Walt Disney Animation Studio’s has produced 60 films over the years, from their first full-length feature in 1937, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, to their newest and Oscar-nominated film Encanto, which was released this past November. Depending on the time the movie was released, Disney has classified their movies into a specific era: The Golden Age (1937-1942), The Wartime Era (1943-1949), The Silver Age (1950-1967), The Bronze Age (1970-1988), The Disney Renaissance (1989-1999), Post Renaissance Era (2000-2009), and The Revival Era (2010-Present).
The most known eras are arguably the Disney Renaissance and the Revival Era. In Disney’s Renaissance Era, princess movies like Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, and Pocahontas were released, while the Revival Era featured the newer movies of Frozen, Moana, and Wreck-It Ralph. The Wartime Era was their least popular with almost all the movies released during that time being virtually unknown today. It was not until the Renaissance and Post Renaissance Eras that Disney Studios started releasing more movies that are still popular today. In fact, many of the movies from these two eras have been adapted for live-action films such as Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, and Mulan. While all the movies that have been released by Disney Studios are worth watching, you’ll want to read on for more on the different eras and for the best movie to watch from each.
The Golden Age: 1937 – 1942
The Golden Age of Disney studios marked the transition from shorts to feature-length films. On top of an already successful studio, Disney Studios decided to make the switch from their popular whimsical Silly Symphonies to Technicolor full-length movies of an hour to an hour and a half in length. With the introduction of these feature-length films, the old style of producing multiple shorts slowly died out.
As the first feature-length film produced by Disney Animation Studios, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), is one of their most notable films to date. The story is adapted from a Brother’s Grimm story of a similar plot. Utilizing both songs and speaking, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was also the first animated work to use the multi-plane camera to create the illusion of three-dimensionality.
The Wartime Era 1943 – 1949
The Wartime Era was properly named as this was the time America joined the war. Due to most of the writers being drafted, the films procured in this era were mostly anthologies. By producing anthologies, Disney Animation Studios was able to reduce the cost of producing movies. Unfortunately, this era was one of the least well-known Disney eras with only a handful of movies released.
One of the anthologies produced during this era was The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949) which adapts two literary classics: The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving. This semi-spooky tale combines these two separate segments into a one-hour length movie.
The Silver Age 1950 – 1967
The Silver Age is also known as the Disney Era of Restoration or the Postwar Era. Regardless of the name, this era is characterized not only by returning to large production films but by also being innovative on a visual level. Vivid backgrounds and colors are used to give the films in this era a more magical feel. Ordinary scenes are brightened and enhanced to add charm and warmth. The goal in this ago was to continue with the lower production costs while also speeding up the process to release the films.
The Sword in the Stone (1963) is one of many films produced in this era. Despite the poor reviews from critics, this film was actually a box office success. Combining song, vivid colors, and humor, this film is full of worthwhile lessons while being enjoyable to watch. It was also the last move to hit the market before Walt Disney’s death in 1966.
The Bronze Age 1970 – 1988
In The Bronze Age, Disney decided to diverge from classic storylines based on fairytales and books and move into new, original plots. While this was a new and exciting time for the future of Disney Studios, this era was also known as the Dark Ages as it directly followed the death of Walt Disney. The original plots seemed like a good idea at the time but were ultimately not received well in the box office aspect. The storylines were new and interesting, but the budgets were among the highest of all their films.
Perhaps one of the most expensive Disney movies made was The Fox and The Hound (1981). Critics praised the acting and animation of this film but said that it was not groundbreaking enough. The film was a success at the box office regardless and was considered one of the best Disney movies of which Walt Disney himself was not a part of. This is one of the Disney movies whose popularity increased over time making the film more popular later rather than when it was originally released.
The Disney Renaissance 1989 – 1999
In the next era, The Disney Renaissance, Disney returned to its roots by moving back to adapting classic fairytales into animated films. They still used some techniques learned in the Bronze Age, but ultimately decided to return to simple plot structures, story adaptations, and song.
Know as one of Disney’s darkest films, The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996) incorporated all the features of the Disney Renaissance. Dark topics of torture, religious persecution, lust, and even genocide make this film stand out among the others of this time. To offset the dark subjects, comedic relief in the form of three talking gargoyles help add to the film’s success. The anthems included in this film such as God Help the Outcasts and Hellfire help show the diversity of dark and light themes.
Post Renaissance Era 2000 – 2009
In the Post Renaissance Era, the films changed the plot and visual styles to create stories that touch on family, personal growth, and the search for one’s own identity. After the success of the Disney Renaissance era, Disney Studios had high hopes for the Post Renaissance Era. Unfortunately, things did not go as planned as many of the films of this era flopped at the box office. Dinosaur (2000) was the first Disney film to be shot in real locations, as opposed to in the studio, and was digitally generated with prehistoric dinosaurs. This film was also a hybrid of live-action and animation styles. Of all the films in this era, Dinosaur grossed the best at the box office.
The Revival Era 2010 – Present
The Revival Era is the era we are in today. It is a blend of all the different styles, themes, and ideas throughout the history of Disney Animation Studios. After the unexpected news of the Post Renaissance Era, Disney was able to revive its name with the success of its first few movies of this era. At this time, there is no official word on a new era for the studios.
Tangled (2010) adapts the story of Rapunzel into a fun and action-filled movie. Tangled is Disney’s most expensive movie ever made coming in with a budget of 260 million. The movie actually spent six years in production to make it one of the most well-known in this era.
A movie about the King of Pop has landed at Lionsgate with Graham King producing.
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