For almost 100 years, Disney Studios and its team of animators have created some of the best full-length animated feature movies ever to grace theaters and television. Just think, it all began with Walt Disney doodling while on a train ride home. This doodle resulted in Disney icon Mickey Mouse, known the world over as a symbol of everything Disney.
Since that time, Mickey has been joined by an array of characters and although Walt Disney has been gone almost half a century, his vision is more alive today than it was almost a century ago. We have seen Disney animated movies go from the hand-drawn method to the use of computers to create those magical scenes we know and love.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937):
Based on a fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm, ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ was Disney’s first animated feature film. It premiered December 1937 at Carthay Circle Theatre and released in theaters by RKO Radio Pictures in February 1938.
In 1997, ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ was named one the American Film Institute’s 100 greatest American films of all times and greatest animated film of all time the following year.
According to Box Office Mojo, ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ has grossed more than $184 million over its lifetime.
Poor Dumbo is ridiculed for having large floppy ears by the other elephants. But he can do something the other elephants can’t: Dumbo can fly!
The purpose of this film was to pull in income to recoup the losses suffered from ‘Pinocchio’ and ‘Fantasia.’ World War II was raging on and ‘Dumbo’ was kept simple rather than lavish. For example, they skimped on background paintings by making them less detailed and used watercolors. This simplicity also gave Disney animators more freedom to focus on character animation rather than detail.
Walt Disney had a vision for this movie, his fifth full-length animated feature film. He wanted realism and went to great lengths to achieve this. His desire for realism delayed production and his animators were not used to drawing animals. They produced just eight drawings a day, or less than one second of footage.
Disney went so far as to bring in animal painter Rico LeBrun to instruct the animators on the way animals move and they observed a pair of fawns. A small zoo was built at the studio so that animators could study various animals.
Bambi was initially a financial loss, but has become a much-loved classic passed down from one generation to the next for almost a century.
Cinderella cost nearly $3 million to make. Had it been a flop instead of the big hit it was, it would have spelled the end of the Disney studio. The movie went on to receive three Academy Awards nominations for ‘Best Song’ (“Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo”), ‘Original Music Score,’ and ‘Best Sound.’
New York Times movie critic Bosely Crowther said of Disney and ‘Cinderella,’ “For Mr. Disney and his craftsmen have brilliantly splashed upon the screen a full-blown and flowery animation of the perennially popular fairy tale.”
Indeed, ‘Cinderella’ remains as popular with children today as it was 60-years ago. It is yet another fine classic to be passed down to the next generation of Disney viewers.
The Little Mermaid (1989):
Can you believe this movie, based on Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tale of the same name, had been sitting on the Disney backburner since the late 1930’s?
While in production, Disney staffers found the original 1930’s story and visual development that had been done by Kay Nielson and ‘The Little Mermaid’ was well on its way to becoming Disney’s twenty-eighth animated feature film.
A lot of money went in to producing ‘The Little Mermaid,’ more than any other Disney movie. It was also the last Disney movie to use the old hand-painted cel method of animation.
‘The Little Mermaid’ has grossed more than $111 million domestically and more than $211 million worldwide. It continues to be one of Disney Studios most popular animated films.
Beauty and the Beast (1991):
The thirtieth film in Walt Disney’s Animated Classics Series, ‘Beauty and the Beast’ was the third in a series of animated features to be released during the Disney Renaissance (the other two movies being ‘The Little Mermaid’ and ‘Tarzan’). Storyboarding for ‘Beauty and the Beast’ began in 1990.
One of the most famous scenes of the movie is that of Belle and the Beast waltzing in the ballroom. The characters are animated in the traditional sense, but the ballroom was computer generated using CAPS (Computer Animation Production System). This technology gave the scene a sweeping camera effect.
Disney is currently planning a re-release of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ in July 2011 to coincide with the movie’s twentieth anniversary (has it really been that long?).
The Lion King (1994):
‘The Lion King’ – a hand-drawn, 2D animated movie – is Disney’s 32nd animated feature film. It was also the highest grossing animated movie prior to ‘Finding Nemo’, having earned more than $783 million worldwide the year it was released. It is currently the 31st highest grossing feature film.
The Lion King won two Academy Awards, three Golden Globes, two BMI Film and TV awards, one Grammy, and a Kids’ Choice Award.
Tangled, originally titled “Rapunzel,” was released November 24, 2010 and is Disney’s 50th animated feature film in the Walt Disney Animated Classics Series. The Los Angeles Times reports the film cost a whopping $260 million and six years to produce.
Disney used advancements in computer technology to their advantage for this movie. They used non-photorealistic rendering to make the surface look like it’s painted but contain depth and dimensions. While the movie was made using CGI, it was modeled on the traditional look of oil paintings on canvas.
Former director Glen Keane credits 3D animator Kyle Stawitz with helping to combine CGI with traditional hand-drawn style, saying Stawitz “helped us get that Fragonard look of that girl on the swing … We are using subsurface scattering and global illumination and all of the latest techniques to pull off convincing human characters and rich environments.”
Los Angeles Times Film Critic Kenneth Turan gave the movie a good review overall, saying, “Busy as it is, “Tangled” also finds time to include enough action and adventure sequences, including wild chases, hairbreadth escapes and an enormous flood, to allow even the fussiest small boys to feel it’s worth their time.’
The 51st installment in the Walt Disney Animated Classic Series is ‘Winnie the Pooh.’ This film is scheduled to be released in July 2011. ‘Winnie’ will be traditionally animated (hand-drawn). This is the oldest and most popular form of animation.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) – Box Office Mojo
AFI: 10 Top 10 – American Film Institute
THE SCREEN: SIX NEWCOMERS MARK HOLIDAY – New York Times, Bosely Crowther
Cinderella (1950) – IMDb
Disney Archives | Bambi Character History
The Little Mermaid (1989) – Box Office Mojo
The Lion King: Film Notes
Movie Review: Disney’s ‘Tangled’ – latimes.com
Tangled (2010 Film) | Hollywood Movies | Movies | Reviews | Bollywood Movies | Hollywood News | Bollywood News – Hollywood Moviez (Production)