Disney Film Eras: My Favorites and Why I Like them so Darn Much!

Today Guru Stacey of Mouse Tales is here to share a little bit of Disney Movie history with all of us. You are really going to enjoy this post. Be sure to head on over and like Mouse Tales on Facebook after you read this…and be sure to let Stacey know what you thought. 

If there is one thing that can be said about the Disney Animation franchise it’s that it is progressive. Disney does an excellent job at keeping up with the times and must dedicate a significant amount of money to focus groups because they always manage to be on top of what’s in the now. Their partnership with Pixar ultimately revolutionized the way a new generation of children would grow up watching animated movies and TV. But even before Nemo and Mike Wasowski, Disney was cranking out exceptional animated masterpieces frame by frame.

So this week I’ve decided to share what I consider my favorite flicks from each of the Disney movie eras. Our journey will begin with the Walt Disney era and we will work our way through the completely made up and arbitrarily named Pre-Renaisance era, The First Golden Age, The Second Golden Age, Renaissance, and the CGI era which I will refer to as the Disny/Pixar era even though I realize not all the CGI films were a product of the Disney/Pixar relationship. I look forward to seeing everyone’s picks in the comments section of this blog post on our Facebook fan page. I realize that each era has a plethora of amazing movies with epic memorable moments, but for simplicities sake we’re going to narrow it down to just a few per decade that I feel are movies that you have to watch before you die! (Of course if you believe in Heaven then surely all the Disney movies are up there, organized alphabetically, in Blu-Ray, with Walt just waiting around to tell you what he was thinking when he created them!)


The Walt Disney Era

You may have also heard this time period referred to as the Golden Age of Animation for the Disney Animation company. It began in 1937 and ran until 1941. During this time Walt Disney was directly responsible for the supervision of each masterpiece created and what came out of the studio during this time period are some of the most memorable and classic movies that the Disney legacy has to offer. Here are the ones Guru Kyle and I chose:

1. Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs: I mean, do I really need to justify this one? Snow White came out 75 years ago and little girls are still tripping over each other to meet her at the parks. Just in case that didn’t sink in the first time, 75 YEARS! Not many other films can boast that they feature such a memorable character. For his part in Snow White, Disney received an Academy Award complete with 7 tiny statuettes to represent each of the Dwarfs. An interesting note: critics predicted that Snow White would be a complete failure and inevitably cause the financial ruin of the studio.

2. Pinocchio: It was tough to decide between this one and Bambi (like the toughest decision I made all day, you guys), but in the end this story line is still responsible for oft uttered phrases like “I can see your nose growing!” when little munchkins are caught in a lie. And who doesn’t know “When You Wish Upon A Star”? Many little girls remember it fondly not only from this movie, but also from their favorite jewelry box. It has become an unmistakable icon for the Disney Company, and is probably just as recognizable as Mickey Mouse himself. It won the Academy Award in 1940 for Best Original Song and Best Original Score. I still listen to “Give A Little Whistle” at least once a week.

The Golden Age

So many classics were produced during this time that it was almost impossible to pick favorites. We’ve narrowed this era down from 1950-1967. There were so many to choose from that we actually broke it down in to two eras just so we could do them justice!

1. Cinderella: a classic story with a plot that has come to symbolize the dreams of little girls across the globe. Cinderella has been told 1000 different ways through countless varying mediums, but nobody did it like Disney. Cinderella Castle has become the defining icon of not only the company but the number one theme park in the world and a sight that children spend their whole little lives waiting to see. The Academy Awards nominated “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo” for Best Song, and the film received nominations for Best Sound, and Original Music Score. Roo (aka baby in my belly) gets to hear “A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes” on a daily basis and if violent and unrelenting kicking is an indication of anything, she’s a huge fan.

2. Sleeping Beauty: Much like Cinderella, her castle has become an icon of the Disney franchise and the epicenter of both the original Disneyland in California, and Disneyland Paris. Sleeping Beauty was the last fairy tale that Walt oversaw the production of before his death. Also like Cinderella, the cast of supporting characters are as memorable as Aurora herself. I love the banter between the three good fairies and one of my favorite scenes until this very day is the one where they argue over making Aurora’s cake without the aid of magic, and shoot colored lightening bolts from their wands in an effort to win the war over whose dress color is better. An unknown little bit of trivia is that originally Walt had suggested that all three fairies look alike (sort of like the three tavern wenches in Beauty & The Beast), but that opinion was vetoed in favor of the fairies having distinct personalities like that of Huey, Dewey, and Louie. One of my favorite scenes was at the end of the film where Aurora and Prince Philip dance in the clouds and her dress changes color. This was originally an idea to be used in the Cinderella movie, but was scraped and used for Sleeping Beauty instead.

3. The Jungle Book: This was the last film ever produced by Disney himself (Sleeping Beauty was the last fairy tale, just so there’s no confusion there), which makes it stand out all on it’s own. The soundtrack earns its own merit from songs like “The Bare Necessities” (which you now have stuck in your head), but uses the same themes from Snow White and Sleeping Beauty. Pay close attention to the scene where Mowgli wakes up after escaping King Louie and you’ll recognize the Sleeping Beauty theme. This film should be watched at least once because, if nothing else, it’s a timeless Disney Classic.

Honorable mentions from this era go to 101 Dalmatians, Lady and The Tramp, and Alice in Wonderland. Each deserve their own write up and in my opinion are all must see movies. These three movies have added to the ambiance of the Disney World/Disneyland park going experience in so many uncountable ways whether it be at Tony’s Town Square Restaurant in Magic Kingdom (look closely at the pavement outside and you will see a heartfelt note written in the concrete), or riding The Mad Hatter’s Tea Cups which has become a rite of passage for most children at the Happiest Place On Earth.

