A Second Disney Renaissance?
Think back to 1989, if you’re old enough, if not just think back as far as you can remember. I was but a tender age of 7 when Disney came out with a new movie about a mermaid. This film, for some reason, as a 7 year old boy, intrigued me. The film was Disney’s The Little Mermaid and was the start of what would be dubbed “The Disney Renaissance”. Prior to 1989, Disney Animation had lost its way. Many in the animation studio would tell you that Disney became much more big business as opposed to the creative melting pot Walt had build decades prior.
The 1980’s was a dismal time for the animation studio, which included hostile take over attempts and box office flops such as The Black Cauldron and to a lesser extent The Great Mouse Detective. The Little Mermaid was a resurgence of creative juices into Disney Animation Studios and would be followed by such films as Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King, Mulan and Tarzan. In all there were 10 films that are now considered to be a part of the Disney Renaissance.
After 1999 Disney Studios began to produce box office dud after box office dud…such as Chicken Little. The Renaissance was over and the studio was losing out to Disney partner Pixar for domination at the box office.
This brings us to what we are talking about today. In 2006 Disney outright purchased Pixar making Ed Catmull and John Lasseter the head of not only Pixar but also Disney Animation Studios. The change came after Michael Eisner was replaced as CEO by Bob Iger who saw the acquisition of Pixar as vital to the future of Disney.
In 2009 Disney Animation Studios released The Princess Frog. This film is considered by many as a turning point for the studio and the beginnings of what has been deemed the second or Neo-Disney renaissance. This of corse was followed up by 2010’s Tangled, 2012’s Wreck It Ralph and in 2013 a little film known as Frozen.
Frozen was the highest grossing animated film of all time and took the Oscar for animated film in 2013, the first for Disney Animation (it’s important to remember that Pixar is a different studio than Disney Animation, though both are owned by the Disney Corporation). The success of Frozen took everyone off guard and cemented Disney Animation Studios as a creative animation powerhouse once again. Since Frozen, Disney Animation Studios brought us Big Hero 6, which won best animated film this year at the Academy Awards. The studio now has two more films, Zootopia and Moana coming at us in the next few years.
It is believed by many that Disney’s acquisition of Pixar brought new creative blood to Disney, which has brought us this resurgence. Pixar has had no magic formula, they just brought us movies that we all connected with on an emotional level. Though some have said Pixar and now Disney use emotional manipulation to solicit such a response from audiences, the studio has proved in recent years it has the ability to connect the characters in their films with the audience.
Disney has been able to make us empathize and relate to a Scandinavian queen with magic ice powers. They have us routing for a robotic nurse or a video game villain with identity issues.
Whatever the story is, Disney, in recent years, brings us into it. We buy into the story and invest ourselves emotionally into it. That is what has always made Disney great. Whether is was Pinocchio becoming a real boy or Aladdin convincing Jasmine he’s not just a street rat, we love these stories because Disney has a way of making these stories, our stories.
What are your thoughts? Is Disney in a Second Renaissance? Are you looking forward to what Disney Animation Studios is bringing us? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter (@theDcast) and keep the conversation going.
About the Author
Andy Herndon is the Co-Founder and current host of The D-Cast and theDcast.com, a weekly podcast & blog talking all things movies in the Disney universe, including Star Wars (LucasFilm), Marvel & Pixar and even some Disneyland stuff just for fun. Andy is Southern Californian turned Las Vegan turned Oregonian. He lives in Southern Oregon with his bride and 3 kids who are all growing up to be movie buffs and Disney fanatics. Andy is fan of culture, cinema, creativity & coffee! Contact Andy on the various social media outlets @andyherndon. He would love to connect!