'Sleeping Beauty' still beautiful to Disney producer Don Hahn

Filmmaker celebrates animated classic as 'Maleficent' waits in

Left: "Sleeping Beauty" Diamond Edition Blu-ray, DVD. Right: Angelina Jolie in "Maleficent."
Left: "Sleeping Beauty" Diamond Edition Blu-ray, DVD. Right: Angelina Jolie in "Maleficent."

For longtime Walt Disney Animation Studios filmmaker Don Hahn, the re-release of the classic animated film "Sleeping Beauty" has more than one meaning. Not only does the film tell the story of Aurora and her nemesis, Maleficent, it spurred the idea for the blockbuster live-action version of "Maleficent" released last summer, which Hahn produced.

Long before Angelina Jolie and Elle Fanning brought the characters of Maleficent and Aurora (the Sleeping Beauty) to life in May, however, Hahn said he was deeply invested in the fascination of the animated version, which made its big-screen debut in 1959.

"Disney's movies provided the soundtrack of my childhood growing up. I saw movies like 'Sleeping Beauty' in the theater because they didn't have these movies on videotape growing up," Hahn told me, laughing, in a recent interview. "I'd see it and other Disney movies every seven years when they were each re-released, and you'd really look forward to seeing them on the big-screen. They each were an event."

In a way, Hahn said, the re-release of "Sleeping Beauty" again is also an event because people who grew up with it can now share it with a new generation.

"Films like 'Sleeping Beauty' are evergreen. Walt Disney not only realized that from a business standpoint with the re-releases, but they really are tales as old as time," Hahn observed. "They are thousands of years old passed down in oral history, and making a movie about it is our way of passing it down. I suppose that's our relationship between 'Sleeping Beauty' and 'Maleficent.' It's our generation's way of retelling that story. It's exciting, humbling and scary to retell the story, but it's also our duty as storytellers to do that."

New on Diamond Edition Blu-ray and DVD (Walt Disney Home Entertainment), the latest edition of "Sleeping Beauty" comes just in time for viewers to reacquaint themselves with the take before "Maleficent" arrives on Blu-ray and DVD on Nov. 4.

As Hahn helps ready the video release of "Maleficent," he said he feels privileged to be in the special position of helping preserve the legacy of such films as "Sleeping Beauty" while getting the opportunity to re-invent what was told before in a new and exciting way.

"I think that there's a culture in Disney that's sort of odd. In one way, we're a forward looking group of people who want to move ahead and tell stories with new technology and so forth, which is the real legacy of Walt Disney," Hahn explained. "That's what he wanted. He was never satisfied sitting in one place."

But on the other hand, he added, there's no doubt a concerted effort to always remember where it all began.

"There's a real sense of importance that the classic films are restored and preserved so other generations can enjoy them," Hahn said. "That idea isn't unique to Disney, but they do it in such a way that's fairly special because the movies don't age."

Tim Lammers is a nationally syndicated movie journalist and the author of the new ebook Direct Conversations: The Animated Films of Tim Burton (Foreword by Tim Burton).