Book Review: Once Upon a Dream: From Perrault’s Sleeping Beauty to Disney’s Maleficent by Charles Solomon

Written by George Taylor. Posted in Disney, Disney History, Features, The Disney Review

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Published on July 12, 2014 at 3:00 am with 8 Comments

George: Disney Publishing just released Once Upon a Dream: From Perrault’s Sleeping Beauty to Disney’s Maleficent by Charles Solomon. Similar to Tinker Bell: An Evolution that was released last year (and was one of the best books of the year), the new book by Solomon is broken into three parts and and does a great job of looking at the history of the fairy tale, Disney’s version of the classic film and the more modern take on the Maleficent tale. But is this expensive volume worth adding to your library?


Jeff: Well, first we need to break down the actual contents of the book itself. Starting off with the history of the fairy tale itself, Solomon does an excellent job of recounting it’s origins. We learn the variations incarnations of the tale, from its very beginnings, to the Grimm’s version (which, as it turns out, was changed a bit from the original), and even ballet adaptations. It was pretty interesting to see how the story evolved over time, and how the characters themselves changed quite a bit.


George: As we’ve covered before, Solomon is a well-respected animation historian and really knows his stuff. The first section does a great job of recounting the various versions of the tale but the real meat of the book is the second section that discusses the history and development of Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. Solomon writes about Walt’s vision to bring the film to the screen and the artists involved. Walt brought in Eyvind Earle to do the visual development of the film and his artwork is truly astounding. As expected, we get many full-fold reproductions of Earle’s work and many of the other artists at the studios. Some of the artwork takes your breath away. The creation of the story, characters and song are explained, as well.


Jeff: Of course, being Solomon, he goes extremely in-depth on the making of the film. Everything from the story changes that Walt implemented, the live action models that were employed as references, and even the voices are covered. He really goes above and behind. This is the longest section in the book, as it is the one that most Disney fans will be craving for. Solomon manages to tell the story of the making of the film quite well in those hundred or so pages, but it still left me wanting more!

George: Agreed. I really wanted to see more of the inside of the production and how the Studio created the masterpiece. The Fairest One of All: The Making of Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, published in 2012, is a perfect example of an exhaustive research book on a film. Granted, it’s a little too in-depth for average fans, whereas Solomon’s Sleeping Beauty book is paired down enough to engage casual fans and still appease hardcore animation fans. I still wish there had been more discussion about the artists and the Studio. That being said, the modern Disney marketing machine still needed space to promote the latest offering from the Studio.


Jeff: Which, unfortunately, isn’t that great. I have not seen the film Maleficent yet, but reading through the final section of the book didn’t really inspire any confidence in me to do so. I appreciate the information gathered, and how much work went into the making of the film and filling in the backstory behind one of the most villainous fairies to ever grace our screen. However, this entire section DID feel like a marketing piece to promote the movie (that is currently in theaters), and kind of shoe horned in. I get that Solomon wanted to cover all his bases, but the new film’s section just wasn’t all that great.


George: The section on Maleficient did have a few spoilers, but nothing earth-shattering. I’m interested in how history will remember the film, but the section reminded me a lot of the Haunted Mansion film. The strongest part of the book had to be the amazing number of full-spread and full-page reproductions and stills from the film. The backgrounds were totally gorgeous and made me want to watch the 1959 film in high-definition. I also wish that I’d read the book before visiting the Sleeping Beauty Castle Walk-Through on the CommuniTOUR but it didn’t make a big difference. The book is the best resource currently available on the film and I hope that Disney continues this in-depth look at all of their films, even if it’s only one book release per year.

Jeff: I absolutely agree. If you’re a big fan of the original animated classic, and have even a passing interest in the new live action film, then this book is for you. We guarantee you’ll enjoy the look at the film, and it will make a nice addition to your collection!

Are you excited about this release? What would you like to see in a book about Disney animation?


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By Jeff Heimbuch and George Taylor

The Disney Review is written and edited by Jeff Heimbuch and George Taylor

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About George Taylor

George has been obsessed with Disney theme parks since the first time he saw a photo of the Haunted Mansion in the early 70s. He started writing about Disney in 2007 and has amassed one of the world's largest Disney-related libraries.

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  • JLindley2003

    Thanks for another great review, guys!

  • Cory Gross

    I’m looking forward to picking up this book. It sounds a little light on the original fairy tale (you NEED to have a section on Tchaikovsky’s ballet to treat the subject properly) and the Maleficent section sounds a bit like the movie section in Surrell’s Haunted Mansion book (i.e.: the part you have to have at the end, that I never read). Nevertheless, it’s good to see a popular treatment of the story.

  • Epcot66bye

    Thanks for another helpful review, guys! Looking forward to seeing this…

  • TheresaZoe

    As a little girl, Sleeping Beauty was my favorite film very much for its animation style. This book looks like a perfect fit for me! Thank you for the great review!

  • DoctorWho.48

    Looks like a beautiful book! I personally enjoyed Maleficent

  • TOONager

    Great review! Looks like a fun read!

  • Razor Roman

    Gimme dat book, Humbucker.

    :) Great review!

  • poohlahoop

    This looks like another great book I will have to add to my Disney library! Thanks for the review and the chance to win!