Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Tchaikovsky Problem

Mark Evanier saw the new restored version of Sleeping Beauty and expresses some reservations about the story, while Thad K recently expressed some reservations about the visuals.

I share many of those same reservations about SB, but another thing that bugs me about the film is something that ought to be one of the highlights: the Tchaikovsky music. Disney insisted on using Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty ballet score as the musical material for the picture, and understandably so, because it's some of the best music Tchaikovsky ever wrote. And classical music works wonderfully well in cartoons, so what's the problem?

The problem is that the music is very obtrusive. I constantly feel aware of the music; even re-arranged, Tchaikovsky's music is too weighty and heavy for this movie. It's one thing when classical music is used as the focus of the cartoon, but here it's in the background, and much of the music is just not meant to work as underscoring for dialogue or accompaniment for a scene where something other than dancing is going on. What's worse, it rarely seems to quite fit the action on the screen. This is ballet music, so all of it is strongly rhythmical, and the rhythms sometimes seem to be fighting the onscreen action.

George Bruns did a good job rearranging the music and picking the right score excerpts for the right scenes, but he can't really overcome the problem that the music is telling us different things from the images. And Sleeping Beauty has fewer "big tunes" than Tchaikovsky's other pieces (maybe Disney should have allowed him to use more excerpts from other Tchaikovsky works, instead of sticking with Beauty), and apart from the famous waltz, a lot of the music is not very easy to adapt. So it was pretty clever of him to take the grotesque "Puss in Boots" dance from the ballet...

...And use it for the scene where Aurora gets hypnotized...

...But it still feels like a piece of music overlaid on a scene where it doesn't quite fit. And I felt that way even before I knew what the music was supposed to be about.

1 comment:

Mr. Semaj said...

Mark covers a lot of the holes, the BIG ones, in this movie, and it has everything to do with Walt Disney himself never giving the project its full attention.

The film was more about the three fairies, and could've just as well been told from their viewpoint. As beautiful a job Marc Davis did drawing her, Aurora/Rose had to have been the most "programmed" of Disney's princesses, having no other concerns outside her dream prince, or any real determination to meet that prince.