Saturday, December 5, 2009

When the Magic Began

Magnet # 109: Sleeping Beauty as Briar Rose

Material: Laminated Paper

Purchased By: Me

Walt Disney was born on this day back in 1901. It's almost hard to imagine a world before all of his wonderful characters were assimilated into our culture. But now they, and their creator, aren't going anywhere. And I guess we're better off because of it. Who among us has never enjoyed at least one of Disney's widespread projects?

Reading about Disney's life, it's interesting to note just how many failures and setbacks he had to overcome in order to become such a success. He dropped out of high school to join the Army during World War I, but had to settle for working in France with the Red Cross when they rejected him. When he came home, it was tough for him to find work. He eventually did ad work, and tried starting a company with a fellow artist, Ubbe Iweks. Disney soon realized he wanted to become an animator. The first studio he established went bankrupt, so he tried moving out to Hollywood to establish a studio there. After doing some work with a live action film, Alice's Wonderland, Disney focused again on animation. Iwerks created a popular character for him, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, and Disney enjoyed a brief success. But before long, his producer left to create his own animation studio, taking with him the rights to Oswald and most of his animators. Fortunately for Disney, Iwerks stayed behind. The pair were able to create Disney's greatest character - Mickey Mouse. His first appearance in Steamboat Willie was a huge success. From then, Disney enjoyed many ups as well as some downs, but no matter what, he kept on going, always trying to outdo his previous works and branch out into new venues. It's pretty amazing that a high school dropout forged an empire that's now worth around $35 billion a year. Disney worked hard, never gave up, and let's face it, had a lot of luck on his side. But his accomplishments can be an inspiration to us all.

I decided to post this magnet today because Sleeping Beauty is my favorite film that Walt Disney ever produced (and my favorite Disney film overall). It might not have the most exciting heroine or the most engaging storyline, but I just love how beautiful this film is. It's like watching art move. The angular style used in this film is unique to it - no other Disney films look anything like this one. Plus, the backgrounds are so detailed and stylized - it's easy to see how five years were put into animating this movie.

The traditional animated film genre Walt Disney used here and began with Snow White in 1937 is a favorite of mine. I think they're some of the most visually beautiful films ever. Sure, CG generated animated films like Shrek and Toy Story have been getting a lot more money and attention lately, but they have never looked as stunning to me as their traditional counterparts. So I was pretty dismayed when the Disney studio announced it would no longer produce traditionally animated films in 2004 when they released the disappointing Home on the Range. After all, their founder was a traditional animator - how could they abandon his legacy! But this Friday, that is going to change. That's when Disney will release The Princess and the Frog, its 49th animated feature. The previews I've seen look really promising. And another Disney traditionally animated film, Rapunzel, will be out in just over a year. I'm really excited about this one, considering its style is based on the art of Fragonard, a French Rococo artist. It sounds like we're going to see a new style of Disney animation in this one, and I hope it's as amazing as that of Sleeping Beauty. I do feel Disney needed to take a step back from traditional animation - they were churning out about one a year, and in doing so, allowing more duds in than they should have. Perhaps they should only produce these films when they think they have a great one on their hands. But it's about time they get back into the film genre they started. Walt would be proud to know the magic he began is still enchanting us in new ways.

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