Princess Aurora, better known as Sleeping Beauty, was Walt Disney’s last foray into the Princess genre. He first began with Snow White (1937), which he poured his life savings into, then releasing Cinderella in 1950, and then Sleeping Beauty, released in 1959. The Walt Disney Company would not explore the genre again until the release of The Little Mermaid in 1989, which surely ushered in a new era of Disney Princess with Princess Ariel. (A fun fact: the first appearance of mermaids in Disney animation was in Peter Pan!) The opening of Disneyland coincided with the release and marketing of the film Sleeping Beauty, which was an opportune moment to create a castle in honor of her, though Walt initially wanted the castle to be in honor of Snow White, his first Princess (who also happens to be in a deep sleep).
Princess Aurora, on the other hand, was widely criticized for being portrayed as one dimensional; she is sleeping for much of the film… but she does speak very little when she is not asleep, which prompted criticism. To this end, Disney was harshly criticized for making Aurora seem “flat” and too similar to Snow White, such as having close relationships with the woodland creatures, as did Snow White.
To me, criticizing Aurora is like criticizing women in a way and it’s not nice. Her character is raised in a matriarchal household, which is unlike almost every Disney film and it is worth noting since three single female fairies lovingly raise her in exile in the woods. The music in Sleeping Beauty is also noteworthy as it is adapted from Tchaikovsky’s ballet. Opera singer Mary Costa was allowed to voice Aurora as she was able to sustain a British accent for the duration of the film.
While Aurora is arguably the most harshly critiqued Disney Princess, she is likely the heart of the entire Disney brand. There is something more magical about Disneyland having its heart centered around a “sleeping beauty,” than if it were in honor of Snow White, whose tale is on the spookier side. I interpret Sleeping Beauty as a quiet and subtle reminder of our own mortality. She is also the most classical image of a Princess as there could be: Aurora resides in the countryside of Medieval England, where she wears pink, and has regal image about her.
It is no surprise to me that Besame Cosmetics recently released a limited edition Sleeping Beauty collection that is in collaboration with Disney. Gabriela Hernandez was given access to the Walt Disney Archives and color matched her cosmetics line to the exact colors used in the film. Princess Aurora is Walt’s last Princess that we can all appreciate in all of her classic beauty…