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Rainbow Cake

The Disney Eras in a Nutshell

Cinthia Rico

Along with the years, the animated movies from Disney have been classified according to the period when they came out, most movies from each era have similarities in animation, music and even the storytelling.

Let’s start directly with “The Golden age”, from 1937 to 1942, Walt launched five movies to theaters: Snow White (duh), Pinocchio (1940), Fantasia (1940), Dumbo (1941) and Bambi (1942).

All of these are considered classics today and have a few characteristics in common: the music is joyful and catchy and was completely original for most of the movies. In addition, the over the top darkness was shown in a lot of different ways: scenes where a character is being chased in the dark, petrifying music that actually make you shiver, characters dying and others transforming in some disgusting and traumatic ways. These dark scenes are normally in between of two very happy and full of joy scenes, so the feels might get a little balanced. I don’t about you guys… but the transformation of the kids to donkeys in Pinocchio is not easy to forget… This style of traumatized kids, I mean, style of animation, got the nickname of “The Tar and Sugar Era”.

The next one is: “The Wartime Era” or “The Package Era”,  from 1943 to 1949, as its name says, this era developed during the World War II and, as you might imagine, animation received less budget because well… there was a war. This era in particular is interesting, because: first, there were mostly short films; and second, they have not really much in common between them.

And so, the films that came out were not actually successful. Although some of them are really funny, I would have a hard time believing that you have watched or heard of these, which are: Saludos Amigos (1943), The Three Caballeros (1944), Make Mine Music (1946), Fun and Fancy Free (1947), Melody Time (1948) and The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949).

We continue with “The Silver Age” or “Restoration Age”. These movies came out from 1950 to 1967, and big budget for animated features are back! And oh boy! They really make it worth it! All of these have an amazing animation with beautiful backgrounds and magical-looking settings in almost every scene. Of course, as the golden age movies, most of them are based in fairytales, which will end up being a trend followed by modern Disney movies.

The set of movies that came out in this period are: Cinderella (1950), Alice in Wonderland (1951), Peter Pan (1953), Lady and the Tramp (1955), Sleeping Beauty (1959), One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961), The sword in the Stone (1963) and The Jungle Book (1967) (the last movie on which Walt Disney ever worked).

The death of Walt marked the end of the Silver Age, as well as the beginning of “The Bronze Age” or less politely as “The Dark Age”, from 1970 to 1988. The studio’s worst period in history… Sounds dramatic, and it is! I’m actually going to write something just about The Dark Age, but for now…

During this time, the movies didn’t have a common ground other than the fact that the black lines were so heavy that even some people called them “scratchy films”. There were no princesses, no original songs and just-ok stories. Sounds crazy, right? And ok, I’m not saying that these movies are a sin or that they suck or anything like that, but the animation department kind of lost its way without Walt, and these movies were the reflection of it.

The movies are: The Aristocats (1970), Robin Hood (1973), The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977), The Rescuers (1977), The Fox and the Hound (1981), The Black Cauldron (1985), The Great Mouse Detective (1986) and Oliver and Company (1988).

Now, here comes the fun: after “The Dark Age”, and a few losses in the animation department, Disney was committed to correct its mistakes, so “The Renaissance” was born. From 1989 to 1999, Disney released ten of the most successful movies in its history: The Little Mermaid (1989), The Rescuers Down Under (1990), Beauty and the Beast (1991), Aladdin (1992), The Lion King (1994), Pocahontas (1995), The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996), Hercules (1997), Mulan (1998) and Tarzan (1999).

All of these, contrary to its predecessors, used new technologies in animation, specifically CGI. The story telling is amazing and makes it easy to understand the kind of danger for the characters and the size of the adventure. Also, the princesses and songs are back, and… oh boy! Those songs! I bet all of you still listen and sing them.

After this massive success, the animation studio kind of lost its way again *face palm*. This era is known as “The Post Renaissance Era”, from 2000 to 2008, and even though some of them were good movies, Disney doesn’t actually consider them as classics. There are no songs, princesses and well… they weren’t the success Disney was seeking. I do believe some of them have fantastic messages and tell great stories, but hey that’s just me.

The movies that came out during this period were: Fantasia 2000 (1999), Dinosaur (2000), The Emperor’s New Groove (2000), Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001), Lilo & Stitch (2002), Treasure Planet (2002), Brother Bear (2003), Home on the Range (2004), Chicken Little (2005), Meet the Robinsons (2007) and Bolt (2008).

Image recovered from: https://www.dizavenue.com/2015/08/the-7-eras-of-disney-filmmaking.html

Finally, “The Revival Era” or, as some people also call it, “The Modern-Day Era” or “The Second Renaissance”. Developed from 2009 to the present day, these movies are the result of the 180° twist at Disney Animation. They went full on computer animated movies, the return (once again) of the fairytales and even original stories with lovable and memorable characters. And, of course, they achieved an enormous financial success that keeps the factory running.

I don’t think it’s necessary for me to tell you all the movies that came out since 2009, but just to keep it simple, they go from The Princess and the Frog (2009) to Frozen II (2019).

The animation industry has been growing and evolving for the last 80+ years, and, of course, the best example is Disney! The company changed a lot through all the eras, and it keeps surprising and touching our hearts with all its magic and joy. As you may already know, I’m a huge Disney Fan, but if you already made it this far, so are you! Then, please leave a comment about your favorite movies from each of the eras! Love and thanx!

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