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13 Things You Might Not Know About Sleeping Beauty

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Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty quietly turns 55 this year. I’m betting there’s more fanfare when Maleficent comes out later this year, but until then, we’ll do our best to pick up the slack with a few facts you probably didn’t know about this ‘50s fairy tale.

1. Versions of Sleeping Beauty have been published by both Charles Perrault and the Brothers Grimm. Perrault called his heroine Aurora, while  the Grimms' "Little Briar Rose" referred to their princess as, well, Briar Rose. Disney split the difference and used both names. 

2. Prince Phillip is said to have been named after another royal that Americans would have been familiar with during that time period: Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, the husband of Queen Elizabeth II. They had only been married for 12 years at the time Sleeping Beauty was released, and she had been Queen for just seven. 

3. Instead of three quirky fairies, the original version included seven, as in Perrault's story. (Other versions include up to 13, making the evil fairy the unlucky addition.) The gifts the seven fairies bestowed in Perrault's tale were beauty, wit, grace, dance, song, and music. In Disney's Sleeping Beauty, this was truncated to beauty and song. Hm. 

4. Mary Costa, the voice of Sleeping Beauty, is a professional opera singer and has performed in more than 40 operatic roles on stage. She sang at a memorial service for John F. Kennedy at the request of Jackie Kennedy after Jackie heard her sing "The Star-Spangled Banner" at the Academy Awards. She was also one of the original Chrysler Girls. Here she is with Bing Crosby in 1971.

5. Costa is originally from Knoxville, Tennessee, and her southern accent almost prevented her from getting the job. Animator Marc Davis said that after some deliberation, the team decided that if an Englishwoman like Vivien Leigh could pull off a southern accent for Gone with the Wind, a southern girl could sustain an English accent for Sleeping Beauty.

6. Though Mary Costa provided the voice for Aurora, Helene Stanley was the live action reference. She also served as the reference for Cinderella and Anita from 101 Dalmatians. Here she is providing movements and expressions for the animators on the Disneyland TV show.

7. So now you know that Helene Stanley provided the live-action model and Mary Costa provided the voice—but there was at least one other inspiration for Princess Aurora’s features and body type: Audrey Hepburn.

8. When the fairies discuss how to help the king and queen early on in the film, Merryweather makes cookies in the shape of a classic Mickey Mouse head.

Image courtesy of Disney Hidden Secrets

9. Although it’s a classic now, Sleeping Beauty was not a darling at the time. Critics thought the movie moved slowly and lacked character development.

10. In fact, Sleeping Beauty was such a box office bomb (at least, compared to the cost of production) that the company decided that princess movies weren’t exactly the wave of the future. They didn’t make another princess movie until 30 years later, when The Little Mermaid was released in 1989. 

11. Another reason it took six years to bring Princess Aurora and friends to life was that Walt was kinda sidetracked with another project at the time: Disneyland. The castle there was originally supposed to be named after the original Disney princess, Snow White, but in order to promote the film, Imagineers changed it to Sleeping Beauty Castle.

12. The fairytale book that opens the movie was real and was entirely handpainted by Eyvind Earle, the man responsible for the entire look and feel of the movie. It was restored in 2008 and is now part of the Disney Archives, where it is sometimes put on display at events. 

Photo by Stacy Conradt

13. Walt worried about the constant comparisons to Snow White and Cinderella, so he worked with Earle to come up with the stylized, angular Sleeping Beauty look, which was very painstaking and time consuming. “That’s why it took us six years and $6 million to make Sleeping Beauty. But to us, it was worth it,” Walt once said. Earle also worked on Peter Pan and Lady and the Tramp, among others.

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15 Confusing Plant and Animal Misnomers
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People have always given names to the plants and animals around us. But as our study of the natural world has developed, we've realized that many of these names are wildly inaccurate. In fact, they often have less to say about nature than about the people who did the naming. Here’s a batch of these befuddling names.

1. COMMON NIGHTHAWK

There are two problems with this bird’s name. First, the common nighthawk doesn’t fly at night—it’s active at dawn and dusk. Second, it’s not a hawk. Native to North and South America, it belongs to a group of birds with an even stranger name: Goatsuckers. People used to think that these birds flew into barns at night and drank from the teats of goats. (In fact, they eat insects.)

2. IRISH MOSS

It’s not a moss—it’s a red alga that lives along the rocky shores of the northern Atlantic Ocean. Irish moss and other red algae give us carrageenan, a cheap food thickener that you may have eaten in gummy candies, soy milk, ice cream, veggie hot dogs, and more.

3. FISHER-CAT

Native to North America, the fisher-cat isn’t a cat at all: It’s a cousin of the weasel. It also doesn’t fish. Nobody’s sure where the fisher cat’s name came from. One possibility is that early naturalists confused it with the sea mink, a similar-looking creature that was an expert fisher. But the fisher-cat prefers to eat land animals. In fact, it’s one of the few creatures that can tackle a porcupine.

4. AMERICAN BLUE-EYED GRASS

American blue-eyed grass doesn’t have eyes (which is good, because that would be super creepy). Its blue “eyes” are flowers that peek up at you from a meadow. It’s also not a grass—it’s a member of the iris family.

5. MUDPUPPY

The mudpuppy isn’t a cute, fluffy puppy that scampered into some mud. It’s a big, mucus-covered salamander that spends all of its life underwater. (It’s still adorable, though.) The mudpuppy isn’t the only aquatic salamander with a weird name—there are many more, including the greater siren, the Alabama waterdog, and the world’s most metal amphibian, the hellbender.

6. WINGED DRAGONFISH

This weird creature has other fantastic and inaccurate names: brick seamoth, long-tailed dragonfish, and more. It’s really just a cool-looking fish. Found in the waters off of Asia, it has wing-like fins, and spends its time on the muddy seafloor.

7. NAVAL SHIPWORM

The naval shipworm is not a worm. It’s something much, much weirder: a kind of clam with a long, wormlike body that doesn’t fit in its tiny shell. It uses this modified shell to dig into wood, which it eats. The naval shipworm, and other shipworms, burrow through all sorts of submerged wood—including wooden ships.

8. WHIP SPIDERS

These leggy creatures are not spiders; they’re in a separate scientific family. They also don’t whip anything. Whip spiders have two long legs that look whip-like, but that are used as sense organs—sort of like an insect’s antennae. Despite their intimidating appearance, whip spiders are harmless to humans.

9. VELVET ANTS

A photograph of a velvet ant
Craig Pemberton, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

There are thousands of species of velvet ants … and all are wasps, not ants. These insects have a fuzzy, velvety look. Don’t pat them, though—velvet ants aren’t aggressive, but the females pack a powerful sting.

10. SLOW WORM

The slow worm is not a worm. It’s a legless reptile that lives in parts of Europe and Asia. Though it looks like a snake, it became legless through a totally separate evolutionary path from the one snakes took. It has many traits in common with lizards, such as eyelids and external ear holes.

11. TRAVELER'S PALM

This beautiful tree from Madagascar has been planted in tropical gardens all around the world. It’s not actually a palm, but belongs to a family that includes the bird of paradise flower. In its native home, the traveler’s palm reproduces with the help of lemurs that guzzle its nectar and spread pollen from tree to tree.

12. VAMPIRE SQUID

Drawing of a vampire squid
Carl Chun, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

This deep-sea critter isn’t a squid. It’s the only surviving member of a scientific order that has characteristics of both octopuses and squids. And don’t let the word “vampire” scare you; it only eats bits of falling marine debris (dead stuff, poop, and so on), and it’s only about 11 inches long.

