Schneider and Hahn Talk Waking Sleeping Beauty
The phenomenal yet bittersweet comeback of Disney Animation from '84 to '94, encompassing The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King, is a testament to artistic passion and astonishing ego. And Waking Sleeping Beauty, opening tomorrow in limited release, captures the rise and fall of this tempestuous period with insight and candor, blending archival footage with brand new audio interviews. In separate conversations with Peter Schneider (who was president of feature animation and later studio chief) and Don Hahn (producer of the Oscar-nominated Beauty and the Beast), we get more of the inside story from the producer and director of Waking Sleeping Beauty. Meanwhile, Schneider and Hahn will be making Q&A appearances at several screenings this weekend: the producer will be at the Landmark Sunshine Cinema New York City and Hahn will be at the AMC Century City on Friday and the AMC Burbank 16 on Saturday.
Bill Desowitz: What was this period like?
Peter Schneider: It was a great time, a very emotional time and a lot of good work got done by a lot of really good people.
BD: Well, people at Disney have told me it's an honest portrayal.
PS: Well, I think they were genuinely surprised at how honest it was when they saw it.
BD: Were there any surprises for you?
PS: Let's see: Not a lot struck me as out of the ordinary. What struck me was that everybody [from] this period of time roughly had the same story. And they may have had a different take on it, but they all felt the same way. But, ultimately, everybody -- Michael, Jeffrey, [Roy] me, Don, the artists -- all had a piece of the story that all fit together correctly. There was nothing out of synch with it, if you know what I mean. And that's what was so interesting to me.
BD: Randy Cartwright's home movies are astonishing. But any surprises uncovered among the archive footage?
PS: I think the Howard Ashman tapes. None of us had ever seen [them], and, for me, that's the emotional core, the emotional center of the movie. That to me was the most moving and surprising. He was a real storyteller. And there's this great story that our Roy used to tell about being sick in bed and Walt comes by and tells him the story of Pinocchio. And as Roy liked to say, when he finally saw it in a movie theater it wasn't as good as listening to Uncle Walt tell it. And what is so striking about that is that Walt did all the characters.
BD: Howard was very Walt-like, wasn't he?