Good Advice From Disney Animated Features

by Jim Korkis, contributing writer

I am working on a project that requires me to rewatch all 53 of the Disney animated features produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation.

Thank heavens the project doesn’t include all the Disney live-action films with a signficant animation segments, like Song of the South (1946) and Mary Poppins (1964). Nor does it encompass the 46 animated features from DisneyToon Studios, even though some of those films received a theatrical release, including A Goofy Movie (1995), Return to Neverland (2002), Piglet’s Big Movie (2003), Planes (2013) and others.

The project also does not require me to rewatch the 14 animated feature films produced by Pixar since it is operated as a separate entity from Walt Disney Feature Animation, nor do I have to review the stop-motion animated features, like The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), and James and the Giant Peach (1996), among others.

And, obviously, I do not have to concern myself with the animated features that The Walt Disney Company has acquired over the years, or ones that it merely distributes, like the Hayao Miyazaki films made for Studio Ghibli.

In general, I think the public and most Disney fans just lump all these films together as "Disney animated feature films." However, there is a very different purpose and tone for each of these separate units.

Walt Disney Feature Animation began with Walt and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937).

Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was the first U.S. animated feature film. It was also the first animated feature to be produced using cel animation and in color.

While most people consider the film to also be the first animated feature film ever made, some scholars have argued that seven films using puppets or stop-motion should be considered:

  • El Apóstol (1917), Sin Dejar Rastros (1918) and Peludópolis (1931) – were all directed by Quirino Cristiani, and reportedly drawn in the style of political editorial cartoons. All copies of the films were destroyed in a fire and are considered officially lost, so it has been difficult to accurately evaluate what they truly looked like when they were first screened.
  • The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926) – directed by Lotte Reiniger, was made using cardboard cutouts like shadow puppets and this film has been shown on TCM.
  • The New Gulliver (1935) – directed by Aleksandr Ptushko and A. Vanichkin, mostly used stop-motion puppets. These puppets had removable heads with pre-molded expressions (similar to stop-motion techniques used by George Pal and Tim Burton).
  • The Tale of the Fox (1937) – directed by Irene and Wladyslaw Starevich, also used stop-motion puppetry. The film was actually completed seven years earlier but was not released at the time due to challenges with the soundtrack.
  • The Seven Ravens (1937) – directed by Ferdinand and Hermann Diehl, was yet another stop-motion animated film.

There is no record that Walt Disney ever saw any of these films. For myself, and I think most of the world, I would have difficulty considering any of these films, as good as they may have been, as what people think of as a traditional animated feature.

It would be like saying that I was the prototype for someone like actor Chris Evans who plays Captain America (my favorite Marvel comic book character, especially in the stories done by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in the 1960s and 1970s). Yes, we are both male so there are some similarities, but I think the differences are much more significant that no one would confuse the two of us.

For me, animated feature films begin with Snow White.

As early as 1932, Walt Disney considered making a feature length animated film in Technicolor. In May 1933, it was announced that Walt was developing Alice in Wonderland. Popular silent screen actress Mary Pickford would appear as a live action Alice in an animated wonderland (in a more elaborate version of the early short Alice Comedies that Walt had produced).

When Paramount Pictures released their fully live action version of the story in December 1933, it helped kill the Disney development of the project.

Walt initiated talks with his friend and folk comedian Will Rogers to star in a feature length film titled Rip Van Winkle. Rogers would have appeared as the title character in live-action, but the world with the little bearded men playing at nine pins would have been animated. Rogers untimely death in an airplane crash ended that dream.

Around the same time, Walt was also in discussions with King Kong’s film producer Merian C. Cooper about a co-production to make an animated feature of Victor Herbert’s operetta Babes in Toyland.

No one had ever made a traditional cartoon full-length feature length film because no one thought audiences would be interested. People believed that no one would sit still long enough for a feature-length cartoon and would quickly be bored with joke after joke after joke. Others proclaimed that the bright cartoon colors would irritate eyes watching for that amount of time.

In 1933 in Sweden, Willard G. Triest working for the vice president of United Artists film distribution, put together a 55-minute compilation of Disney short cartoons to try to promote booking them into theaters in Scandinavia.

It was an immediate sell-out in theaters in Sweden, prompting additional prints to be made for theaters in Norway and Denmark, and followed by long-running releases of this program in 20 other countries, including France.

The continued success of this compilation convinced Walt that American audiences would accept a feature-length animated film.

