The Three Little Pigs went on to win an Academy Award for best cartoon of the year (45). Disney's movies were becoming much more than children's entertainment; they reverberated within a nation during a period of hardship.
During the Great Depression, many theatres started doing the "double features" (Selden 56), which meant that after renting two movies to show to people, there was not much money left over for short cartoons. This worried Disney because there was no longer such demand for his little films (Krasniewicz 87). He had to think of something to do and the first thing that came to his mind was to make an animated feature-length film. As a boy in Kansas City, he had been inspired by a silent film version of Snow White and so this seemed like the perfect movie to make as it had everything that audiences wanted in films -- tragedy, romance, and humor as well, thanks to the seven dwarfs (56). With Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Disney once again outdid himself. He listened to up-and-coming singers to find the perfect voice for Snow White, finally settling on an 18-year-old trained opera singer name Adriana Caselotti. He also used professional comedians as the voices for the seven dwarfs. He utilized a special camera called a multiplane to make Snow White look 3-dimensional and more real to life than in the short cartoons (Seldon 57). This multiplane camera was enormous, taking up nearly the entire room where they were filming. In trying out this camera for Snow White, Disney made a film called the Old Mill, just to make sure that the camera did what he wanted it to do. The film was so good that it ended up winning and Oscar on its own (57). Once again, Disney had ventured into areas of cinematic innovation that would keep him at the top of his game.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs opened at New York City's Radio City Music Hall in New York on December 7, 1937 to packed audiences. It ran for five weeks in New York and then ran in Paris for 31 weeks (Seldon 59). The film had taken four years to make and it earned 8 million dollars in revenues. This seems like a lot more money when one considers that ticket prices were 25 cents for children back then (59). Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs also received and Academy Award.
In 1938, Disney had the idea to put Mickey in film version of the Sorcerer's Apprentice as the apprentice whose misuse of power causes major disaster (Thomas 152). The story is an old fairy tale that had been interpreted as a poem by Goethe and a concert piece by French composer Paul Dukas (152) and the film version would have the entire action set to music, which would make it so Mickey didn't have to speak. Disney considered that one of the reasons that Mickey couldn't play a variety of roles was because of his falsetto speaking voice (152). While this voice limited his roles, it was that very voice that made children all over the world fall in love with him.
During the late 1930s and early 1940s, Disney had other films that would go on to become childhood legends. Pinocchio and Bambi were different sorts of animated films in that, first of all, Pinocchio had mainly human characters while Bambi was rather grim and sometimes even bloody (Barrier 138). Because of these reasons, Pinocchio and Bambi didn't do that well at the box office, but it still would not change the fact that they have remained classic children's films throughout history. They are watched in hundreds of languages all around the world. Disney's name is synonymous with magic. In 1941, Disney created another memorable movie, Dumbo -- the story of a little elephant with enormous ears. Dumbo was a young elephant who was teased because of his large ears. He didn't know why people laughed at him, but he knew it was mean. He was separated from his mother by the circus and so he has "no warm trunk to cuddle up to, no one to dry his tears" (Disney Archives 2011) -- except for a little mouse named Timothy. Dumbo was based on the key animator's son who wanted Dumbo to be real and sincere -- and he was.
With the advent of computers, animation has taken on a whole new meaning. In fact, modern day cartoons are very rarely, if ever, drawn by hand. The word "cartoon" refers to something that is hand-drawn and so there are many who believe that the American cartoon is turning into a thing of the past. With the decline of hand-drawn cartoons and the rise of Pixar (and other) computer-animated blockbusters, we will see even fewer cartoons in the future (Carey 2011). Even feature films that aren't considered animated films use animation for special effects. For example, George Lucas' film Star Wars relies quite heavily on computer animation for special effects. In 1995, Toy Story became the first feature length film animated completely on computers.
Pixar's oscar-winning animator John Lasseter, the creative force behind Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc., Toy Story, a Bug's Life, Wall-E, Up, and Ratatouilee, was inspired by Disney. Though he is one of the major forces behind computer animation, he also has a profound respect for hand-drawn animation, which is shown in the film the Princess and the Frog.
Today there is a huge following of Japanese anime and some of Disney's films such Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs are known to have influenced Japanese animators. In fact, in the 1960s, Osama Tezuka, a manga artist and animator, adapted and simplified many Disney animation techniques in order to decrease costs and to limit the number of frames in productions (O'Connell 1999).
Animation has only changed for the better. Disney was a pioneer in the field of animation and he was constantly looking for new ways to improve it. The advent of computers has only improved animation and as long as there are people who keep the hand-drawn tradition alive (as there are), nothing is lost. Disney would have been amazed at what can be done in animation these days with the help of computers and with movies as sincere and heartwarming as Up and Toy Story, there is no doubt that he would be happy that animators today are still interested in touching people's lives while they entertain them as well.
Disney's cartoons were, more than anything else, entertaining while also being very relatable. With movies like Dumbo -- a little elephant who is separated from his mother, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs -- a young girl who is tricked by an evil stepmother but finds true love, and Bambi -- a doe whose mother is killed, one can definitely see that Disney wanted to create movies that were relevant, that touched people in ways that the earlier "gag" films could not do. His animated films touched on real human ideas and emotions and this is what made them so popular -- and keep them as classics even to this day.
Disney's characters are not all that different from characters that we see in some of the most popular animated features today. The young boy and the old man in the film Up create a special bond after the old man's mother dies. In Toy Story we see some toys who are afraid of their owner growing up and leaving them. In Finding Nemo a father searches for his lost son who is a fish. There are, of course, cartoons today that lack some of the qualities of the early Disney films, but that was true even in Disney's day. What is true, however, is that the best animated films of today -- Up, Toy Story, a Bug's Life, etc. -- are so good precisely because of the fact that they are inspired by Disney films.
People have said that Mickey Mouse and Walt Disney were the same personality (Gitlin 33), which isn't a crazy notion. Both man and mouse were filled with an enormous sense of love for others, for making people happy, for making people laugh, and for giving people a better quality of life -- through the Great Depression and through times of war. They are both iconic figures in American culture. They are representative of wholesomeness and creativity, good times and innovation. To see pictures of Walt Disney at his drawing board, a happy Mickey waving back, is to see true providence. While Mickey may have been lacking roles later in his mouse career, his main role in life was to bring joy into the heart of his creator, which would go on to motivate him to bring even more joy to those around him. This came…