Films often need not look past their own studio gates for drama: “Sweet Smell of Success,” Truffaut’s “Day For Night,” Altman’s “The Natural,” the list goes on. The infighting, clashing egos, struggles between the artistically minded, the managerial staffs and profiteering board rooms provide for a petri dish of tension ripe for the filming.
Now take Disney Studios. Their history of inner strife is nothing short of legendary. Walt’s nephew, Roy, saw no shortage of suspicion, tagged as “the idiot nephew.” Michael Eisner has a generally shifty presence about him and Jeffery Katzenberg is widely acknowledged as a Hollywood ratfink of the highest caliber by anyone who’s ever so much as accidentally sat on a copy of Variety.
“Waking Sleeping Beauty,” a humdinger of a doc, takes place when the old, cardiganed guard who made “Snow White” and “Pinocchio” began to retire, giving way to still-wet college graduates and the foul mouthed, money-minded New Hollywood Executive. It was a transition that gave way to the Disney animation department’s grand belly flop into total failure in the 1980s and their unexpected re-ascent to glories long, long past in the early 1990s. It’s beautifully, even elegantly, captured here.