American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
It is enough to name the animated films they made: "Who Framed Roger Rabbit," "The Little Mermaid," "Beauty and the Beast," "Aladdin" and "The Lion King." These films proved beyond question that animation was a genre with great international appeal for moviegoers of all ages. Coupled with the home video revolution, they were responsible for literally billions pouring into the studio. Eisner, Katzenberg and Roy Disney however, had personal tensions (Michael and Roy thought Jeffrey was getting too much attention as the studio's boy wonder), and after the peacemaker Frank Wells died in a helicopter crash in 1994, the magical period ended.
"Waking Sleeping Beauty," made by the studio after all but Roy Disney had left (he died in 2009), is an extraordinary inside look at those 10 years. It uses footage and taps into insights, memories and home movies that only insiders would have access to. Its director is Don Hahn, who produced "Beauty And The Beast," "The Lion King" and "The Hunchback of Notre Dame," among others. Another featured narrator is Peter Schneider, who became president of feature animation in 1985, head of Walt Disney Studios in 1999, and left in 2001.
"Siskel & Ebert" was produced by Disney during all of those years, and I had some contact with these men, and with Rich Frank, studio head before Schneider.
Rich would amuse audiences by showing a reel of Siskel and me trashing some of his productions. Michael and Jeffrey insisted that everyone call them -- and everyone else at the studio -- by their first names.