On December 21, 1937, Walt Disney changed the world. That night, at the Carthay Circle Theater in Hollywood, an audience gathered to watch the world’s first feature-length animated film. Merely three years prior, such a night would have seemed impossible.
On November 14, 2016, Walt Disney had been dead for 50 years. But that night, at the El Capitan Theater in Hollywood, an audience gathered to watch the 56th official feature-length animated film released by Walt Disney Animation. It seemed downright routine.
It’s easy to think of Walt Disney Animation as an omnipresent force in the American consciousness. Everyone, from the most senior of senior citizens to the youngest kids in day care, has a Disney movie in their heart. Maybe it’s Pinocchio, or Peter Pan, or The Jungle Book, or Robin Hood, or The Little Mermaid, or Lilo and Stitch, or Frozen. No matter who you are, there’s a Disney movie that speaks to your childhood — that reminds you of what it feels like to be a kid.
But the seemingly-permanent nature of Walt Disney Animation’s cultural importance hasn’t always been certain. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was thought impossible to create. Walt Disney’s death seemed too much to overcome. The Little Mermaid‘s success was as surprising as anything in the company’s history. No one thought Frozen would remake Disney for a new generation.
Sometimes, it’s easy to take Walt Disney Animation’s role in our society for granted, but in reality, it’s a remarkable achievement that they’ve been able to be a consistent producer of incredible films for the better part of a century.
My goal with this project is to celebrate that legacy of film making, and to look at each step in the storied company’s journey.
Here’s the plan:
I will watch every single film produced by Walt Disney Animation and write a review for this website.
Now, it’s important to note a few things. First of all, I’m not setting any kind of time constraint on this project. Perhaps it will take a few months. Perhaps it will take a decade. Who can say? Maybe I’ll pull a Sufjan Stevens and quit 1/25th of the way through.
Second of all, I need to be specific in what films are included in this project. As of this writing, Walt Disney Animation has released 56 official feature films, from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to Moana. I will watch all of these.
There are a handful of additional films that Walt Disney Animation either created or collaborated on, and I will include some of these. Two such films, The Reluctant Dragon and Victory Through Air Power, won’t make the cut. The Reluctant Dragon is an odd little work about the Walt Disney Studios themselves, while Victory Through Air Power is a World War II-era propaganda film. Both are interesting, but don’t quite feel necessary for completion’s sake.
On the other hand, this list wouldn’t quite feel finished without these films: Song of the South (yes, seriously), So Dear to My Heart, Mary Poppins, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Pete’s Dragon (1977), and Who Framed Roger Rabbit?.
So, in total, that brings the number of films to 62.
Let’s get started.