So I don’t know about you, but I am a fan of the Disney company. (Those of you who have been following along will already know this. Newer readers might not, as I haven’t talked about it much lately.) And one of the things I love is Disney animation. They do, and have done, some amazing things with animated movies and shorts. I love the classics, and I love the newer movies too. (We were late to the party with watching “Moana,” but I LOVED it.) Some of my favorite movies are Disney animated features.
However, there was a period of time when Disney animation almost died.
Well, maybe that’s me being dramatic, but I just watched “Waking Sleeping Beauty,” and that documentary sure made it sound like animated features were an endangered species for Disney back in the 80’s. Do any of you remember the “Black Cauldron” movie that Disney made back then? I vaguely do, because I loved the books. (Still do.) But at the time, it was too dark, and too ambitious, and from what I can tell it nearly spelled the end of animation at the Walt Disney studios.
In any case, if you’re interested in the history behind the Disney Animation Renaissance, then you should watch this movie. It goes into what happened in the Disney company as a whole, and animation specifically, that led to movies like “The Little Mermaid” and “Beauty and the Beast” being able to breathe new life into the animation department. It goes into the difficult decisions management made (decisions that sometimes don’t sound all that favorable) which either helped or hindered the animators. And it goes into the personalities behind those decisions.
It also mentions things I didn’t know. For instance, I didn’t know that “Beauty and the Beast” was the first animated film to be nominated for the Best Picture Oscar (and this was when only 5 movies were nominated per year). And I believe “Beauty” was only the 3rd Best Picture nomination received by a Disney film – the other two being “Mary Poppins” and “Dead Poets Society” (released officially by Touchstone, which I did know was a Disney label).
I also didn’t know that “An American Tail” was made by a former Disney animator who left the company, taking a bunch of his fellow animators with him. I knew there was politics in any company, but it can be rough to hear about the hard times a company you love has gone through in the past. It’s hard to understand why there was a time when people didn’t believe in something that, now, is doing so well. But this documentary does a great job of showing how things happened, and why, and what happened to change them.
If you’re interested in all things Disney (like I am), or in movie history, or in these specific Disney animated films specifically, you owe it to yourself to watch this documentary. They’re enjoyable movies to watch regardless, but knowing the climate in which they were made somehow makes them more powerful, more important.