If you’ve ever heard somebody say that their favourite Disney film came out during the “Renaissance,” you might have been left wondering what in the world they meant. Were Galileo and Michelangelo watching Beauty and the Beast in the 1500s? No, unfortunately not – the “Disney Renaissance” is in fact just one of several “eras” which fans of the company have come to divide its works into. (I bet those guys would have loved Hercules though!)
When you’re dealing with a ninety-four year old company which has been producing films for eighty of those years, it can be a bit overwhelming for a newbie. There’s just so much history behind it, so many ups and downs, so many different CEOs and presidents, that you can quickly be left floundering. Fans of the studio have tried to make things easier to digest by condensing it all down into bite-size chunks: the Disney eras. There’s not really any official recognition for this structure, although the company does occasionally make references to the Renaissance or their “Golden Age” in marketing material. As you can see below, even amongst fans there’s no strict consensus on just how to divide the eras up – each one often has several different names (I’ve tried to include all the most common ones). The Renaissance is just about the only era whose boundaries are widely agreed upon.
So, can’t tell your Eisners from your Igers? Never fear! Here’s my break-down of the nine most commonly accepted Disney eras.
The Silent Era (1923-1928)
L-r: Alice the Lumberjack and Oswald the Lucky Rabbit in Trolley Troubles
This one tends to get overlooked; people often forget that the Disney Company has a history from before its first film release. In these early years before sound technology became a thing, Walt and his small staff were experimenting with a variety of different styles and characters as they tried to find their niche.
The Alice Comedies (1923-1927) are some of his best-known works from this time, featuring a unique blend of live-action and animation which was used to tell the stories about a little girl named Alice and her cat, Julius. The series was a holdover from Disney’s earlier, failed Laugh-O-Gram Studio and proved quite popular for a while, but the more tangled history from this era involves another character: Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. If you’re a fan of the Epic Mickey games, I’m sure you’ll have heard of this little guy before. Created by Walt and his chief animator, Ub Iwerks, Oswald enjoyed a brief but intense period of success during 1927, but was infamously taken/stolen (along with most of Disney’s staff) by Disney’s distributor, Charles Mintz, before his popularity could grow further. (If that name seems to ring a bell, it might be because it was the inspiration for Charles Muntz, the villain in Pixar’s Up!) Of course, this backfired in the end, as Walt went on to create Mickey Mouse and found wild popularity through that character instead – and the story has a happy ending, as the Disney Company were able to get the rights to Oswald back in a deal in 2006.
This era was brought to an end by Mickey’s success and the advent of sound cartoons, in 1928.
The Golden Era (1928-1942)
L-r: Steamboat Willie, Flowers and Trees, Three Little Pigs, The Old Mill, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, Fantasia, Dumbo and Bambi
This is an aptly-named era. With the breakthrough popularity of the Mickey shorts, the Disney Company began its journey to becoming the household name it is today. It was an era of innovation; in addition to popularising (though not inventing) sound cartoons with Mickey’s Steamboat Willie in 1928, it also saw the introduction of colour with Flowers and Trees in 1932, widespread acclaim with the Oscar-winning Three Little Pigs of 1933 (the first Oscar for Best Animated Short Film had been won by Flowers and Trees) and the introduction of revolutionary new animation techniques like the multiplane camera, which debuted in The Old Mill in 1937. Later that year, Disney made their feature film debut with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and at the same time made cinematic history.
Surprisingly, though, three of the other four films in this era were actually financial failures upon their original releases. The expensive Pinocchio, Fantasia and Bambi all struggled due to market issues caused by World War II, although they have all since become renowned as underappreciated masterpieces which were simply victims of circumstance. Dumbo, released the year before Bambi and costing only half as much as Snow White to make, was the only real success of the entire 1940s (although its production was mired in the turmoil which led to the famous Disney animator’s strike of 1941, which is caricatured by the clowns in the finished film).
Following Pearl Harbour in 1941, the USA entered World War II. After the completion of Bambi, with dwindling resources and many animators lost to the war effort, the curtain went down on the Disney Company’s Golden Era. Like so many others around the world, they would just have to make the best of what they had.