By October 1934, Walt had made his decision that his first animated feature film would be based on the story of Snow White. The Disney version was not so much inspired by the original Brothers Grimm fairy tale, but by the 1916 silent film adaptation that Walt had seen as a young teenager.

While in production, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was ridiculed by Hollywood as "Disney’s Folly."

When the film premiered at the Carthay Circle Theater in Hollywood in December 1937, it sent shockwaves through the film industry because it was just as good, if not better, than the best of Hollywood’s live action films. In fact, it became the highest grossing film of all time and only dethroned from that position by the release of Gone With the Wind in1939.

Its success prompted other film studios to put into production fantasy films, including MGM’s The Wizard of Oz and Max Fleischer’s Gulliver’s Travels.

Walt, in anticipation of the success of the film, had already acquired a multitude of other properties and had them in various stages of development.

This was the beginning of Walt Disney Feature Animation that became for decades the preeminent animation studio whose development of technology and production processes along with its approach to content influenced other animation studios worldwide.

In somewhat recent years, satellite feature animation studios included Walt Disney Feature Animation Florida (1989–2004), responsible for films like Mulan (1998) and Lilo and Stitch (2002), and Walt Disney Feature Animation France (1994–2003), responsible for films like Tarzan (1999).

The most recent Disney animated feature film, Frozen (2013), is the highest-grossing animated feature film ever produced, winning Academy Awards for Best Animated Feature Film and Best Original Song.

I have discovered there have been several benefits to rewatching all of these films. It is fascinating to see the development from film to film as well as the fact that the films remain timeless, not tied to the era when they were made.

In addition, I constantly run across words of good advice, comfort, and inspiration that I have long forgotten even though I have seen these films so many times.

To brighten your day, here are a few phrases from each of the 53 films that caught my attention. I am sure you have favorites of your own.

Film Quote

1. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)

"She's a female! And all females is poison! They're full of wicked wiles!" – Grumpy

2. Pinocchio (1940)

"A conscience is that still small voice that people won't listen to. That's just the trouble with the world today." – Jiminy Cricket

3. Fantasia (1940)

"The one composition of Tchaikovsky's that he really detested was his 'Nutcracker Suite,' which is probably the most popular thing he ever wrote. " – Deems Taylor

4. Dumbo (1941)

"The very things that hold you down are going to lift you up." – Timothy Mouse

5. Bambi (1942)

"Everything in the forest has its season. Where one thing falls, another grows. Maybe not what was there before, but something new and wonderful all the same." – Bambi's Mother

6. Saludos Amigos (1943)

"A new day's waiting to start; you must meet it, wake up and greet it, with a gay song in your heart!" – Title Song lyric

7. The Three Caballeros (1945)

"Through fair or stormy weather, we stand close together like books on the shelf." – Title Song lyric

8. Make Mine Music (1946)

"Miracles never really die." – Narrator, "The Whale Who Wanted to Sing at the MET"

9. Fun and Fancy Free (1947)

"Here, just look at the morning paper. Turn to any page. You'll find the whole world worryin' about some future age. But why get so excited? What's gonna be is gonna be. The end of the world's been comin' since 1903. That's, uh, B.C., of course." – Jiminy Cricket

10. Melody Time (1948)

"The Lord is good to me and so I thank the Lord for giving me the things I need, the sun and rain and an apple seed." – Johnny Appleseed

11. The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)

"Weasels I know are deceiving and not to be trusted at all." – Cyril Proudbottom

12. Cinderella (1950)

"Even miracles take a little time." – The Fairy Godmother

13. Alice in Wonderland (1951)

"Nothing's impossible." – Doorknob

14. Peter Pan (1953)

"A jealous female can be tricked into anything." – Captain Hook

15. Lady and the Tramp (1955)

Lady: "But we shouldn't."
Tramp: "I know. That's what makes it fun. Start building some memories."

16. Sleeping Beauty (1959)

"It can only do good, dear, to bring joy and happiness." – Fauna the fairy

17. 101 Dalmatians (1961)

"You've been thinking? Now look here, Horace! I warned you about thinking!" – Jasper

18. The Sword in the Stone (1963)

"That love business is a powerful thing. I'd say it's the greatest force on earth." – Merlin

19. The Jungle Book (1967)

"When you find out you can live without it and go along not thinking about it, I'll tell you something true: The bare necessities of life will come to you." – Baloo the bear

20. The Aristocats (1970)

"Ladies don't start fights, but they can finish them!" – Marie

21. Robin Hood (1973)

"Keep your chin up, some day there will be happiness again." – Robin Hood

22. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977)

"What I like most of all is just doing nothing. When grown-ups ask, ‘What are you going to do?’ and you say, ‘Nothing’, and then you go and do it." – Christopher Robin

23. The Rescuers (1977)

Madame Medusa: "You must gain their confidence... make them like you."
Snoops: "How do you do that?"
Madame Medusa: "You FORCE them to like you, idiot!"

