Back in the late thirties and early forties, the Walt Disney company had newly formed and created five classic films: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, Fantasia, Dumbo, and Bambi. On principle, they are considered perfect masterpieces, but I’m not sure if the average Disney fan actively enjoys and praises these films as much as the ones from the Disney Renaissance in the 1990s (which happens to be my fave era for Disney Animation, followed by the Disney Revival in the 2010s). The ones who do usually sing the praises of the older films tend to reject the newer ones. Well, everyone has their different tastes and favourites, and that’s fine, as long as they aren’t jerks about it.
Anyway, I have to be honest: I’m not a fan of most of Disney’s older works. Blasphemy, I know. I acknowledge that they are good and of course anyone is allowed to like them, but I feel like they’re pretty dated (honestly the movies from the 1990s don’t show their age at all) and badly paced. The newer films have stories and characters (as well as music and visuals) that resonate with me a lot better. But what do I think of each film individually from good old Walt’s Golden Age of films? I’ll do a little breakdown of each film:
SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS
The one that started it all, but does it really hold up?
Overall, it does, but I don’t think it’s THE BEST ANIMATED FILM EVER as some movie buffs/critics say. The film has great songs and really wonderful scenes (the finale is one of the greatest and most triumphant endings ever), and of course the characters are endearing (especially Grumpy and Dopey), but the pacing is pretty terrible. It doesn’t feel like a cohesive, connected film: it feels a little disjointed, like a series of vignettes about Snow White edited together for a final film, with the plot taking a backseat most of the time. The animation ranges from good to a little stiff (especially on the human characters). Granted, given how this is one of the first animated films ever, that’s bound to happen, but it goes to show how this movie shows its age.
On a side note, I can’t help but think of an alternative ending to the film had it been made in modern times (or if Disney ever decides to remake it): instead of getting kissed on her lips by her supposed true love, Grumpy wakes up Snow White with a paternal kiss on the forehead or cheek. I feel like that would’ve been a better ending just because it makes more sense story and character development wise.
So ultimately, while I would call it the most IMPORTANT animated film ever made, I wouldn’t call it the BEST.
Disney’s second full-length animated effort feels a lot more like an actual movie, and I think it’s quite possibly Disney’s greatest ever. The animation is absolutely stunning (and takes it to new worlds, like undersea and Pleasure Island), it has an actual plot and motivation for us to see where the characters are going, and has vastly greater stakes. Of course “When You Wish Upon a Star” is a classic onto itself, and you do feel the love between Pinocchio and his father. Pinocchio himself is pretty gullible, but it makes sense given how he was literally born yesterday, and you do see him go through character development.
I think the only problem is that it can be really disturbing. While the Monstro chase is scary, it’s also exciting, and you want the heroes to get out in time. The whole Pleasure Island thing is really cruel, and heavy-handed on the morality. There’s also Stromboli, who is a very disgusting stereotype of a Romani man. I think that’s the major part of the movie that hasn’t really aged very well. I think that (along with it being an older film) is why I have great appreciation for this film, but can’t watch it all the time.
Also, I’m not a huge fan of Jiminy Cricket. Or rather, I feel like he’s a little overrated? I mean he’s not exactly the best conscience, given how he gives up on Pinocchio a lot. But that’s just me.
So yeah, great movie, but could’ve done without some of the harsher aspects.
This is an interesting case. To me, it doesn’t fully feel like an animated film because it often cuts to live action footage and there’s no ongoing plot, it’s just a series of vignettes with music, visuals, and only one instance of dialogue (or rather, lyrics). While I can’t argue with it being anything other than a work of art, I have one problem: the Night on Bald Mountain/Ave Maria sequence is so magnificent that all the previous scenes feel underwhelming in comparison, at least for me. The other sequences can be great, but really, it’s the last segment that everyone loves and remembers this movie for. Because of this, there’s really nothing else I can say about the film.
Another interesting case, as this movie is just over an hour long and the protagonist is silent. It is much better paced and plotted than the previous films, but it does suffer from the same thing that hurt Pinocchio: it can get very cruel. Barring the fact that wild animals shouldn’t be performing in circuses at all, literally everyone in this film hates Dumbo for no reason other than he looks different. And it’s not like he looks hideously deformed, either! (Though you shouldn’t hate on people who are hideously deformed at any rate.) He’s just a baby, and yet so many things happen to him! That, along with the racism and the fact that the film is overly cartoony/has no basis in reality whatsoever (it got very distracting for me), can be a little hard for me to watch. I also get a little worried about the ending: are Dumbo’s ears going to stay disproportionately large forever? What happens when he grows up? But it does have one awesome thing: the love Mrs. Jumbo and Timothy Mouse (who is a very underrated character) have for Dumbo. It’s so sweet. And that’s not even touching to the heartwarming/heartbreaking “Baby Mine” sequence. So while it has its problems, the basic theme of an outcast finding someone who loves and supports him no matter what and helps him achieve his fullest potential is fantastic.
Alright, I’m not going to beat around the bush here: this film bores the everloving shit out of me. I remember as a kid I never watched this movie, and I only watched it a few times and it didn’t really resonate with me. There was only really one sequence that I loved: the “Looking For Romance” song, which is beautiful and haunting. But the rest of the movie is so BORING, as well as depressing. I’m not really a fan of talking animal films, so having to sit through a film of talking animals hanging out in nature with no real plot just annoys me. I have nothing to say about this film.
So there you have it. I guess overall these films are GOOD. Very good, in fact. But not my faves. I appreciate their significance for Disney and animation in general, but don’t expect me to leap for joy at the opportunity to watch them all the time.