The Package/War time Era (1943-1949)
L-r: Saludos Amigos, The Three Caballeros, Make Mine Music, Fun and Fancy Free, Melody Time and The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad
With one of the worst wars the world had ever seen raging, it’s a wonder that the Disney Company was able to produce anything at all. Much like the Silent Era, this is another one that is often forgotten (many fans have never even heard of it at all). That is certainly understandable; without the finances or the manpower to continue crafting the feature-length films that they had become known for, the Disney Company was forced to compromise somewhat on quality. The six films released in this era are usually known as “package films” – rather than being centred on a single cohesive narrative, they are instead made up of a series of individual shorts, loosely connected around a theme or framing device.
The first two, Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros, were the product of a trip to South America in 1941 at the behest of Norman Rockefeller, organised to support President Roosevelt’s Good Neighbor policy. Rockefeller, the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs, shrewdly deduced that a few cartoons from the increasingly-popular Disney Company showcasing Latin cultures would do wonders for foreign relations. It worked pretty well, too; the films were both well received in their Latin American theatre runs and remain popular there to this day.
The other four films in this era are a bit of a mixed bag, but then the films themselves are, after all, “mixed bags.” Make Mine Music and Melody Time were originally intended to be sequels to Fantasia, but the budget restrictions and the choice to use popular music of the time rather than classical pieces has left them looking quite dated by today’s standards. Fun and Fancy Free and The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad are even harder to describe, with both films consisting of just two shorts stitched together. Ichabod and Mr. Toad is supposed to be held together by the theme of “two characters who keep getting into trouble,” but Fun and Fancy Free doesn’t even have that much of a connection, with its stories being joined instead by some live action footage and narration from Pinocchio’s Jiminy Cricket.
Overall, a confusing and little-remembered era, but still an interesting insight into the war time Disney Company. By 1950, with the war several years past and badly in need of funds, the Disney Company was ready to enter its next era.
The Silver Era (1950-1969)
L-r: Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp, Sleeping Beauty, One Hundred and One Dalmatians, The Sword in the Stone and The Jungle Book
The fortunes of the Disney Company were at a low ebb, until the enormous success of the 1950 feature, Cinderella. This marked their return not just to proper feature films but also to fairy tales, a genre in which their expertise had already been proven. Over the course of the 1950s, they would release Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp and Sleeping Beauty, which met with varying degrees of success (as with the Golden Era, this one is defined more by the quality of its films in hindsight rather than by box office success). However, this era is notable not just for its films but also for the changes that the company itself underwent.
At the start of the 1950s, Disney made its first foray into the rising medium of television, with an NBC special called An Hour in Wonderland. This would be followed by the regular primetime series Disneyland in 1954, which allowed Walt to reach out and connect with his audience more personally for the first time. It provided a platform for showcasing the company’s works, both old and new, and was also instrumental in drumming up interest in the original Disneyland theme park, which opened to great delight (and myriad technical problems) in 1955. This was also the period where Disney started to get into live-action features, starting with Treasure Island, which came out just months after Cinderella in 1950 and starred the future voice of Peter Pan, Bobby Driscoll. Mary Poppins was easily the most successful of these, released in 1964 and garnering an impressive collection of awards including five Oscars.
As the company headed into the 1960s, however, their fortunes began to shift once again. With the underperformance of several of their recent features, Walt himself was beginning to grow distracted by his ever more diverse list of interests, so that for the first time, animators found he was far less involved with the production of the animated classics than he used to be. A new animation technique called Xerography was introduced with One Hundred and One Dalmatians, which saved time and money, although many have criticised it for its “sketchy” appearance. The Sword in the Stone would be the last animated film Walt saw released in his lifetime, but his final years at the head of the company were mainly happy ones, with the wild success of Mary Poppins and his exhibitions at the 1964 World’s Fair to buoy him up. This era draws to a close with Walt’s passing, on December 15th, 1966, from complications related to lung cancer – The Jungle Book, the last film he personally worked on, was released to wide praise the following year, thus ending a busy and tumultuous era.
