The question down below:
I read that it was one of the most watched film of that year, isn't it?
It grossed $5.3 million in its initial run. Good, but hardly great. (Spartacus, a year later, made close to $20 million.) ...
What did the critics say?
The critics, by and large, weren't bowled over. (There are mixed reations, even today.) Certainly there were plenty of positive reviews, but there wasn't a consensus that SB was some kind of Great Leap Forward that reinvented the genre.
And I read also that Disney overlooked the project because he was busy with his next project, Disneyland.
The gripe I heard from old-timers in the seventies was that Disney wasn't around a lot when the film was being made. He was spending a lot of time in Anaheim, on live action, and his availability was limited.
The production had a number of hiccups. Eric Larsen, a veteran animator promoted to SB director, was demoted before the feature was completed. Reitherman, until then a directing animator and director on television projects (he had his own unit), was brought in to rework and punch up the climax. Why? He was considered an "action specialist." Based on the results in the film, he fulfilled that role in spades.
When I sat with Woolie in sweatboxes way later (the '70s and '80s), it was obvious he had a keen editorial eye. He knew how to pace, how to cut action. I think his work on Beauty catapulted him to the forefront of studio feature directors. By the time of Sword in the Stone, he was flying solo.
The picture was expensive because it was way complicated and difficult to do. Lots of large field, detailed backgrounds. And the characters were complex, stylized, hard to clean up and keep on model. Bernie Mattinson told me that crewmemebers were doing 1-2 drawings per day. Joe Hale recounted a funny story of a breakdown artist going to a lead for help with drawing, the supervisor laying down a new piece of pegged paper and going over the lines, then crumpling up sheet after sheet and throwing each on the floor as he struggled to get the character right.
Me, I'm blown away by Sleeping Beauty's craft and artistry, but I find the story slow-going in stretches, and the characters somewhat distanced and cold. But it's always a pleasure to look at.