24. The Fox and the Hound (1981)

"Darlin’, forever is a long, long time, and time has a way of changing things." – Big Mama

25. The Black Cauldron (1985)

"Then you are a very foolish lad. Untried courage is no match for his evil. Just remember that." – Dallben

26. The Great Mouse Detective (1986)

"There's always a chance, Doctor, as long as one can think." – Basil of Baker Street

27. Oliver & Company (1988)

"Isn't it rather dangerous to use ones entire vocabulary in a single sentence?" – Francis

28. The Little Mermaid (1989)

"If I may say, far better than any dream girl is one of flesh and blood, one warm, and caring, and right before your eyes." – Grimsby

29. The Rescuers Down Under (1990)

"I didn’t make it all the way through third grade for nothing." – McLeach

30. Beauty and the Beast (1991)

Beast: "I want to do something for her... but what?"
Cogsworth: "Well, there's the usual things: flowers... chocolates... promises you don't intend to keep... "

31. Aladdin (1992)

"You're only in trouble if you get caught." – Aladdin

32. The Lion King (1994)

"The past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it or learn from it." – Rafiki

33. Pocahontas (1995)

"Sometimes the right path is not the easiest one." – Grandmother Willow

34. The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)

"Life’s not a spectator sport. If watchin’ is all you’re gonna do, then you’re gonna watch your life go by without ya." – Laverne

35. Hercules (1997)

"A true hero isn’t measured by the size of his strength, but by the strength of his heart." – Zeus

36. Mulan (1998)

"A single grain of rice can tip the scale. One man may be the difference between victory and defeat." —The Emperor of China

37. Tarzan (1999)

"Close your eyes. Now forget what you see. What do you feel?" – Kala

38. Fantasia/2000 (1999)

"That age old question: What would happen if you gave a yo-yo to a flock of flamingos?" – James Earl Jones

39. Dinosaur (2000)

"Some things start out big, and some things start out small, very small. But sometimes the smallest thing can make the biggest changes of all." – Plio

40. The Emperor’s New Groove (2000)

"He's not as dead as we would have hoped." – Kronk

41. Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)

"We done a lot of things we're not proud of. Robbing graves, eh, plundering tombs, double parking. But, nobody got hurt. Well, maybe somebody got hurt, but nobody we knew." – Vinny

42. Lilo and Stitch (2002)

"This is your badness level. It's unusually high for someone your size. We have to fix that." – Lilo

43. Treasure Planet (2002)

"You got the makings of greatness in you, but you got to take the helm and chart your own course. Stick to it, no matter the squalls! And when the time comes you get the chance to really test the cut of your sails, and show what you're made of..." – John Silver

44. Brother Bear (2003)

"Everything will become clear to you when you see things through another's eyes." – Kenai’s spirit voices

45. Home on the Range (2004)

"Step lightly, girls! The male of the species can be extremely hostile." – Mrs. Calloway

46. Chicken Little (2005)

"You gotta be ready to listen to your children, even if they have nothing to say." – Buck Cluck

47. Meet the Robinsons (2007)

"I'M NOT EXAGGERATING! Well, yes I am, but that's not the point!" – Wilbur

48. Bolt (2008)

"Ring, ring! Who's there? Destiny? I've been expecting your call." – Rhino

49. The Princess and the Frog (2009)

"My Daddy never did get what he wanted. But he had what he needed. He had love. He never lost sight o' what was really important." – Tiana

50. Tangled (2010)

"I promise. And when I promise something, I never, ever, break that promise. Ever." – Rapunzel

51. Winnie the Pooh (2011)

"It's a good thing I noticed it. Otherwise, I wouldn't have seen it." – Winnie the Pooh

52. Wreck-It Ralph (2012)

"I don't need a medal to tell me I'm a good guy." – Wreck it Ralph

53. Frozen (2013)

"The heart is not so easily changed, but the head can be persuaded." – Grand Pabbie