The Bronze/Dark/Dork/Restoration Era (1970-1988)
L-r: The Aristocats, Robin Hood, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, The Rescuers, The Fox and the Hound, The Black Cauldron, The Great Mouse Detective and Oliver & Company
As you can see from the title, this is one era which always gets Disney fans divided. Nobody wants one of their favourite animated classics lumped into a “dark” era – but is it as a dark as it seems? Well, it all depends on your perspective. One shining jewel to come out of this period was the Walt Disney World Resort, which opened in 1971 and has gone on to become one of the most popular holiday destinations in the entire world. The company also continued to see success with their live-action family features, but for the animation studio (and the world of animation in general), times were undoubtedly tough. With Walt gone, the studio struggled to find its focus and its releases from this time reflect this hesitancy and confusion.
The Aristocats was the last film that Walt personally gave the green-light to, but its reputation is decidedly mixed, with common criticism being that it is too slow and has an ineffective villain. It was followed by Robin Hood three years later, which did better, but by this time the company was letting two, three and even four years go by between animated releases, and the public appetite for their films was diminishing. In 1977, they returned to package films for the first time since the war, with The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, created from a selection of popular shorts; combined with the surprise success of The Rescuers a few months later, it provided much-needed relief amidst the long malaise of the post-Walt years. In 1981, they made their first tentative foray into the new field of computer animation with a few sequences in The Fox and the Hound, but there were troubled times ahead.
Things came to a head in 1985, with the spectacular failure of The Black Cauldron. This was truly the company’s rock bottom. After a long, tortured production period, the messy film was matched at the box office by none other than The Care Bears Movie, a largely marketing-driven feature from Nelvana, designed to sell toys. This was the final humiliation for the once proud company, which the previous year had come dangerously close to bankruptcy and was now becoming a joke. Under the new, modern direction of President Frank Wells and CEO Michael Eisner, the company was rapidly revamped and the quality (and regularity) of its films began to rise. It was helped in large part by the successes of some of its live-action releases, such as Who Framed Roger Rabbit, which was released under the Touchstone Pictures division in 1988.
However, the animated films, while improving, were now facing real competition for the first time – following the failure of The Black Cauldron, The Great Mouse Detective was beaten at the box office by Amblin’s An American Tail, an oddly similar mouse-themed story by a former Disney animator, Don Bluth. His 1988 release, The Land Before Time, then managed to crush Disney’s Oliver & Company. But enough was enough. The stage was set for a revolution – and this time, nobody would make any mistake as to who was the top cat in animation.
The Disney Renaissance / Golden Age / Bronze Age* (1989-1999)
*The previous era is sometimes included as part of the Silver Era, making this the Bronze one
L-r: The Little Mermaid, The Rescuers Down Under, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King, Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules, Mulan and Tarzan
In late 1989, Don Bluth looked set to dominate the box office once again with his latest release, All Dogs Go to Heaven. For the third time in a row, his film would be facing off against a Disney feature. This time, though, something was different: the film in question was The Little Mermaid. The filmmakers had really pulled out all the stops with this one, especially with the soundtrack – the film went on to win two Oscars for its music and became the most popular Disney release in years, raking in millions of dollars and becoming the top-selling VHS tape of 1990. The “mouse” was back.
Apart from a brief “blip” with The Rescuers Down Under (which suffered under competition from the surprise hit Home Alone), the Disney Company’s success in the 1990s was unstoppable. Beauty and the Beast famously became the first animated feature to be nominated for the prestigious Best Picture award at the Oscars, ten years before the Best Animated Feature category was introduced. Aladdin then popularised the usage of celebrity voice actors with Robin Williams’ beloved turn as the Genie (although contract disputes over the marketing of his character left a bitter taste in Disney’s mouth for several years afterwards). By the time The Lion King arrived and became the highest-grossing animated feature in history in 1994, Disney was once again at the pinnacle of the animation industry. However, a revolutionary change occurred right in the middle of this era which would change the industry’s entire future.
