The animated and live action films produced by the Walt Disney American production company are almost synonmously associated with ones childhood. The films that we watched as youngsters are often formed around memories of childhood. And, so are the films of Walt Disney.
Since the production companies inception in 1923, founded by Walt and Roy Disney, ‘as the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio, Walt Disney Productions established itself as a leader in the American animation industry before diversifying into live-action film production, television, and travel. Taking on its current name in 1986, The Walt Disney Company expanded its existing operations and also started divisions focused upon theatre, radio, music, publishing, and online media.’
From the first film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), not only did they create a world of fantasy, with astounding graphics, which had a flair, a weightlessness and a sense of awe which has carried on in to the rest of the films. The film, which had a modest budget of $1,488,423, raked up an impressive $416 million worldwide, including several reissues. ‘The film won an Academy Honorary Award for Walt Disney “as a significant screen innovation which has charmed millions and pioneered a great new entertainment field”‘.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs proved to be the beginning of decades of wonderful, elegant film making by the Disney Company. Other notable Disney films:
Pinocchio (1940) – With a budget of $2,289,247, the film grossed $84,254,167 worldwide including reissues.
Dumbo (1941) – budget – $950,000, the film grossed $1.5 million.
Facts and figures aside. Disney handed shaped a generation, he shaped many generations. The elegance of the animation, the wonder of the storytelling and the happy endings are all ingredients perfect for the young and innocent.
Quite often careers were formed and shaped under Walt Disney’s guidance. Perhaps, most notably, that of Julie Andrews (Mary Poppins, 1964). Who was successful stage actor in the ’60s, but who found an unexpected career as the Practically Perfect Mary Poppins, whose grace, politeness and screen presence has formed her own career.
As the years progressed, the animation improved and when the films were released they were a sure box office hit. To name but a few, The Lion King (1994), The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996), Beauty and the Beast (1991), The Parent Trap (1998).
I could go on, but, perhaps my main point is that, as kids, we don’t understand the affect which films have on us. The positive influence, the sense of believing in our dreams and that they will come true, the fact that there will always be a happy ending. As kids we need this escapism, which as adults, we are not allowed to have. The Disney films which are produced nowadays feel worn out and old, there is no sense of awe or wonder. They feel like cash cows, simply as a way to keep audiences happy and the production companies running.
All in all, Disney films have shaped many a generation and it is the ones from the 1930s to the 1990s which we remember. The Lion King is still a family favourite and I expect it will be for many more generations.