The Golden Age of Disney is what made Disney the major animated movie force it is today. Even though there were only five movies during the period, as the old saying goes, “quality over quantity” and these were some high quality movies with concepts that served as the bedrock for many aspects of future Disney movies. This list ranks all 5 of the Golden Age Disney movies.
This movie is at the bottom of the list because at its core, it didn’t really do anything groundbreaking in storytelling in comparison to the other three Disney movies prior. It is also relatively short at a mere 64 minutes. However, this does not keep it from being a good movie. Even though Dumbo himself doesn’t speak the movie utilizes some unconventional angles, colors, and tones to establish its own unique visual style and create a surreal world for Dumbo to observe and for the audience to enjoy. And that’s the heart of the movie: just this unusual world for the young lonely elephant to take in. And it gives way to one of Disney’s most trippy and weirdest songs of all time, Pink Elephants on Parade.
We all know this movie for what happened to young Bambi’s mother. It’s a heavy scene that helps push Bambi into him coming of age. Unlike the previous Disney movies, which heavily involved fantasy worlds and villains, this one leans towards less of that. The only villain in this movie is that of Man who has no personification but the way the animals react to his presence instills fear. The strength of this movie lies in its journey which asks a series of thought provoking questions about Bambi’s family and the world around him and leaves them quite open-ended. This proves to work as in life (which is the movie’s heart) doesn’t always have definitive answers. And the nature-like backgrounds help build upon the emotional weight these questions pose. Bambi helped give an enjoyable slice of life with a great deal of substance inhabiting the animals and world.
3. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Disney’s first feature-length film was known as Disney’s Folly given it was thought by many to fail. However, Snow White did anything but fail. It helped establish the Disney formula of a faraway fairytale land with a prince or princess and a villain who threatens the two. It helped give way to the fact that Disney didn’t give much way of what was logical but rather what would elicit a more emotional response. The animation helped contribute to the colorful and vibrant atmosphere of Snow White’s life but also could get scary as exemplified when Snow White runs through the woods on her own upon learning her stepmother wants to kill her. Then there are the dwarfs themselves. Each one is drawn differently and has a different personality based on their name. This would help give way to the different personalities of other Disney sidekicks in the future. And this movie helped establish a precedent sense of fantasy, emotion, and storytelling that would carry through in and evolve in future Disney movies.
Disney’s first film gave way to the light-hearted side of Disney but its second was the bedrock of both light and dark that would carry through virtually all Disney films that followed it. The imagery it uses to convey lessons such as the nose growing longer when lying and turning into a donkey for misbehavior is so surreal that it’s hard to forget and makes the movie distinguishable. There’s a bit of Disney magic in the film like the Blue Fairy. And much like Snow White it gives more of an emotional than logical response to the world around it. The fantasy element also leads to some of the scarier moments in the movie. There’s Stromboli locking up Pinocchio in a birdcage to keep his moneymaking puppet in his grip at all times. There’s also the coachman at Pleasure Island where the boys there get turned into donkeys and sold into slavery for their misbehaviors such as smoking, drinking, vandalism, and gambling. Pinocchio nearly turns into a donkey as well but manages to escape in time. However the coachman is never stopped and the donkeys that can’t talk are sold into slavery and we have no idea what becomes of the ones who can talk. This gives way to another good aspect about the movie, which is Pinocchio himself. He’s relatable in the fact that like most youngsters, he is naïve, gullible, and often gives into the world’s temptations. But he learns his lesson and tries to do better. Pinocchio built up its world with scariness but showed that even though things could be scary, the right path would lead to light at the end of the tunnel.
What was simply Walt Disney’s idea to have a short with Mickey Mouse as a magician, turned out to be an emotional experience by Disney all the way through. There is no dialogue in this movie outside of the host allowing moments to sink in deep. It combined classical music with abstract imagery to tell a wide variety of stories. Sometimes they weren’t even stories but rather visuals of what one might picture when hearing the music for the first time. The various stories Disney told combined with the imagery utilized in those stories and the classical music knew how to evoke some sort of emotion or showcase beauty at every turn. Whether it be the awe and wonder of Mickey Mouse being a master sorcerer and controlling the cosmos, the horror that the Chernabog and his evil spirits but the heart warm of the Ave Maria, the happy life and devastating extinction of the dinosaurs in Rite of Spring, etc. there is something in this movie bound to make you feel some sort of emotion from all of it. This is definitely something I can recommend to youngsters as even though they may not fully comprehend what the segments show, it can leave a profound impression on them and give them a deeper appreciation for things like this when they grow up.
How do you rank the Golden Age Disney films? Anything you agree or disagree with? Well leave your thoughts in the comments below!