can do reshoots, as the story has already been meticulously planned and boarded, and throwing out even a single finished scene and remaking it would mean months of work. Katzenberg, patronizingly, responded that you can, and offered to take them to the editing booth and show them how it was done. The exchange would mark a significant source of friction at the company for the next decade: Katzenberg was first and foremost an executive, not an artist, while the animation department had become accustomed to freer rein in the decades under Ron Miller and Roy E. Disney.
  • Happily Ever Before: The documentary ends at the peak of the Disney Renaissance during The Lion King (1994)'s release, just before the beginning of the company's slow decline and the emergence of Pixar and other animation studios that would eventually erode the status of traditional animation. It even acknowledges in the film's introduction that the company's greatest success also marked the beginning of the end of its second golden era, and Wells' tragic death and Katzenberg's departure from Disney adds a bittersweet tone to an otherwise upbeat ending.
  • Ironic Echo Cut: Mixes with Tempting Fate. When Don Hahn brings the original non-musical first draft of Beauty and the Beast as directed by Richard Purdam to Jeffrey Katzenberg, he states in the narration that he would be crazy to scrap it and make them start over. Cue video clip of Katzenberg in an interview saying he did just that, as "it didn't work at all."
    • Happens again with Katzenberg. Animators for The Lion King studied and sketched a fully grown lion that was brought into the studio. A woman loudly states not to cross a yellow line on the floor. The next shot shows Katzenberg sitting cross-legged within the yellow line.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Jeffrey Katzenberg. For example, he comforted Mike Gabriel after he pulled advertising for The Rescuers Down Under after it tanked opening weekend and realized the plights of the staff when they addressed their problems to him. The animators had a fierce love-hate relationship with him throughout his entire stay due to his nature as this trope.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter:
    • The lion cub with the pacifier in its mouth that Jeffrey Katzenberg is holding in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it shot during the Radio City Music Hall conference for The Lion King.
    • Also, the other lion cub that Katzenberg is holding and talking about in an interview on Good Morning, America for the same film.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Eisner accused Katzenberg of being one when he was being credited with saving Disney animation, reaching a breaking point with a New York Post article about him.
  • Title Drop: A variation courtesy of Katzenberg, according to Hahn. He said in an interview around The Black Cauldron that "we've got to wake Sleeping Beauty." Cauldron director Joe Hale didn't take kindly to this, stating Sleeping Beauty was awake. Cauldron proved to be a Creator Killer for Hale; he was terminated by Disney/Katzenberg not too long after this (he quickly took co-director Richard Rich with him when Rich also acted negatively towards another new Disney executive, namely, Peter Schneider, the co-producer of this documentary. Neither man were interviewed for the film).