Sam reviews 'Waking Sleeping Beauty'

The film's producer and former Disney studio chief, Peter Schneider will participate in a Q and A after screenings at Purdue's Fowler Hall on Thursday, April 15.

4 stars, (NR)

Pixar won its fifth Best

Animated Film Oscar last year. In this time when animated films are winning

countless awards and receiving more critical praise than most live action

pictures, it's difficult to imagine that animation was once a struggling enterprise.

Even harder to accept is the fact that Disney (Pixar's former partner)

experienced the brunt of that struggle. The documentary, Waking

Sleeping Beauty is a rich, refreshingly adult look at Disney from

1984-1994, exposing the harsh realities behind its movie magic. Fortunately,

director Don Hahn keeps cynicism in check and shows that good can come from an

industry scarred by ego clashes and power struggles.

The most significant

revelation of the film is that the Disney animation department is not the fairy

tale landscape we all imagined it to be. In reality, it consisted of nerdy guys

running around shabby offices wondering if they still had a job to go to the

next day. The reason for this concern was studio chairman, Jeffrey Katzenberg's

view that animated films were an albatross around Disney's neck. At the time,

they cost the studio more money than they made. Obviously, Katzenberg didn't

care about the films' artistic merits (In his words, he aimed for the "Bank of

America Awards, not the Academy Awards").

This brutally honest,

critical depiction of Katzenberg is only a small part of this warts-and-all

expose. The film mainly revolves around the irony that making children's films

is a very adult business with real, sometimes harsh consequences - long hours,

cold dinners, financial failures or worse yet, artistic ones. The animators

confess their frustrations and studio heads reveal their resentments toward

each other. (Tensions rise particularly when CEO Michael Eisner announces the

building of a new animation department without Katzenberg's approval.)

Director Don Hahn also

reveals that Disney was not without tragedies. The untimely deaths of Disney president Frank Wells and songwriter Howard Ashman give the film a looming

melancholy, reminding us once again that life unfortunately isn't a Disney


Fortunately, Disney rose up

from the rubble caused by these deaths and tense business atmosphere.

The studio returned in the '90s with what may very well be its best animated

films: The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the

Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King.

Director Don Hahn does not

overstate these triumphs or tribulations. The film is what few documentaries

are - fair and balanced. Even Jeffrey Katzenberg is shown seeking redemption

for his greed and ignorance regarding the work of animators.

To learn even more about the

hard truth of Disney animation, join the Q and A session with the film's

producer and former Disney studio chief, Peter Schneider. Schneider, a Purdue

alumnus, will host two screenings of the film at Purdue's Fowler Hall on

Thursday, April 15 at 3:30 and 7:30 p.m. This event is free and open to the

public. Do not miss this inspiring, emotional documentary about the films you

loved as a child and the people who made them.