In 1937 the world of animation changed. A man named Walt Disney launched an 84 minute ‘cartoon’ called Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and in so doing, started a war that continues to this day!
Of course, the war took some time to really get going. For decades, no other studio was able to compete with Disney’s level of character animation and artistic execution. Many tried, but I challenge you to remember any of the earliest efforts!
It looked like the medium of feature-length animation would belong to only one studio. But then Walt Disney died.
To the credit of the animators left behind, they made a valiant effort to carry on. And many fine films still set the pace for other
animation studios. But it was inevitable that that would change. With better schools and the ‘legitimizing’ of drawing ‘cartoons’, other studios now had access to top rate animators.
The war began in earnest!
As with the cartoons though, the first volleys by the contenders were hit and miss. Many good attempts were made, but again, it is hard to remember them. But the 1970’s and early 1980’s were a time of creative stagnation for Disney, and this allowed other studios to creep up in the rankings. But I believe one of the first films that really put Disney on notice was Brad Bird’s The Iron Giant. For the first time, Disney may not have been losing the war, but they were starting to lose a few battles.
In more recent times, films like Shrek, Madagascar, Kung-Fu Panda, and Despicable Me, have wounded the great Disney Studio.
But have they defeated it?
Not by a long shot! In the late 1980’s, The Little Mermaid let the enemy know that Disney wasn’t going to surrender. A string of hits brought the studio back stronger than ever, albeit, with a few misfires.
Disney really cannot claim to make only ‘classics’, although it does. But it can claim to have two outstanding qualities for its
feature-length animation: Longevity and consistency. No matter what mistakes are made, Disney can be counted on to regroup and return to the top of the box office.
The recent disappointment over the reaction to The Princess and the Frog is a case in point, as it was followed up by the smash hit
Disney does it again! And thus cements the second part of the Triple Threat.
But the third part of the Triple Threat is the hardest for Disney to claim. Live action is perhaps the biggest battlefield of all, with
many more studios joining the fight.
How does Disney hold up against such powerhouses as Universal Studios? Find out in Part Three of this series entitled Disney
Versus: Live Action Studios.
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