80 Years of Animation

As D23 members, we spent an afternoon at the Disney Animation Studios in Burbank celebrating 80 years of animation with a viewing of Disney’s 50th animated full length feature, “Tangled.”

Disney Animation Studios Theater

Seated in the private theater on the Animation campus, the day began with a presentation by Disney Archivist, Dave Smith.  He recapped the 56 animated feature films by breaking them down into eras of Disney history.

He described these eras as:

1937-1942:  The Golden Age.  This was the dawn of animated movies and set Walt on solid footing for his studio.

1943-1949:  War & Reinvention.  These years were hard for the studios because of World War II.  Money and energy in the economy was focused on the effort.

1950-1967:  The Silver Age.  This era saw a large emphasis on animated movies when many popular movies were produced.

Archivist Dave Smith recaps 80 years of Disney animated movies. (apologies for the poor photo)

1968-1988:  The Changing of the Guard.  In this era following Walt’s passing, few animated movies were produced.

1989-1994:  The Second Golden Age.  This era saw the regeneration of animated movies with the success of “The Little Mermaid” and the first animated sequel “The Rescuers Down Under.”

1995-1999:  Renewal and Regeneration.  Under the leadership of Disney President Michael Eisner, the studios saw a renewed emphasis on animated features.

2000-2004:  Explorations.  During this era, there were new areas in animation being explored.

2005-2008:  Computer Age.  Disney Animation Studios began to heavily rely on digital animation instead of hand drawn cels.

2009-Present:  The Present Era.  The current run of Disney animation.

While it was duly noted in the presentation that Pixar played a role in developing animated features, it is not actually a part of the Disney eras of animation.

While almost everyone has a favorite Disney animated movie and there is the assumption that they have all been monetarily successful, it was shocking to learn that the studios struggled as often as it did.  Either due to circumstances out of its control, such as a war or The Great Depression, or some films just weren’t popular at the time, the studio was on the brink of insolvency several times in its history.  But new ideas, pushing the envelop of animation technology and fresh story lines always brought Disney back and allowed it to continue to the next step.

We were then treated to previews of two movies coming out this year.  “Beauty and the Beast,” a live action feature based on the popular animated movie will be released on March 17.  What we saw about this movie was nothing less than spectacular and reports are that many theaters are already selling out of opening day tickets (hence, we will probably not be able to do an opening day review!).  This summer will also see the release of a sequel of “Cars 3,” sure to be a hit with everyone.  It appears that 2017 will be a highly successful year for Disney Studios in both live action and animation as “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” and several others are slated for release.

Debbie as Rapunzel

The next presenter was Chris Sonnenburg, director for the new Disney Channel show “Tangled, The Series.”  He went into detail about how he developed Rapunzel’s character for a continuing television series that would remain true to her original persona.  He used snapshots from his daughter’s life and created certain elements for Rapunzel such as a diary that was both artful and insightful.

Following the feature presentation, everyone had an opportunity for a quick photo as Rapunzel.

If you would like to see the history of Disney films, which includes future release dates, we found a reference which you can see here.

Visiting the Animation and Imagineering Studios for special D23 events and presentations is something that we truly miss now that we no longer live in California, but D23 is doing more in Walt Disney World and other cities around the country, so we aren’t completely without our Disney events.  Hope to see you at the next one!

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