In 1995, then-independent studio Pixar released the first ever entirely computer-animated feature, Toy Story, and audiences were blown away. Disney’s Pocahontas, meanwhile, was largely dismissed for its mangling of American history and lacklustre plot, although its music and animation were of the same sparkling quality as any other Renaissance film. This trend would continue, as The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Hercules both underperformed financially (although Mulan and Tarzan regained the blockbuster success later in the decade), while Pixar’s A Bug’s Life and Toy Story 2 soared in every respect. In this boom-time for animation, things were further complicated by the arrival of other new studios such as DreamWorks, and the animation divisions of Paramount and Warner Bros., which began to challenge Disney films with releases such as The Rugrats Movie, The Prince of Egypt and The Iron Giant.
Tarzan was the last financially successful animated film from Disney for quite some time, which is why it is typically used as the marker for the end of the Renaissance. A new century and a new millennium were dawning, bringing with them a game-changing new style of animation which Disney, at first, struggled to get on board with.
The Millennial/Experimental Era (1999-2008)
L-r: Fantasia 2000, Dinosaur, The Emperor’s New Groove, Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Lilo & Stitch, Treasure Planet, Brother Bear, Home on the Range, Chicken Little, Meet the Robinsons and Bolt
Beginning with Fantasia 2000, which premiered at the end of 1999, another dip in Disney’s success was apparent. This era is characterised chiefly by the sheer variety of the films it contains; Disney began to experiment with different styles and genres after realising that audiences were growing bored with their Renaissance “formula,” which basically consisted of musical, coming-of-age romances. They dipped into computer-imagery (mixed with live-action) with 2000’s Dinosaur, followed by a buddy-comedy road trip film called The Emperor’s New Groove and then a sci-fi adventure, Atlantis: The Lost Empire. Most of these met with mild success, but coming down from the highs of the Renaissance, mild success just wasn’t enough for Disney. They enjoyed a brief and surprising return to form, though, with the 2002 feature Lilo & Stitch, which, like Dumbo before it, was cheap to produce and more than made back its budget, proving a hit with critics and audiences alike. Sadly, it was followed later the same year by the biggest box office bomb in Disney history (yes, even bigger than The Black Cauldron): Treasure Planet. This unfairly-maligned film featured a lot of expensive computer imagery, but audiences couldn’t get on board with its steam-punk-inspired style and unusually dark themes. Brother Bear met with mixed reception the following year, but the worst was yet to come.
In 2004, Disney came out with one of its all-time worst offerings, Home on the Range, a disappointingly childish Western-style film with a weak plot which is often blamed for the demise of hand-drawn animation at the studio (they have only returned to it twice in the years since). Even this film, however, couldn’t match the disappointment Disney fans would come to feel with their next film, Chicken Little. Despite a strong marketing campaign and a record-tying opening weekend (with The Lion King), Disney’s first entirely computer-animated feature has not exactly been embraced by the Disney community in the years since. Widely regarded as the worst Disney feature ever and sometimes compared with the poorest of DreamWorks’ offerings, this marked the low point of the Experimental Era.
By 2006, faced with similar circumstances to those which nearly sank the studio twenty years earlier, new CEO and President Robert Iger (who is still in charge today) knew that something had to be done. He entered negotiations with Steve Jobs and Ed Catmull of Pixar with the aim of acquiring their studio, a deal which was finalized on May 5th and saw John Lasseter promoted to Chief Creative Officer of both Disney Animation and Pixar. (This was also around the time that the company reacquired the rights to Oswald the Lucky Rabbit). Although another couple of features that were in the works – Meet the Robinsons and Bolt – went on to mixed receptions, 2006 set things up for the dawn of another profitable era in Disney history.
The New Renaissance/New Revival (2009-present)
L-r: The Princess and the Frog, Tangled, Winnie the Pooh, Wreck-It Ralph, Frozen, Big Hero 6, Zootopia/Zootropolis and Moana
After several years of mediocre results at the box office, Disney decided to go back to what they were best at, with a tried-and-true fairy tale musical called The Princess and the Frog. This also marked a return to hand-drawn animation after half a decade away from it. Although the film didn’t do quite as well as they had hoped upon its release in 2009, it was still a return to the kind of critical popularity that they hadn’t had for a decade. The next year, it was followed by Tangled, which featured a unique blending of computerised and traditional animation styles and did fantastically well with critics and audiences. After one last attempt to return to hand-drawn success with 2011’s Winnie the Pooh (which inevitably failed after being pitted against the final instalment of the decade-long Harry Potter franchise), the studio entered a run of financial successes not seen since the Renaissance – hence the parallels with that era. First Wreck-It Ralph, then Frozen (which toppled even the mighty Lion King), and on to the likes of Big Hero 6, Zootopia and Moana, the company is still in the midst of its latest “revival,” sparking lively debate among fans about which film kicked it off (some like to include Bolt) and which ones parallel the Renaissance most closely (Winnie the Pooh is of course compared to The Rescuers Down Under).
