A look at the Mouse House’s body of work
I have set myself a task born of madness, in the months of November and December, I shall be seeing if is indeed possible for me – a mad animation nut with a blog – to review all of the Disney Classics in a row, one a day. From Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to Wreck-It Ralph (or possible Frozen if I can fit time in).
A tall order, yes, probably even more so if the work of Disney wasn’t so far etched into my brain, as indeed, it is in so many of us.
I’m only including the cannon classics in this, and only those 52 films that make it up. No looking at the numerous direct-to-videos that Disney released, none of Disney’s live-action movies (unless you count Dinosaur* as live-action), and none of the other theatrical animated films that Disney published and distributed – including Pixar’s – either.
I get to them in time, certainly. If I don’t go mad with the attempt to do a review a day.
Walt Disney – both the company and the man – have a long and incredibly interesting history, from the earliest Laugh-O-Grams and their Alice Comedies, to the adventures of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, through Mickey Mouse and his friends. Not to mention the progression of the artists’ prowess that can be seen by going through the Silly Symphonies in chronological order.
The Silly Symphonies, of course, were a series of theatrical shorts created out of a talk between Disney and legendary animation composer Carl Stalling about whether the animation or the music should be the key focus for animated subjects.
These shorts became the first roots of the metaphorical tree that would become the Disney film cannon, a thriving breeding ground for the animators and assorted artists to hone their skills and create better and more sophisticated work, as well as a place to innovate with the technical process of film making. From their use of colour (no doubt aided by Disney exclusive rights to the three-strip Technicolor process at the time), to a towering – and expensive – Multi-plane camera that added a much needed level of depth to the otherwise two-dimensional art.
The work serves a secondary purpose, for Walt Disney had an ambitious plan, to make a fully animated, feature film (and then hopefully, more). Part of this was due to necessity, it cost a lot of money to make the shorts that Disney was producing and Disney didn’t have the backing afforded to other, much larger studios of the time. Disney announced his intent, to a skeptical world that didn’t believe that audiences would sit and watch a cartoon that was an hour and a-half long, calling it “Disney’s Folly”. What they didn’t know is that Disney had something much more sturdier than a mere “cartoon” in mind.
It is a strange thing to think today, with every major studio pumping out animated films as if it’s going out of fashion that a feature film could be seen as risky. Then again, things have changed dramatically since 1937 since that first film first saw the light of day. Yet the Disney company is still here, surviving bitter strikes, the second world war, staff walk outs, attempted share buyouts, competition from rival studios, and the untimely death of it titular owner.
Some great films have come from the house the mouse built, and some less than great. Though different people have different opinions onto the various qualities of the films, myself included. I know that some won’t like my opinion of this or that film, or wonder why I hold such and such in acclaim. Yet beneath all the differences, there is still a shared interest I hope, in the art of animation, the joyousness of imagination and the work of such a prolific company.
I wonder what Walt would have thought of where his once small company is now and if it would have been what he had envisioned in his mind?
Probably not… Ah well.
Luck and time, etc, be with me…
*Which really shouldn’t be in the cannon in my opinion.