UltimateDisney.com > Interviews > Mary Costa, the voice of Aurora in Sleeping Beauty

Mary Costa Interview - Page 2

Will we see much of you in the new DVD's bonus features?

Yes, you will. I have done a new interview and you will be seeing me. I am so proud to be on it.

Do you prefer the dress pink or blue?

(Laughs) I love that! Someone asked me that last night because they saw me in a pink coat and they had on a blue coat and so they said, "Which do you prefer?" And, actually, it's very difficult. I wear both and I have a pink and a blue coat too. And I'm going to do a presentation in New York and I'm going to take the blue. But I said to her, "What is the color of the last gown you see the princess in?"

Is it pink?

Yes!(Laughs) Yes, it is.
And since I was a small child, I just adored pink. But then you know I had that wonderful royal blue cape that they made for me. It would be hard for me to choose. What do you prefer?


Well, I must tell you that I lean towards the pink. But when I say that, I get sorrowful because I love the blue too!

Well, there is the one scene where the fairies are fight between colors and the dress ends of being a mix of the two.

(Laughs) When they messed it up like that, I didn't like it!

You know it's very interesting because with John Lasseter and Tony Baxter, who is head of Imagineering. Both of these gentlemen, their favorite picture is Sleeping Beauty and they will not allow a sequel to be made to it, which I am delighted.

Except for the segment in Enchanted Tales.

Oh, goodness sake. And they'll never do it again because it didn't work, and they got a lot of criticism. You know, with a fairy tale like this, your imagination takes over. And I think it spoils it because everyone knows what their imagination does and where they want to take them that's what a fairy tale is all about, that's the magic of it.

What do you think sets Sleeping Beauty apart from other Disney films?

I think that it was ahead of its time when it came out. They had real masters working on every part of it, for instance, Marc Davis did the animation for my character all the way through the film. On some of the others, other artists have taken over, and it changes. Their faces aren't quite the same. They try to make them the same but they're not. And I think the music, the way the storyline was done, and particularly the artistry of Eyvind Earle in the backgrounds. With this Blu-ray, they come to life, it's just a very beautiful depth of color. It was Walt's favorite movie. He loved the Tchaikovsky music and the way they adapted it. Because of all these elements and the great people that have worked on it, I think it will always remain fresh to every generation.

Seeing that Aurora is silent for a good deal of the movie, do you see any physical mannerisms taken from you?

I think so. This is funny, I think you'll be amused by this my mother lived to be 101 and in her late nineties I was living in Florida and I took her to a small theater to see Sleeping Beauty. It was packed and we were right in the middle and in the middle of the scene in the middle of the woods she all of a sudden said, "Oh, Mary! That looks just like you!"
And I had to put my hand over her mouth. I got so tickled, but nobody knew who we were, they were all so into the scene.

I think that there was a lot of me in that character because Marc Davis came in every time I was recording and sketched me and because my father always spoke with his hands I never could sing or do a line without using my hands so I see a lot of myself in that film. I truly do.

How much one-on-one time did you spend working with Walt?

It was really one-on-one on the telephone for a long, long time. It was over seven months. We talked a lot and it's very strange because I really got to know him and he got to know me. Now I think it was almost better because I wasn't kind of awed by his presence, and I think it was the same with him.

One day, I had just finished recording and I had a very big scene coming up in a couple of days. I looked over on the soundstage and there he was. And I had talked to him so much that I just ran over and gave him a big hug. We had a really sweet conversation. When I talked to him on the phone, he would never hang up and say goodbye, he would say "Don't catch a cold!"

When I went over to him the first time I met him, he said "I wanted to come and wish you some luck. You're going to do 'Once Upon a Dream' and that's my favorite melody. Don't catch a cold!" And I said to him, "You always say 'Don't catch a cold!'" And because I wanted to make him laugh, I said "A bird doesn't sing because it's happy, it's happy because it sings. And that's the way I am!" And he said, "Okay, Happy Bird. Just don't catch a cold." (Laughs) That was so funny.

I used to call him Mr. Disney and he said, "Until you can call me Walt, I'm going to call you Happy Bird." Then one day I call him Mr. D and he said, "No, no. 'Walt'." So finally after that, I did call him Walt.