But the question we have to ask now is – what’s next?
As the company nears it centenary, it stands unrivalled as an incredible behemoth in the entertainment industry. With its ever-increasing collection of subsidiaries and the continuing success of its many diversified interests, it is now the world’s “second largest media conglomerate in terms of revenue, after Comcast,” at least according to Wikipedia. (I know, that was a boring paragraph!)
Walt Disney Animation Studios is “cool” again, at least for the moment, with all of its last few features being lauded as excellent and enjoyable additions to their canon. By contrast, studios like Pixar and DreamWorks have had some difficulties in the 2010s so far, with several lukewarm releases like Cars 2, Home and Trolls and criticism of their over-reliance on sequels. However, Disney isn’t immune to this “sequelitis,” as can be seen from a glance at their roster of upcoming films; with sequels to Wreck-It Ralph and Frozen in production and no original work due until about 2020, a fan has to wonder whether they might be heading into another “dark” era once again.
I, for one, sincerely hope not. Sequelitis is a major problem across Hollywood as a whole these days; it sometimes feels like originality is lost, and some of the more obvious cash-grabs can leave you feeling a bit despondent about the quality of future blockbuster films. When all is said and done, Disney, like every other film studio out there, is a business – it has to make money to survive, and if something is selling well, you can bet your ass that they’ll milk it into the ground. As you can see from reading their story, it takes a lot of hits to knock Disney down, but the thing to remember is this: they always get back up again. Whatever the future holds for the Disney Company, I think we can rest assured that there will be many more enjoyable classics added to their canon in the years ahead – even if we do have to get through another few Chicken Little’s to reach them.
I hope you found this an interesting read – it’s a very absorbing story, filled with ups and downs and colourful characters. If you’d like to read more about it, see my book recommendations below. I’m aiming to write my review of the next classic in the canon, Fantasia, next week, so please stop by again soon, if you’d like to see more!
The World History of Animation (2011) by Stephen Cavalier
The Art of Walt Disney (2011 ed.) by Christopher Finch
Walt Disney: The Biography (2011 ed.) by Neal Gabler
Disney’s Art of Animation: From Mickey Mouse to Hercules (1997 ed.) by Bob Thomas
In addition to these, I also made liberal use of Wikipedia (I know it’s not the most credible source, but it’s very useful all the same!).
Feel free to skip down to the bottom from here – this last part is just a list of credits for the use of the film posters.
By Winkler Pictures – source, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=57445860 – credit for Alice the Lumberjack
By Universal Pictures – Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48374679 – credit for Trolley Troubles
By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32631783 – credit for Steamboat Willie
By Commons, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21871594 – credit for Flowers and Trees
By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32874819 – credit for Three Little Pigs
By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32777852 – credit for The Old Mill
https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=40982148 – credit for Snow White
By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3857414 – credit for Pinocchio
By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3857239 – credit for Fantasia
By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3857518 – credit for Dumbo
By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3891543 – credit for Bambi
By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3891585 – credit for Saludos Amigos
https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21038007 – credit for The Three Caballeros
https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21037922 – credit for Make Mine Music
By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3891698 – credit for Fun and Fancy Free
By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3891714 – credit for Melody Time
By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3891744 – credit for The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad
By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14994047 – credit for Cinderella
https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3891819 – credit for Alice in Wonderland
https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4032804 – credit for Peter Pan
By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2320960 – credit for Lady and the Tramp
By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1787707 – credit for Sleeping Beauty
https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3374386 – credit for One Hundred and One Dalmatians
https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15078407 – credit for The Sword in the Stone
By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15770836 – credit for The Jungle Book
https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3891938 – credit for The Aristocats
https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20750297 – credit for Robin Hood
By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26489866 – credit for The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3892063 – credit for The Rescuers
By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3892157 – credit for The Fox and the Hound
By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3591120 – credit for The Black Cauldron
By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3892423 – credit for The Great Mouse Detective
https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28026172 – credit for Oliver & Company