13. MALE FERN & LADY FERN

Early botanists thought that these two ferns belonged to the same species. They figured that the male fern was the male of the species because of its coarse appearance. The lady fern, on the other hand, has lacy fronds and seemed more ladylike. Gender stereotypes aside, male and lady Ferns belong to entirely separate species, and almost all ferns can make both male and female reproductive cells. If ferns start looking manly or womanly to you, maybe you should take a break from botany.

14. TENNESSEE WARBLER

You will never find a single Tennessee warbler nest in Tennessee. This bird breeds mostly in Canada, and spends the winter in Mexico and more southern places. But early ornithologist Alexander Wilson shot one in 1811 in Tennessee during its migration, and the name stuck.

15. CANADA THISTLE

Though it’s found across much of Canada, this spiky plant comes from Europe and Asia. Early European settlers brought Canada thistle seeds to the New World, possibly as accidental hitchhikers in grain shipments. A tough weed, the plant soon spread across the continent, taking root in fields and pushing aside crops. So why does it have this inaccurate name? Americans may have been looking for someone to blame for this plant—so they blamed Canada.

A version of this story originally ran in 2015.

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18 Tea Infusers to Make Teatime More Exciting
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Make steeping tea more fun with these quirky tea infusers.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

1. SOAKING IT UP; $7.49

man-shaped tea infuser
Amazon

That mug of hot water might eventually be a drink for you, but first it’s a hot bath for your new friend, who has special pants filled with tea.

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2. A FLYING TEA BOX; $25.98

There’s no superlaser on this Death Star, just tea.

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3. SPACE STATION; $9.99

astronaut tea infuser
ThinkGeek

This astronaut's mission? Orbit the rim of your mug until you're ready to pull the space station diffuser out.

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4. BE REFINED; $12.99

This pipe works best with Earl Grey.

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5. A RIBBITING OPTION; $10.93

This frog hangs on to the side of your mug with a retractable tongue. When the tea is ready, you can put him back on his lily pad.

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6. ‘TEA’ ALL LIVE IN A YELLOW SUBMARINE; $5.95

It’s just like the movie, only with tea instead of Beatles.

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7. SHARK ATTACK; $6.99

shark tea infuser
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This fearsome shark patrols the bottom of your mug waiting for prey. For extra fun, use red tea to look like the end of a feeding frenzy.

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8. PERFECT FOR A RAINY DAY; $12.40

This umbrella’s handle conveniently hooks to the side of your mug.

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9. AN EGGCELLENT INFUSER; $5.75

cracked egg tea infuser
Amazon

Sometimes infusers are called tea eggs, and this one takes the term to a new, literal level.

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10. FOR SQUIRRELY DRINKERS; $8.95

If you’re all right with a rodent dunking its tail into your drink, this is the infuser for you.

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11. HANGING OUT; $12.85

This pug is happy to hang onto your mug and keep you company while you wait for the tea to be ready.

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12. ANOTHER SHARK OPTION; $5.99

If you thought letting that other shark infuser swim around in the deep water of your glass was too scary, this one perches on the edge, too busy comping on your mug to worry about humans.

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13. RUBBER DUCKIE, YOU’RE THE ONE; $8.95

Let this rubber duckie peacefully float in your cup and make teatime lots of fun.

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14. DIVING DEEP; $8.25

This old-timey deep-sea diver comes with an oxygen tank that you can use to pull it out.

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15. MAKE SWEET TEA; $10

This lollipop won't actually make your tea any sweeter, but you can always add some sugar after.

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16. A SEASONAL FAVORITE; $7.67

When Santa comes, give him some tea to go with the cookies.

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17. FLORAL TEA; $14.99

Liven up any cup of tea with this charming flower. When you’re done, you can pop it right back into its pot.

Buy on Live Infused.

18. KEEP IT TRADITIONAL; $7.97

If you’re nostalgic for the regular kind of tea bag, you can get reusable silicon ones that look almost the same.

Buy on Amazon.

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