The Second Golden Age

In our list of completely random and arbitrarily named Disney eras we’ve chosen the Second Golden Age to represent the years between 1968 and 1979. Like the first Golden Age, this one was a toughie too just because there were so many good choices.

1. The Aristocats: This was the last project to be approved by Walt Disney himself and featured Eva Gabor as Duchess, mother of the three lovable little munchkins we would come to know throughout the film. This film has definitely shown it’s staying power by appealing to audiences stretching far beyond it’s initial release date in 1970. Even now Marie makes frequent appearances at the France pavilion in Epcot and is featured on a wide variety of merchandise. Even baby Roo has a new onesie with Marie front and center! The Aristocats was re-released in 1980 and then again in 1987 to good reception, proving it’s appeal across generational gaps.

2. The Rescuers: Released in 1977 (The Year of The Dreiz as it’s referred to in this house), The Rescuers was the first major success since the Jungle Book in 1967. This film was worked on by the famous “Nine Old Men” (Walt’s original group of star animators) and was regarded by themselves as some of their finest work. When re-released in theaters in 1983 the film began with a Mickey Mouse short, and marked the first time Mickey had graced the silver screen after a 30 year absence. Within a week of being released it became Disney’s most financially successful film to date, even surpassing the success of Mary Poppins! Orphans, mice, and pirate caves are all included in this Disney masterpiece essentially creating the perfect Disney trifecta.

The Renaissance

Finally! We’ve come to my favorite era in Disney Animation and the one I found it the toughest to choose films from. It’s called the renaissance for a reason. During the years between 1989 and 1995 Disney came out with an amazing array of animated blockbusters that still remain some of the highest grossing animated movies of all time. Experiences with characters from these movies are often some of the most sought after at all the parks, and either have rides or other attractions dedicated to them or their featured film. Feature films from this era include: The Little Mermaid, Beauty & The Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King, and Pocahontas. These are all fantastic movies, there is no arguing that. I’m serious, there’s no arguing that. Ever. You will lose.

Because I know this has been a long blog post (if you’ve made it this far, thanks for sticking with me!) and we still have another era to go, I will cut it down and only include my two favorites from this era.

2. The Little Mermaid: Now it may seem that I have a bit of a princess bias (which let’s face it, I do), but we need to give The Little Mermaid credit where it’s due. Prior to TLM Disney Animation cranked out some serious box offices flops, and marked the beginning of a turning point for Disney Animation Studios. Released in 1989, most people have no idea that development for a Little Mermaid movie began back in the 1930’s along with Snow White! The film received two Academy Awards, one for Best Song and the other for Best Original Score. They also managed to score a Grammy award for “Under the Sea” which is always a favorite in our house, and the album itself has been certified platinum 6 times!1. Beauty & The Beast: Released in 1991, B&TB has grossed over $424 million globally! If you’ve ever been to a Disney park you know what kind of demand Belle is in. You can often catch her and the Beast outside the France pavilion at Epcot, or you can have some amazing pictures taken with her at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in Norway. I’ve also seen her a time or two at Cinderella’s Royal Table wearing her blue storybook outfit. Belle is a heroine to all the brunette bookworms out there. All I wanted for my 26th birthday was a blu-ray copy of this and luckily Kyle managed to deliver! IGN has even rated B&TB as their #1 Animated Film of All Time. It inspired an Tony winning Broadway musical, and a beautiful stage show at Disney’s Hollywood Studio. Before we chose baby Roo’s (real name Ryleigh) middle name (Noelle) I pushed and pleaded for her to be Ryleigh Belle with moderate success for several months. Eventually losing to my husband and good reason.

The CGI (Disney/Pixar) Era

This era ushered in a whole new way of looking at animated films, and basically changed the way that today’s kids will view cartoons. So many good things came out of the foray in to CGI animation: Mike Wasowski, Rapunzel, just to name a few, but the potential for 3D animation also grew exponentially. Eventually there will come a time where I’m explaining to Roo that back in my day when you went to see a movie, you didn’t need to wear glasses! So here are my picks for favorites of the Disney/Pixar/CGI era:

1. Toy Story: The one that started it all. It was Pixars first feature film as well as the first film to be made entirely from CGI, and began a trilogy that exploded to include massive merchandising endeavors and even the Toy Story Midway Mania ride at Hollywood Studios. I’m not sure there is one critic out there that has something negative to say about this movie and if they do then their membership to humanity should be immediately questioned.

2. Finding Nemo: little known fact is that as of 2006 Finding Nemo was the best selling DVD of all time, with over 40 million copies sold world-wide. It received the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature and made everyone fall in love with clown fish. Also, P. Sherman, 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney. That’s all I have to say about that.

3. Up: I was hiding under your porch because I love you! I was going to leave it at two but I just can’t imagine going through this era and not mentioning Up. After all, it received 5 Academy Award nominations and received the Awards for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Score. I remember going to see this and thinking it was going to be a colorful little movie about a cranky old man and some balloons, and good for several laughs. For the most part I was correct, but if you’ve seen the first ten minutes of this film you can sort of see where I’m going when I say I needed a whole lot of happy to get over all that sad. I can’t even think about the dynamic between Carl and Ellie without tearing up. And on that note, I think I may have left some onions out on the kitchen counter.