By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=34243478 – credit for The Little Mermaid
By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3828804 – credit for The Rescuers Down Under
By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1396348 – credit for Beauty and the Beast
By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3828815 – credit for Aladdin
By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17003824 – credit for The Lion King
By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3828836 – credit for Pocahontas
https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3828854 – credit for The Hunchback of Notre Dame
By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31361107 – credit for Hercules
https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=982189 – credit for Mulan
By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3828875 – credit for Tarzan
By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2146355 – credit for Fantasia 2000
https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11175196 – credit for Dinosaur
By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3828885 – credit for The Emperor’s New Groove
By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3828896 – credit for Atlantis: The Lost Empire
https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16205091 – credit for Lilo & Stitch
https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3519583 – credit for Treasure Planet
By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15140964 – credit for Brother Bear
https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3828917 – credit for Home on the Range
https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13233084 – credit for Chicken Little
https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7862970 – credit for Meet the Robinsons
By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19564310 – credit for Bolt
By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22768061 – credit for The Princess and the Frog
By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32570983 – credit for Tangled
By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30334063 – credit for Winnie the Pooh
By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37008195 – credit for Wreck-It Ralph
By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37784628 – credit for Frozen
By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=42400162 – credit for Big Hero 6
By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48786765 – credit for Zootopia
By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=50759197 – credit for Moana
By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=53627514 – credit for Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2
By Boy Scouts of America – eBay itemphoto frontphoto back, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17511101 – credit for Walt photo
11 Replies to “Understanding the Disney Eras”
Yeah, I never really considered mentioning or even labeling the Silent Era. You’re right: it is almost always forgotten or looked over.
I know there’s debate as to exactly where this Disney Revival Era started with myself personally being torn between Bolt and Princess and the Frog as the starting point.
Nothing can last forever, so this Disney Revival Era will definitely end. Will Wreck-It Ralph 2 be the one to end it? I’m not sure, but I hope not.
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I feel like most work from the silent era of cinema is overlooked these days, not just Disney work. It’s a shame, but I do get it: times have changed, and nobody’s got the patience to sit through silent works any more. I’ve seen Metropolis (very good) and The Lost World (very dull), but that’s all.
Yeah, I think I’m leaning towards including Bolt as the first one, since it’s quite a good film, but popular opinion usually lumps it in with the experimentals, so I left it there for the post.
I do hope it’s a good film, the original Wreck-It Ralph is a strong one. You just never know with sequels, I wish they could try to keep adapting existing works instead of turning everything into a franchise the way DreamWorks does.
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Frankly, the reason why it is overlooked is because Disney is known for its animated feature length movies, and if you discuss the history of movie animation separately from discussing shorts and features, than Disney’s first entry was Snow White. I myself had a “Silent Age” in my article about the history of Western Animation in general (I roughly dated it from 1917 to 1930), but started the history of Disney animation (in film) with Golden Age (which I call Disney Expressionism).
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Overall, I look at this history of Walt Disney Animation as being akin to the life cycle of the phoenix, which, as we all know, burns to death after half a millennium, before rising up from the ashes, ready to start the cycle all over again.
As far as the future goes, I can only hope that I’ll be able to contribute the “Fourth Golden Age” (whenever it may be), and that the ultimate end of the studio (which, let’s face it, will probably happen at some point or another) won’t take place during my lifetime….
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A very poetic way of looking at it! It does seem to have a kind of ebb and flow to it… dark periods followed by light… Makes me wonder if we’re overdue for another dark period, given how successful the 2010s have been for them.
That would be fantastic, I hope you get to be a part of it in some way. I suppose nothing lasts forever, but it certainly doesn’t seem to be going anywhere just yet; after all, it’s heading into its 95th year as one of the most powerful entertainment companies in the world! Let’s just hope that once they’ve gotten these sequels out of the way, the 2020s will be another strong decade for them.
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