Who Are the Voices Behind Disney’s ‘Sleeping Beauty’?
A lot of classic Disney movies have been getting updates and reboots, and fans are definitely here for it! Still, the classics are classics for a reason, and Disney’s original animated films have stood the test of time. One of these is the 1959 film Sleeping Beauty.
While the tale has been retold — including from the point of view of the villain in Maleficent — the original tale of a cursed princess sleeping away until she’s awakened by a valiant prince remains a foundational element in fairy tale lore. One of Disney’s earliest full-length animated films, the 1959 classic continues to be shared from generation to generation. The voice actors who brought the characters to life have now spent more than sixty years bringing magic into kids’ homes.
Mary Costa lent her voice to Princess Aurora
Though she’s asleep for a considerable portion of the film (naturally), Princess Aurora is the titular character and definite protagonist of the film. This role ended up being one of Mary Costa’s most recognizable forays into the entertainment world.
The star, as IMDb reports, was born in 1930. She made her debut in acting in 1953 with the film Mary Me Again, which was directed by Frank Tashlin. Tashlin and Costa were married from 1953 until their divorce in 1966. Tashlin worked as a director on several films and directed dozens of animated shorts throughout the 1950s and 1960s. Costa would go on to a few small television guest roles before taking on the part of Kay in The Big Caper (1957). Other appearances include The Merry Widow (1968) and The Great Waltz (1972).
Her most notable role, however, remains her time voicing Princess Aurora in Sleeping Beauty. In fact, the Enchanted character Mary Ilene Caselotti was given her first name in honor of Costa (alongside names from the women who voiced Cinderella and Snow White).
Eleanor Audley voiced Maleficent
What would Sleeping Beauty be without its ghastly antagonist? Maleficent is a complex character whose obsession with her own beauty has become a central theme in fairy tale lore. The portrayal of the character by Angelina Jolie in two feature films has made the villain even more intriguing. Long before she was given such a complex backstory, however, the wicked enchantress was simply evil, and that kind of creepy vibe requires the perfect voice.
Eleanor Audley was born in 1905 and, as IMDb explains, had already enjoyed a long acting career on the stage before turning to voice work. She became quite recognizable for her work in radio serials, which were a popular entertainment form before the precipitous rise of accessibility for televisions.
In addition to providing the perfect level of odious sneer to Maleficent’s voice, Audley also voiced Lady Tremaine (the wicked stepmother) in Cinderella (1950). Audley did sometimes appear in front of the cameras as well, making regular guest appearances throughout the 1950s and 1960s on shows like The Twilight Zone, The Real McCoys, and Perry Mason.
A trio of women provided the voices for the fairy godmothers
The protagonist spends much of the film asleep because of the antagonist’s curse, but there are three magical characters who keep the action moving — and provide some much-needed comic relief. Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather are the three fairy godmothers who have become iconic through Sleeping Beauty.
Flora was voiced Verna Felton, a woman who was born in 1890 and whose signature husky voice made her a staple of animated classics. As her IMDb filmography demonstrates, many of us grew up listening to her without even knowing it. Her roles include the Fairy Godmother in Cinderella (1950), the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland (1951), Aunt Sarah in The Lady and the Tramp (1955), and the elephant in The Jungle Book (1967).
Fauna, meanwhile, was voiced by Barbara Jo Allen — a woman many better knew as Vera Vague. That was the stage name she used as a comedienne in the 1930s, and the stereotypical portrayal of a shrill-voiced clubwoman became something of a typecast for Allen. She was a radio star who had trouble shaking the image of her most famous character and eventually retired because of it, according to IMDb.
The final fairy, Merryweather, was voiced by none other than Barbara Luddy. Though she died in 1979 at the age of 70, her voice has continued to be used in rather recent pieces because she provided the voice of Kanga for multiple films within the Winnie the Pooh franchise.