Personally, the part of the extras that I really love is hearing him talk and explain a number of things because there's mischief. He was always such a tease and had such a sense of humor. In the beginning, he didn't really want to go in front of the cameras. Then when he got there, he was just wonderful.

Was there a lot of excitement concerning Disneyland going on while you were working on Sleeping Beauty?

Well, it kind of got a little bit slower because he was all into that, and he still had to approve everything that was done. I mean every drawing, everything. So it made the work go a little slower, but we were all excited about Disneyland and that was just a phenomenal thing.

When Disneyland opened in 1955, Sleeping Beauty's castle was already there. How did it feel to have a castle named after a character you had only started to work on?

Well, they talked about that last night. They said if he hadn't finished the movie, then what? But he did! And now they're going to open that castle again for the 50th anniversary next year.
That's going to be wonderful. I'm so excited about that. I think they're going to open it very soon, so I might be in on that.

What other favorite memories do you have of Sleeping Beauty?

You know, most people think that I did a voiceover. And actually I was at an event with Marc Davis eight years ago and we were sitting in directors' chairs and signing whatever memorabilia was brought to us. A lady came over and said, "Miss Costa, how does it feel to be a voiceover for a famous Disney princess?" And Marc Davis stopped her and said, "Madam, the voices were the ocean of sound upon which we animated." And that is something I really treasure because, you see, they animated upon us. We gave them the colors and they animated. We were not voiceovers.

Are you often recognized as the voice of Sleeping Beauty?

Oh, yes! When I go in to talk to the children, I always talk (puts on a higher voice) like this and they know it. And we'll sing a little bit. I always let them sing "Once Upon A Dream" to me because they love to do it. And we talk and then we devise different voices they love to do that. And then I'll put a little scene on and I'll have them do a scene with me. And then we'll play a wonderful game - my parents used to do this with me I'll start a story and then I'll stop and then I'll point at somebody and they'll have to pick it up and take it wherever they're going to take it and then they stop and they point at someone else. We've had so much fun in the classrooms with that.

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Do you visit classrooms often?

I do every time I can. When I'm in my city, Knoxville, I do it as often as I can. Then I do charity work and give big Disney events for abused children.

How did it feel to become a Disney Legend?

That was one of the most exciting times of my life. That was absolutely wonderful, because Marc Davis was still here and how close I was with him and his wife, Alice Davis.
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And, of course, Roy Disney he was a young man when I started, the same age as I am, and it's fun to still have him as a very dear friend. I tell you, the whole thing has been a "Once Upon A Dream" experience. You look back fifty years and you think there must be a reason why it still causes quite a stir when they release it again.

What other highlights do you have from your non-Disney career?

Mrs. Kennedy [First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy] asked me personally to sing at John F. Kennedy's memorial. That was such a memorable experience. At the time, it was like I was moving through a dream. It was at the sports arena in Los Angeles and it was packed, and those people were so grieved that they could hardly breathe. It was just a sea of sad faces. And I had to learn the "Libera Me" from the Verdi Requiem in three days. I didn't want to look in my book to sing it, so I started immediately when she requested that I sing. She and the President had heard me singing The Star-Spangled Banner on the Academy Awards and they had heard some other things that I had done. She asked my manager if I could do it, and I was so honored to do that. I learned it with my coach, and I sang it with my head up.

I didn't know that they had recorded it and that it was sent on television to Russia and all over the world. And so this last year, I was presented with it from a friend who got it from the Kennedy Library and I am just so thrilled to have it. And then the following year, she came backstage to see me and the Metropolitan Opera and thanked me. It was such a delight to meet her. She was very, very lovely and feminine and she almost spoke (whispers) like this - very softly like that. That would probably be the most memorable experience.

What plans do you have coming up in the future?

Well, right now, I'm going to do some very interesting things which will bring me back to places I have performed and I am very excited about it. I am going to New York to represent this film, and then I am going to Rome, Italy, and then I'm going to London, and it's all for Sleeping Beauty.

Sleeping Beauty: Platinum Edition is now on DVD and Blu-ray
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Published October 10, 2008.