October 21, 2011 § 2 Comments
Ever since the release of its first animated film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, in 1937, Walt Disney animation has been creating movie magic for people of all ages.
Since that first release over 200 movies (including collaborations with Pixer, and non-animated movies such as the Narnia series and Pirates of the Caribbean) have been produced by the Disney conglomerate.
However, there is great debate among fans as to which generation of movies are the ‘best’.
One argument is that the movies brought out during the ‘Disney Renaissance’ period (1989-1999) have been the best of them all.
Movies produced by Disney during this time include: The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King, Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules, Mulan and Tarzan.
And there is pleanty of evidence, in terms of award-winning success, to back this claim. Just look at these facts:
-Beauty and the Beast made Academy Award history in 1992 when it became the first animated movie of all time to be nominated in the ‘Best Picture’ category (since then both Up and Toy Story 3 have also been nominated)
-Aside from it’s ‘Best Picture’ nomination, Beauty and the Beast was nominated for 5 other awards that year, winning two, ‘Best Original Score’ and ‘Best Original Song’ for the beautiful Tale as Old as Time.
-Aladdin, The Lion King and the Little Mermaid all won two Academy Awards for ‘Best Original Score’ and ‘Best Original Song’ for A Whole New World, Can You Feel the Love Tonight and Under the Sea respectively; Tarzan also won ‘Best Original Song’ for Phil Collins’ You’ll Be in My Heart.
-At the Golden Globes Beauty and the Beast won ‘Best Musical or Comedy’ in 1992, as did The Lion King in 1995 and Toy Story 2 in 2000; both Aladdin (1993) and Toy Story (1996) were nominated for the same award.
-From 1989 to 1999, these 10 movies were nominated for a total 24 Academy Awards, winning 11.
-And finally, The Lion King remains the highest grossing hand-drawn animated movie of all time, earning $US 912,985,069; it’s re-release into cinemas this year looks to help cement that status, clocking up $US 30.2 million in its opening weekend.
What I think!
Personally, I’m inclined to believe that the set of movies brought out during the ‘Disney Renaissance’ are the best produced – but perhaps that’s because those were the Disney movies I was brought up, being a child of the 90’s.
For me, most of my iconic Disney moments come from these movies – Beauty and the Beast dancing to Tale as Old as Time, Aladdin and Jamine’s magic carpet ride, Ariel and Eric being serenaded by a group singing animals, Musafa falling to his death/Simba climbing Pride Rock, the list could go on.
And the same goes for those classic Disney songs, for me, they come from the same era – once more, Tale as Old as Time (Beauty and the Beast), Under the Sea (Little Mermaid), A Whole New World (Aladdin), Circle of Life/I Just Can’t Wait to be King (The Lion King)…
But don’t get me wrong, I am as much a fan as the ‘real’ classics – the ones coming before the ‘Renaissance’ – you know the ones I mean: Snow White, Cinderalla, Sleeping Beauty, The Jungle Book, Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland…. do I really need to continue?
I mean, who can forget the Lady and Tramp spaghetti/meatball scene, Wendy, John and Michael flying out the window to Never Land, Alice falling down the rabbit-hole, the heartbreaking scene in Bambi when his mother is shot by hunters or Pinocchio crying “I’m a real boy!”.
All of these, and many, many more, are to me, some of the greatest Disney moments of all time.
Perhaps then, it would be better for me to say that the greatest Disney movies, don’t just come from the period 1989-1999, but from before 2000. From a time where music and wonder abounded.
Moving forward: Away from the ‘Princess’
Since 2000, there has been a shift in Disney movies, particularly with its move to collaborate with Pixar creating 12 successful movies including the Toy Story trilogy (admittedly one of my favourites – I was one among many who cried in Toy Story 3), Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc and Wall-E among others.
What is interesting about these ‘new’ types of Disney films is they have shied away from being adaptations of fairy tales and princess stories – and not by coincidence.
Those types of movies aren’t seen to be the big money earners anymore. In fact, 2011’s release of Tangled is said by Ed Catmull, president of Pixar and Disney animation studios to be the last of the ‘princess’ movies:
“They may come back later because someone has a fresh take on it … but we don’t have any other musicals or fairy tales lined up”
In fact, Tangled (the modern-day version of Rapunzel), was originally going to be called Rapunzel, after the fairy tale it is based on, but was changed as it was to be too feminine and therefore unattractive to boys.
Catmull says, “Some people might assume it’s a fairy tale for girls when it’s not. We make movies to be appreciated and loved by everybody.”
And it’s not all been magical and wonderful – Disney has come under criticism over a number of issues.
One being the use of subliminal messages – it has been said that in the in Aladdin where our hero goes to woo Jasmine on the balcony he says “take off your clothes”.
And in the Lion King, when Simba lays down on top of a cliff the word ‘sex’ can be seen in the sky, though arguably the word can also be read as ‘SFX’.
Another controversy is the stereotyping that goes on in Disney films, with perhaps the most controversial being the opening lyrics to Arabian Nights in Aladdin, with the original lines saying:
‘Where they cut off your ear/if they don’t like your face/its barbaric but hey, it’s home” After six months of heavy protesting by the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee the ‘cut off your ear/if they don’t like your face’ lines were changed, but ‘its barbaric, but hey, it’s home’ stayed.
One final criticism that’s been laid upon Disney movies, particularly of those pre-90s is the lack of ethnic and racial diversity – the majority of Disney princesses, at least originally, were white.
But since the 1990s, there has been a branching out – Jasmine is Middle Eastern (Aladdin), Mulan is from Asia, Pocahontas is Native American and Tia, from 2010’s Princess of the Frog is African-American.
However, for me, in spite of the controversies, Disney movies remain among the fondest of my childhood. And perhaps I’m a little snobbish in my (general) dislike for Disney movies post-2000.
But for me the classics will always be the ones that I grew up on, that I watched and re-watched and continue to watch today.