Archive for March 20, 2024


Remaking Sleeping Beauty

Because my brain is a funny place, I found myself lying awake during the night last weekend, planning a live-action Disney remake of Sleeping Beauty.

Mind you, I currently have no connection to Disney. I’m not a screenwriter. I would have zero chance of doing anything with this. But my brain wouldn’t let go of this as a problem that needs to be solved. I’ve found that one of the best ways to get something out of my brain is to write it out, so I thought I’d share my thoughts.

First, I would make it more like the Disney live-action Cinderella than like their other live-action remakes, in that it’s not a direct remake of the animated version, but rather a new telling of the same story, but with some references to the original. Cinderella had a lot of the same pieces as the animated version, but they were executed in different ways. The animals were just pets, not talking animal sidekicks. Some of the same characters were there, but they were different than in the animated version, etc. Also, I think it would be more of a straightforward fantasy film, not a musical. The Sleeping Beauty score was lovely, since it was essentially the Tchaikovsky ballet score (though with the music used in different contexts), but the songs they made from it weren’t all that memorable. I don’t think you’d lose anything from not having the characters singing (and I’m a big musical theater fan).

The next tricky thing would be to make Aurora an actual character rather than merely an object. In the animated version, she’s basically something to be obtained, used, or guarded. She doesn’t really exist as a person. Someone calculated that she had something like 28 lines in the whole film, for which she’s the title character. But it’s a major part of the plot that she’s unconscious for a big chunk of it. How do you give a character whose main role is to sleep more to do?

I think step one for me would be to give her a goal other than finding her dream lover. Let her have learned to do something as a peasant girl who lives in the woods that’s on the way to becoming a viable career that she couldn’t continue to do as a princess. It would have to be something that doesn’t involve a lot of human interaction, since she’s in hiding, so that rules out becoming some kind of herbalist/healer, where she’d have to see patients. She could be a seamstress or baker (which might explain why the fairies didn’t know how to sew or bake without magic in spite of living without magic for 16 years, if we’re still going to have their last-minute use of magic be how they’re found), weave baskets, or do some other kind of craft they were able to sell to supplement whatever nest egg the king gave them to live on while in hiding. Just something for her to have some ambition and feel like she’s losing something other than a man when she finds out she’s a princess.

Prince Phillip from Disney's Sleeping BeautyStep two would be to develop her relationship with Phillip. It needs to be more than one meeting on that last day so that they aren’t both going “but I don’t want to marry the prince/princess because I’m in love with someone else I just met today.” Maybe they’ve been meeting up secretly over years, ever since he was old enough to go riding on his own. In the animated version, he’s four when she’s born, so when he’s 14 she’d be 10, and that means they’d have to start as friends. He’s a lonely kid who’s tired of being trained to be a prince and who doesn’t have any real friends, and she doesn’t know anyone other than her guardians. He runs into her while he’s riding in the woods and they talk. He teaches her swordfighting using sticks, maybe brings bows and arrows and teaches her archery. She’s kind of like a little sister. But then over the years as they get older, it gradually starts developing into something more. This could be shown in montage until not long before her 16th birthday, when something happens to make them see each other in a new light, and they realize they’ve fallen in love.

Though I might tinker with the ages. I know 16 is part of the fairy tale, but if she’s not sleeping for a hundred years and knew the guy who kisses her (and if we’re going to the Grimm version, if she’s not awakened by one of the twin babies she’s given birth to sucking the sliver from the spindle out of her finger), we’re already changing the fairy tale. Sixteen seems so young. Maybe make her 18 and decrease the age gap, so if he’s hanging out with her at 16, then she’s 14 and that seems less creepy.

The next issue is figuring out what to do with her during the main action, since her main role in the story is “sleeping.” The ballet offers one possible solution. The first act is the stuff leading to her falling under a curse, then act two is the prince showing up, finding her, and waking her, with act three being the wedding celebration. During act two, when she’s unconscious until the very end, the prince dreams about the maiden in the tower and there’s this big dream pas de deux. So maybe Phillip could have a dream about unconscious Aurora in which she gives him a pep talk or lets him know what happened.

Another possibility is to change the order in which things happen. In the animated version, the big, climactic scene is Phillip fighting the Malificent dragon, and then him kissing and waking Aurora is sort of an afterthought in the aftermath. Maybe he could manage to wake her first, everything seems okay, and then they have to face Malificent together.

But then we need to look at the fairies’ role. I’ve seen an analysis of the animated movie that the fairies are the actual heroes, and it’s the rare story that centers older women. I like that idea, and structurally, the fairies are the protagonists. They’re the ones with the goal and the plan. They’re the ones who make it possible for Phillip to defeat Malificent. Would it take away from their role if it’s Aurora snapping Phillip out of things when he’s captured by Malificent by meeting with him in a dream and if she’s fighting by his side? I think they’d still need the magical help from the fairies, and Aurora and the fairies can work out their issues about her independence when she insists on facing Malificent.

I probably would find another reason for the fairies to use magic in a way that provides a clue that Malificent tracks. As I mentioned above, it makes no sense that the fairies don’t know how to sew clothes or bake a cake without magic when they’ve been living for 16 years without magic.

I do want to keep the three fairies. I think I want them played by Emma Thompson, Judi Dench and Maggie Smith. I want to keep this separate from the Malificent movies, so no Angelina Jolie in that role here. I had a wacky thought of Gwendoline Christie. She’s physically very different from the animated version, but she would be very intimidating and she has an amazing voice. I have no idea who would play Aurora and Phillip since it would be people who are late teens/early 20s now and I’m not up on young actors. I want to keep Phillip’s snarky sense of humor. He’s my favorite Disney prince.

My obsession with this may mean they’re actually in the process of working on the project. A long time ago, when I was obsessed with the animated Sleeping Beauty after a recent re-release, I started amusing myself by figuring out how Disney might do Beauty and the Beast, and it turned out that was when Disney was in the process of creating their animated version, so maybe I have some kind of psychic direct link to them and I pick up on what they’re doing. I’ve already written my Sleeping Beauty book, so it’s not as though I can capitalize on whatever Disney might be cooking up by writing a book now and having it ready to go by the time they release it. They haven’t announced anything, that I know of.

Really, I just want to see Phillip in live action, and they’d better get him right.