Here’s some fun Disney History for all you fans out there! If you already know this stuff you can check out last week’s post instead! But for the new fans, or those general Disney History buffs, this post is for you! Who knows; Maybe you’ll learn something new!
So, without further ado…
The Golden Age:
The Golden Age of Disney Animation began with the release of Snow White in 1937. The term ‘Golden Age’ doesn’t necessarily refer to the success of these films because, besides Snow White, most of the films in the Golden Age were largely unsuccessful at the time of their release; only gaining “Classic Status” years later. ‘Golden Age’ more accurately refers to the quality and technical achievements of the era’s animation. Walt spent almost every cent he made during this time on the next masterpiece. He focused on making each film better than the last; ushering in visions of great art and innovation. Unfortunately, this ‘Age of Art’ was cut short by the advent of a worldwide war…
The Wartime Era:
Because this era was the result of WWII, a largely uncontrollable event, most critics don’t hold it against Disney. This ‘sub-era’ is marked by a halt in the production of animated features as the studio was literally taken-over by the U.S. Government and co-opted into creating propaganda for America; for very little compensation. During this time, Disney had to rely on ‘package films’ to pay the rent and had almost no time to explore more creative avenues. These package films were largely compilations of several extended short films edited together with new inserts to fill out a feature film run-time. Although many of these films are beloved today by Disney fans, they are considered of far less quality than the rest of the Golden Age.
The Silver Age:
Considered by some to be a late extension the Golden Age, the Silver Age is nonetheless separated from the earlier films of the era by the events of WWII. Artistic expression was put on hold during the war. However, with the success of Cinderella, Disney was finally able to revive the innovative works which categorized its first years! This era marks the most prosperous time for the company during Walt’s lifetime; with many films in this era proving to be massive successes that went down in history as Disney Classics. But this amazing era was not to last. During this time, films became increasingly expensive to make in order to meet Walt’s increasingly high expectations. In 1959 Walt reached what he considered the pinnacle of his art form: Sleeping Beauty. It was a massive Box Office hit, but was somehow still dwarfed by its extravagant production costs. Although the films after Sleeping Beauty still met with success, they were less innovative than earlier endeavors, and eventually the quality of animation came to its lowest point when Walt Disney passed away during production of The Jungle Book. His absence from the company left it directionless and led them into a figurative Dark Age.
The Bronze Age:
Also referred to as the Dark Age, the Bronze Age of Disney Animation was largely a result of Walt Disney’s passing. Left without a sense of direction or strong leadership, the company entered an era of hits and misses; largely falling short of the ‘magic’ that most people associate with Disney. Most of the films in this era, while fondly remembered today, struggled to reach an audience; critical or otherwise. The films in this era did explore some unique and fascinating ideas, but were far less capable of executing them than previous generations. Animation was at a low point, with a focus on films that were cheaper and faster to make, as well as the company shifting its attention to live-action films and theme-parks. during this era they underestimated the vast potential that animated films could have on an audience…That was, until a surprise Box Office hit paved the way for something new…
The Disney Renaissance:
The Great Mouse Detective of the Bronze Age made enough money to finance a fairy tale called The Little Mermaid. This officially launched what most modern audiences consider to be the definitive era for the company in today’s filmmaking landscape; the Disney Renaissance! It is referred to as a ‘Renaissance’ by film critics because of its return to Walt Disney’s ideals of art and innovation, and the company’s success at finally capturing that sense of ‘Disney Magic’ that set them apart from other animation studios. Disney was back as the world’s leading animation studio; churning out hit after hit, and charming the world with its beloved characters and stories.
The New Millenium:
The New Millennium, also called the Experimental Era, mostly centered around Disney changing the way they produced their animation and structured their stories. It was a time of exploration which saw much less success than the Renaissance, and focused on new genres of storytelling; including Sci-Fi Comedies, Irreverent Comedies, Steampunk, and even Time Travel! Not only did Disney experiment with the writing and story structure of their movies in this era, but they also tried new things with the technology of their filmmaking as well. In this era, Disney introduced more Computer-Generated Imagery (CGI), which they had already utilized with their partners at Pixar. This led to Disney making their own full-length CGI animated film: Dinosaur. And this was only the beginning, as Disney soon moved from mixing CGI and live-action elements through the computer (like in Dinosaur), to creating almost everything you see on screen from scratch in a digital environment (like in Chicken Little). Not only would this experimentation with technology become the norm at Disney, but it would also spell the beginning of the end for traditional hand-drawn animation in the next era. Without a doubt, many of the films in the Experimental Era would become crucial to the success and reliability of the next age of animation…
The Modern Golden Age: