Legacy Content

Jim on Film
Page 1 of 7

by Jim Miles (archives)
September 4, 2003
Jim begins a series entitled Chronologically Through the Canon: Searching for New Insights into Old Favorites looking at all of Disney's feature animations.

Chronologically Through the Canon:
Searching for New Insights into Old Favorites

Part 1

Since late1988, when I first started studying the art of Walt Disney Feature Animation, my knowledge and understanding of its history and the development of its art came in chunks. It would be many years after reading about them before I would get the chance to see films such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, The AristoCats, or The Fox and the Hound. Because of this, my first encounter with many of these films was commentary in books like Leonard Maltin’s The Disney Films, Bob Thomas’ The Art of Animation, and Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston’s The Disney Villain.

Because of this, it was very much a moment of excitement for me when I was first able to see Melody Time reassembled, The Great Mouse Detective on the big screen, and many other titles as they became available. But through this time of waiting, I read and studied what other people thought of these silver screen classics, trying to get the full understanding of their opinions without having the ability to form my own.

From all this reading, I knew the history of the studio and what people thought-there was the Golden Age, which ended with the financial failure of three of the four films that followed Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs as well as the closing of European markets due to the war. There were time-filling “package? films, the influence of the Xerox process on the use of lines, and so on.

As I was able to watch some of these films for the first time, I saw for myself how they fit together-visually The AristoCats fits between The Jungle Book and Robin Hood; Saludos Amigos is a stark contrast to Bambi; and so on.

This month, however, I decided to embark on something I had wanted to do for a long time. I decided to watch all forty-two full-length animated films created by Walt Disney Feature Animation-the canon-in the order of their release, watching each film without too much of a time lapse between viewings.

I didn’t know what I would accomplish by this. I have long since moved from believing other people’s opinions to forming and supporting my own . . . And I’ve watched most of these films so many times, I can see connections between the films and sense the direction of stylistic movement. But surprisingly, I found the series to be unbelievably enlightening, and I discovered first-hand many interesting details about these films that I wouldn’t have ever seen otherwise. Furthermore, because I was watching these films for a purpose beyond pure enjoyment, I became more aware of techniques, trends, and styles present in the films.

In my columns this month and next, I’ll be sharing some of the insights I gained through this process. I’m not necessarily claiming that these are earth-shattering insights, but they are what occurred to me as I watched these films, insights that helped me to better understand the history of these forty-two amazing films.

To begin with, below is a list of the forty-two films with their original release year:

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
Saludos Amigos
The Three Caballeros
Make Mine Music
Fun and Fancy Free
Melody Time
The Adventures of Ichabod and Mister Toad
Alice in Wonderland
Peter Pan
Lady and the Tramp
Sleeping Beauty
One-Hundred-and-One Dalmatians
The Sword and the Stone
The Jungle Book
The AristoCats
Robin Hood
The Many Adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh (1977)
The Rescuers (1977)
The Fox and the Hound (1981)
The Black Cauldron (1985)
The Great Mouse Detective (1986)
Oliver & Company
The Little Mermaid
The Rescuers Down Under
Beauty and the Beast
The Lion King
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Fantasia 2000
The Emperor’s New Groove
Atlantis: The Lost Empire
Lilo and Stitch
Treasure Planet