60 years ago today, Walt Disney's 16th animated feature Sleeping Beauty premiered in Los Angeles, California. While the film is now celebrated as one of the more uniquely designed features by the studio, back in 1959 the tale of Princess Aurora had a rocky release with critics and audiences. Poor box office performance caused the company to report it's first financial loss in over a decade by 1960. Following the film's failure, Disney moved away from classic princess fairytales until the release of The Little Mermaid 30 years later. Making Princess Aurora the last Disney princess during Walt's lifetime before he died in 1966.
Disney artists John Hench, is said to have come up with one of the original styles and looks for the film. Hench was inspired by The Unicorn Tapestries; a collection of medieval art pieces that is housed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. From there, Disney animators elaborated on this original concept and mixed the medieval art with the rigid lines seen in Art Deco pieces. The result was a big departure from the previous feature, Cinderella. But after many production delays and disputes of which artistic direction go in, the film's release date was pushed from 1957 to early 1959 with a total production cost of $6 million; Disney's most expensive animated feature up until that point.
The film opened with small box office success, earning about $5.3 million, and with mixed reviews by critics. When it premiered in New York at the Criterion Theatre on February 17th, Bosley Crowther from The New York Times compared the film to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Often commenting how Sleeping Beauty was a poor replication of Disney's original success. He claimed that Aurora didn't look too different from Snow White and that, 'The witch is the same slant-eyed Circe who worked her evil on Snow White'. He continued by comparing the three fairies to the original seven dwarfs. He admitted that the trio do carry the humor in the film however, 'The trouble is there are only three of them, instead of seven, and there's no Dopey. That's bad.' It's incredible now to think that anyone would claim that both of these animated classics were in any way similar aside from the fact that they are based on classic European fairytales.
Six decades later, Sleeping Beauty is now celebrated as much as the other classic Disney princesses and has had a live-action spinoff starring Angelina Jolie as the misunderstood evil witch. Maleficent, is arguably one the best Disney villains ever to grace the screen. So wether you like the classic princess or revel in the mischief of the evil villain, Sleeping Beauty has come a long way from it's under appreciated opening. Therefore, in honor of her diamond celebration, here are five places to meet Princess Aurora at Walt Disney World.
1. Akershus Royal Banquet at Epcot
Inside the Norway Pavilion at Epcot is a fantastic character meal that is perhaps the most underrated way to meet some of your favorite Disney princesses. Akershus Royal Banquet Hall offers this princess character meal for breakfast, lunch and dinner; breakfast being my favorite time to dine here. Now Disney will always tell you that there is no guarantee of which princesses will appear, because they do like to rotate them. But it is extremely common to see Princess Aurora here. The setting is beautiful and almost as good as Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom. This is also a terrific place to dine if you're on one of the Disney Dining Plans because this counts as only 1 table service meal credit. The food at breakfast is a mixture of family style and traditional buffet and features both American staples with Norwegian classics. If you're little one is a big princess fan, he or she will adore this restaurant and it can be coupled with a Fastpass+ reservation for Frozen Ever After nearby and a visit to the Royal Sommerhus for even more princess meet and greets.
2. France Pavilion at Epcot
If dining at Akershus is not in the budget, a trip around World Showcase meeting princess is another way to meet Aurora. There is Snow White in Germany, Mulan in China and of course Jasmine in Morocco. But at the gazebo next to the stunning gardens in the France Pavilion, you can meet Princess Aurora herself. Her exact location has been changing recently since there are some construction walls currently in France to make way for the upcoming Ratatouille attraction. But that doesn't stop the Sleeping Beauty from meeting her fans. She is usually out from around 12 noon all the way into the evening hours. It's always best to check the times guide or My Disney Experience app for the most up-to-date details on the day you're visiting. And it is worth noting that this is the only character meet with Aurora that doesn't require an extra dining reservation or event ticket.
3. Festival of Fantasy Parade at Magic Kingdom
This next one is a little bit of a cheat. While Princess Aurora herself doesn't appear in the Festival of the Fantasy Parade at Magic Kingdom, plenty of other fantastic characters from the film do. And very recently, the Maleficent Dragon made its long-awaited return to the popular parade. This fire-breathing, steampunk float is perhaps the biggest highlight of the daytime parade which takes place daily at the Magic Kingdom. If you're a fan of the Maleficent you'll also want to catch Fantasmic! at Disney's Hollywood Studios where you'll see an even larger version of the dragon and in the Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular during Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at the Magic Kingdom.
4. Cinderella's Royal Table at Magic Kingdom
For some, meeting their favorite Disney princesses simply has to be inside Cinderella Castle. This is perfect for those who have dreamed of a grand setting when in the presence of a royal princess. Similar to Akershus in Norway, this character meal has a rotating list of classic princesses, but Aurora is pretty much always appearing inside the restaurant. But unlike the Norwegian restaurant, Cinderella's is not a buffet. Instead, this is a more upscale dining experience and counts as 2 table service meal credits on the dining plan. If you're not on the plan and paying out of pocket, get ready to throw down some cash because this experience starts at $62 per adult, and that's just at breakfast. The good news is that this is one of the few places inside Magic Kingdom where you can order alcohol. The price is steep but it's a once in a lifetime experience for any princess fan.
5. Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party at the Magic Kingdom
Last, and certainly not least, we have my favorite place to meet Aurora herself and that is at Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party at the Magic Kingdom. This is your only opportunity to meet Aurora alongside Prince Phillip. (Did you know that Phillip was the first Disney prince to receive an official name AND he's named after the Duke of Edinburgh?!) For the past few years, several of the princesses have been joined by their princes at the Christmas party. Prince Naveen and Flynn join Rapunzel and Tiana over at Princess Fairytale Hall along with Prince Charming and Cinderella. But over at the Fantasyland castle wall, en route to Be Our Guest Restaurant, you'll usually get to see Aurora and Phillip together in a spectacular meet and greet with Snow White and her prince as well! A separate ticket to the event is required to see these two, but it's a rare opportunity that Sleeping Beauty fans must do.
Have you met Princess Aurora at Walt Disney World recently? Which is your favorite place to meet her?